Oh, to Feel the Warmth of Stalin’s Hand

Stalin's Grave by the Kremlin Wall Necropolis

Stalin's Grave by the Kremlin Wall Necropolis

What we are looking at here is the actual final resting place of Stalin. It is amazing, when we think of it, that a dictator like Stalin can bring out such wide-ranging emotions in Russians and others who lived in the former USSR. Next week, we’ll get into the rise of Fascism, as a counter to Stalinist revolution and terror (while equally based in revolutionary terrror tactics). In their countries (Germany, Italy, and Japan), the fascist leaders who were contemporaries of Stalin have been rightfully relegated as the scourge of humanity. Questions for us on this blog: after all that we’ve learned this week, and read following this blog, how should we evaluate Stalin: as a father figure of their time, using his personality to try to ‘bring up the Soviet Union in proper form’, or as a tyrannical megalomaniac, whose rules for depravity knew absolutely no boundaries? Either way we look at this, how should we engage those who act in a similar fashion – simply keep them out of ‘the global playground’ and isolate them to their ultimate destiny, should we engage them in hopes of changing their policies, or should we actively work toward their removal from power?
March 9, 2003

Oh, to Feel the Warmth of Stalin’s Hand


MOSCOW— JOSEF VISSARIONOVICH DZUGASHVILI died 50 years ago last week, and much of Russia still mourns. Those who do not live here may be forgiven for wondering why.

As ruler of the Soviet Union from 1925 to 1953, Dzugashvili — or Stalin, as the world knew him — systematically wiped out all rivals, built an Orwellian police state and imprisoned and murdered millions of people, both in Russia and in lands he later seized. So pervasive was his control that his spies lingered in public toilets, waiting for the unwary to crack jokes about his choke hold rule and thus guarantee themselves five years in a Siberian labor camp.

His reign of terror began with the nightly disposal of a few corpses in a Moscow graveyard. When the graveyards filled, a crematorium was built. When its capacity was spent, the slaughter moved to suburban fields, where victims stood in front of freshly dug trenches and were simply mowed down.

By body count alone, Stalin rivals Hitler — exceeds him, many say — as the most ruthless dictator of modern times. Yet last week, Gennadi Zyuganov, the leader of Russia’s Communist Party, compared Stalin to the great figures of the Renaissance, and television abounded with sepia-toned recollections of his rule. Two opinion polls in Russia found people split over his legacy. In one survey, 1 in 4 judged him a cruel tyrant. But 1 in 5 called him a wise and humane leader.

One could accuse Russians of willful blindness, and for some, that may be true. But demystifying Uncle Joe’s place in the Russian psyche is hardly so simple. Consider: most of Stalin’s worst critics went to those fresh-dug trenches, and most Russians alive today were born long after his horrors faded into history.

Those who survived his reign are largely retirees who have reaped few of capitalism’s benefits. To most of them, life was better, far better, under Stalin, as a Soviet saying went.

For the sizable cadre of nationalists, Stalin is the man who made Russia a huge and fearsome power. For Communists, he is a symbol of lost glory. In a country in which World War II remains the Great Patriotic War, Stalin is remembered as the man who led the motherland to victory, and, some Russians would say, saved it from even worse tyranny.

Those warm memories may fade. But Stalin was also a master propagandist, a ruler who burned his all-knowing, all-powerful image into entire generations’ minds. ”Like a dread spirit he hovered over us,” one poet wrote a decade after his death. ”To others we paid no heed.”

Many say Russians would feel differently had the country rooted out Stalin’s evil as Germany rooted out Hitler’s, with war-crimes trials and public expiations. It is a fantasy, says Yakov Y. Etinger, whose father, Yakov, died in Lefortovo Prison in 1951, one of the first victims of Stalin’s Doctors’ Plot, a supposed collusion in the 1940’s by Kremlin doctors to kill Communist leaders.

”The Nuremberg trials were organized by an occupation force, by the Allies who gained victory,” Mr. Etinger said. ”There couldn’t be such a trial in Russia, for a simple reason: who would be the judges?”

