Stalin – A Psychopath in Power

Biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore [1] describes Stalin as a man who ruined every relationship and friendship in his life. A convinced Marxist fanatic whose messianic egoism was boundless; he was incapable of giving anyone happiness. While Stalin seldom attended executions or torture in person, he liked to hear in detail about the suffering of his victims and would shriek with laughter on hearing of their last desperate pleas for mercy. His greatest delight, he said was ‘to mark one’s enemy, prepare everything, avenge oneself thoroughly and then go to sleep.[2]’  

Stalin’s Psychopathic Band of Cretins

When Lenin died in January 1924, the Politburo was comprised of Stalin and six others: Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky. Stalin systematically set about having each of them murdered. Kirov was the first to be assassinated, and Stalin seized upon the assassination to launch a series of show trials in which each Politburo member was arrested on trumped-up charges of subversion, tortured until they publicly confessed to their crimes, and sentenced to death. Stalin murdered them all – all, that is, except Tomsky, who committed suicide in order to escape his inevitable fate.

The inhumanity of Lenin’s Bolshevik Party was crucial in enabling Stalin’s ascent to power. The fact that the Bolsheviks were a severely pathologically disordered group is evidenced by a cursory description of just a few of its leading members:

Genrikh Yagoda was responsible for establishing the slave system of the Gulag. At the execution of Politburo members Zinoviev and Kamenev, he ordered the bullets be extracted from the brains of the dead men for him to keep as mementos.

Leon Trotsky has been described by his biographer Robert Service as a self-righteous, cold-hearted, egocentric who never quite grew up [3]. His egotism and overbearing arrogance were accompanied by his fervour for killing on a colossal scale in order to create the utopia of which he dreamed.

Vyacheslav Molotov, for a while Stalin’s closest ally, was cruel, vengeful, boundlessly self-confident and relentlessly paranoid. Molotov oversaw Stalin’s death squads, rail transports and slave labour camps. He was directly involved in the death, deportation and imprisonment of between five and seven million people[4].

Lavrenti Beria, the longest lived and most influential of Stalin’s secret police chiefs, oversaw purges in which tens of thousands of people were executed. Beria was a sadistic torturer and a sexual predator. He regularly strolled near his home, pointing out women for his bodyguards to take home for him to rape.

On seizing power, Stalin therefore found himself surrounded by like-minded deviants – a situation he revelled in. ‘History,’ he wrote triumphantly, ‘is full of abnormal people.[5]’

photo credit: Магадан via photopin cc

photo credit: Магадан via photopin cc

Crimes against Humanity

Once Stalin had secured power, he began enacting his psychopathy on the Soviet population.

Stalin had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve. He wanted to transform Russia into a powerful, modernised nation. Russia, he said, needed more factories, more railways, more roads and more technology. It needed more education, more skilled workers and more engineers. In short, Stalin’s mission was to bring about the same transformation which capitalism had wrought in the more advanced countries of the West. In the West that transformation had been going on for well over a century. Stalin planned to achieve it in the Soviet Union in less than ten years.

Such a hugely ambitious project targets required the discovery and exploitation of Russia’s hidden natural resources of reserves of coal, oil, timber gold, and other minerals. It required a dependable supply of food from the countryside to feed the growing army of factory workers in Russia’s rapidly expanding cities. The means Stalin used to achieve these goals were the slave labour camps of the Soviet Gulag, and the forced collectivisation of agriculture. Resistance to his vision was met by wave after wave of mass arrests and executions. The human cost of Stalin’s mania for modernisation would prove to be immense.

The Soviet Gulag

In their frenzy to build socialism, Stalin and the Bolsheviks exploited slave labour to a degree unprecedented in history. In order to provide labour for rapid industrialisation, people were arrested at random, forced to confess to fictitious crimes, and sent off to the slave labour camps of the Gulag..

The Gulag began at Solovetsky, a group of islands situated off the coast north-east of Leningrad. A former monastery, its church quickly became a place of torture and execution. The largest Gulag camps and colonies, however, were located in the northern and eastern parts of the Soviet Union. It was in these remote locations that valuable resources, such as Komi’s coalfields, Norilsk’s nickel ores, Magadan’s gold mines, or the forestry reserves of Siberia, were to be found.

By the time of Stalin’s death, there were several thousand individual camps spanning the length and breadth of the USSR, holding a total of approximately two million forced labourers. In the four decades of its existence, eighteen million Soviet citizens are estimated to have passed through the Soviet slave system [6].

Forced Collectivisation of Agriculture

The forced collectivisation of agriculture began in 1929. Thousands of party officials were sent into villages throughout the Soviet Union, where they recruited poor or greedy peasants to help them drive their better-off neighbours from their homes. The remaining villagers were then intimidated into joining the collective farms and their animals seized as collective property.

Over ten million so-called ‘kulaks’, or rich peasants, were expelled from their homes and villages between 1929 and 1932. During those years the Soviet countryside was filled with lines stretching as far as the eye could see, growing longer as they passed each successive village. Endless columns marched to railway collection points where they were packed into cattle trucks and transported to the camps of the Gulag or into exile in the empty vastness of the USSR.

Those left behind in the collectivised farms found themselves subjected to impossibly high quotas for the delivery of grain to the cities. As a result, insufficient food remained to feed the countryside. The outcome was famine. Between 4.6 and 8.5 million people are thought to have died of starvation and disease between 1930 and 1933 [7], including at least two million people in the Ukraine alone.

The Great Terror

As the campaign for collectivisation wound down, Stalin began to prepare for what he saw as inevitable war with Hitler. In 1937 and 1938, Stalin launched a campaign of terror aimed at purging the Soviet Union of anyone who might possibly undermine him or collaborate with the Fascist enemies in the event of German and Japanese invasions. In what has become known as the Great Terror, over one and a half million people were arrested [8]. Almost 700,000 people were executed.

During the terror, Stalin regularly sent orders to the regional bosses of the NKVD listing quotas of those to be arrested in each area of the Soviet Union. The quotas set out the numbers to be put to death and the numbers to be sent to concentration camp.

As Stalin personally prepared the lists, he dismissed the hundreds of thousands of people whose deaths he was ordering saying, ‘Who’s going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years’ time? [9]’ It is clear that Stalin knew that most of those being executed were entirely innocent. Even so, he believed the massacres were justified. If even 5 per cent of those arrested were actual enemies, he said, then ‘that would be a good result’.

The Death of Stalin

In March 1953, Stalin died. During his prolonged period of pathological rule, the Soviet psyche sank into a deep-seated paranoia reflective of Stalin’s personality, and assumed a frightened submission to authority. The ghost of Stalin haunts Russia still.

[1] Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix, 2004

[2] Ibid: 235

[3] Robert Service, Trotsky: A Biography, Macmillan, 2009

[4] Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix, 2003:47

[5] Quoted in Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix, 2004:27

[6] Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History, Penguin Books, 2003:4

[7] Orlando Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia, Penguin Books, 2007:98

[8] Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix, 2004:234

[9] Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Phoenix, 2003:236

9 thoughts on “Stalin – A Psychopath in Power

  1. Don’t think that this could never happen again, on a smaller or equally grand scale. Psychopaths know how to achieve power by any means.

    Let us learn from history.

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  9. I found this to be an excellent article. I have a fairly decent knowledge of history and the World Wars but it is astounding to read about the millions and millions of people Stalin had murdered in this one article. What an absolutely evil being Stalin and his enablers were. How sad to see how it affected the mental health of an entire nation.

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