Who, indeed? In his masterful biography of Stalin, Edvard Radzinsky tells of a factory manager summoned by Stalin for a meeting.

”When I felt his handshake, it was like being struck by lightning,” the factory manager recalled many years later. ”I hid my hand inside my coat cuff, got into my car and rushed home. Without stopping to answer my worried wife’s questions, I went to the cot where my small son was sleeping, stretched out my hand, and rubbed his head with it, so that he too would feel the warmth of Stalin’s touch.”

122 thoughts on “Oh, to Feel the Warmth of Stalin’s Hand

  1. I see Stalin as a tyrannical megalomaniac, whose rules for depravity knew absolutely no boundaries because he killed o lot of his subject and allowed russia to loose 26 million lives during the war as well as using intimidation to stay in power

  2. Joseph Stalin is tyrannical. He held so much power that he killed his subjects in order to use terror to control them. He killed everyone and anyone who opposed him and he even terrorized those close to them.

  3. Joseph Stalin was indeed a tyrant who intended to create a totalitarian state. He controlled everything, including the thoughts of people by brainwashing them. Anyone who even showed the slightest of opposition was sent to be killed.

  4. Joseph Stalin to some people can be viewed as a father figure or a tyrannical megalomaniac. Some opposed Stalin’s opinions and if they did he would find out using his secret police throwing these “enemys” into jail no trial. Those who agreed with Stalin’s crazy tactics looked up to him he was modernizing Russia and bringing it back into power however hurting the country at the same time.

  5. I feel like Joseph Stalin is tyrannical leader . He had so much power in his hands that he killed the people surrounding him in order to use terror to control them. He killed everyone and anyone who opposed him just to get more control over them

  6. Stalin was no doubt a tyrant. His goal was to create a totalitarian state. Stalin did anything to keep his power. He killed Millions of people and was brainwashing them. Children in schools were taught that Stalin was a wonderful man and was doing well for their country. But that wasnt true it was never true. Therefore Stalin is a tyrannical megalomaniac.

  7. Stalin was a tyrant. He wanted to create a totalitarian state and he wanted to controll everything. He killed anyone that was against him. He even hurt the people that was close to him.

  8. Joseph Stalin was none other than a tyrannical megalomaniac. His power might have brought order and control to Russia but, this is actually valueless considering the millions of innocent lives he took and/or allowed to perish. Stalin and other rulers like him should be relieved of their power and isolated “to their ultimate destiny.”

  9. I think Stalin was tyrannical because he killed and terrorized many innocent people in attempt to restore the power of Russia. He gave nobody privacy and had spies listening to everyone’s conversation. Yes Stalin did restore the power of Russia but he could have found a less violent way to do that. Instead he abused his power and made Russia a dictatorship which left many people dead.

  10. Stalin was an oppressive leader who created a tyranny under the guise of communism. He used every tool he could find in order to ensure the obedience of the Russian people and that he always had his power. Whether it required killing someone because of their dissimilar beliefs, or airing pro-Stalin propaganda, Stalin was willing to do anything necessary to control the people.

  11. Stalin was a great manipulator, but had great leadership qualities. He was able to lead, but he sadly lead them into a mass amount of murder and terror. Stalin is what the christians would call demonic, coming to the people as something beautiful, but in reality is haunting and monstrous.

  12. Stalin in my opinion is a tyrant. He manipulated numerous people. He got so many people to do what he wanted. He got spies to spy on people. There were so many that it became impossible to tell who was a spy or not. Not only that he killed more than 26 million people. Stalin abused his power and made Russia a dictatorship which left 26 million people dead.

  13. Stalin was a leader that had a huge impact on Russia and its govt. Under his regime, he has murdered about 26 million of his own people. In my opinion, I dont understand why Stalin did what he did. I dont understand what he was supposed to “benefit” from his regin of terror.

  14. There is many ways that Stalin can be viewed here. He did lead Russia to victory against Germany, but while doing that, Stalin killed 26 million people. Hitler only killed 6 million. That just proves the point that Stalin was a tyrannical megalomaniac. Many liked to believe that Stalin was the “father figure of the time”, but when it comes to facts and numbers, he was a mass murderer.

  15. Stalin was a tyrant, those that lived in his time were better off without him as a leader. The people support him were mostly born after his reign. While those who opposed him were killed in his time. Still polls in Russia suggest that people still have distinct views about his legacy. But in my opinion he is a murderer, he killed about 26 million people and hired secret police to spy on his own people. This is not something a good leader should do

  16. I think that Stalin was a tyrant even though some may believe he is otherwise. I believe that Stalin was able to manipulate the minds of Russian citizens without them really knowing. Comparing him to Lenin, Stalin was more of a leader who abolished their rights. Privacy was not an option under the leadership of Stalin; which some might believe is unbelievable. Stalin was smart and knew how to get people on his side with the correct words. I feel that Stalin shouldnt be admired with all of the wrongs he has commited.

  17. I believe that Stalin was a tyrant because even though he was the leader of the revolution and he wanted all the people to have equal rights, the power went to his head and he turned into the exact person he wanted to abolish from power. The way he treated his people was inhumane and hypocritical from his part because he tortured anyone who didn’t view society the way he did, he controlled every aspect of a person’s life, and he didn’t give everyone equal treatment, which was the purpose that stalin came to power.

  18. Stalin in honesty is a power hungry guy. He is a tyrannical maniac bent for power and control over the people by spying on them and executing them if they showed any sign of betrayal. Though some people in Russia felt he was the glory of the communist days, they didn’t feel the brunt of his reign over Russia because they were born just before his reign of terror ended. So people in Russia and the world should be viewing Stalin as a insane killer and cruel ruler.

  19. As I learned in class, Stalin seems to be a power driven lunatic bent on mass murder. Stalin killed all of his opposition both in his inner circle and the outer circle (Peasants, workers, ‘members of the state’) in large numbers in means to get his job done of world domination. With this knowledge I view Stalin as an evil man with no boundaries.

  20. Joseph Stalin was definitely a tyrannical leader. I believe so because in the end, Stalin gained such a great amount of power that he killed everyone around him. He tended to kill people who showed a sign of betrayal, however, the way he gathered evidence on them was by spying on them. He was a maniac who was very power hungry.

  21. Stalin did improve Russia in a way. He industrialized them and modernized them. Russia was way behind everyone else, technologically wise. He overall improved the state of Russia. But his actions to improve Russia hurt the citizens. He probably though of the Enlightenment philosophy “the end justifies the means”
    This philosophy is just a way of a tyrant,such as Stalin, to cover his wrongdoings. He terrorized the people and has caused much suffering. He murdered, tortured, and imprisoned many innocent people. He also put Russia in a compromised position by signing a pact with Adolf Hitler. The Russians did not want to fight in another war. Vladmir Lenin and his communist/Marxist ideology were against wars. Russia was knocked down and they needed to built back up. Another war not too far apart from their losses is devastating. H Many Russian soldiers were lost in this war.
    However, Stalin was widely supported and loved because people were too focused on their new Capitalist system and the fact that their way of living changed dramatically. Some couldn’t see the corruption and the oppression. They were too busy looking at how much the country itself had changed an d improved, they couldn’t see that the things it cost to improve Russia (lives, money, freedom, rights) shouldn’t have been taken away.
    Russia was supposed to be a Communist country. But Stalin’s idea of Communism was twisted and miscommunicated.
    Marxism is all about the people. Their rights. Their freedom. Its about bettering the working class and your average person. Stalin took away rights. But used his economical plans to take attention away from it. Its kind of like Belgium and the Congo. The people of Belgium were unaware that its country was doing terrible things in order to build their country up and make it more powerful.

  22. Joseph Stalin is tyrannical. He held so much power that he killed his subjects in order to use terror to control them. He killed everyone and anyone who opposed him and he even terrorized those close to them

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