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Joseph Stalin


Key Terms and Events

terms Key Terms and Events


Bolshevik  -  · Literally, "majoritarian." The Bolsheviks were the group within the Social Democrats who supported Lenin's call for a party of professional revolutionaries. They orchestrated a takeover of the government during the Russian Revolution, and became the rulers of Russia
Bourgeoisie  -  · "Bourgeois" means "middle-class." The Marxists used its noun form, "bourgeoisie," to denote the ruling class of the 19th century who, they claimed, were responsible for the suffering of the proletariat, or working class.
Georgia  -  · The region in the southern part of the Russian Empire where Stalin was born and raised
Gulag  -  · The term used to describe the Soviet prison camps in Siberia under Stalin and his successors
Communist Party  -  · The name adopted by the Bolsheviks when they took power. As the Communist Party, they would rule the Soviet Union for seventy years.
Koba -  · Stalin's name during his early years as a Marxist
Kulaks  -  · In Lenin's formulation, "kulak" meant a wealthy peasant. Although the distinction between kulaks and other peasants was a Marxist fiction, Stalin's collectivization in the early '30s led to a campaign of mass murder, forced relocation, and imprisonment of these supposed "enemies of the people."
Marxism  -  · The revolutionary ideology held by Stalin and his fellow Bolsheviks. It "scientifically" predicted the overthrow of capitalism, the abolition of private property, and rule by the working class, or proletariat. To read about the details of the Marxist philosophy, see the SparkNote on Marxism's founding dissertation, The Communist Manifesto, written by the German thinker Karl Marx in 1848.
Menshevik  -  · Literally, "a member of the minority." The Mensheviks were the Social Democrats who opposed Lenin after the 1902 split in their party.
Orthodox Church -  · The principle church of the Russian Empire; Russian Orthodoxy is a form of Christianity.
Politburo -  · Originally, Lenin's inner circle in the 1920s. Later, it referred simply to the chief leaders of the U.S.S.R.
Pravda -  · The official newspaper of the Bolsheviks, and later of the Soviet Union
Proletariat  -  · In Marxist ideology, the working class, who would revolt against their masters and usher in a classless society.
Russian Social Democratic Labour Party  -  · The first Marxist party in Russia, it split into Menshevik and Bolshevik factions.
Red Army -  · The army of the Soviet Union, organized by Trotsky, and victorious over Hitler.
Russia  -  · A vast trans-continental nation and empire at Stalin's birth, it was theoretically subsumed into the Soviet Union as one of several socialist republics, but in practice it dominated the U.S.S.R. politically.
Siberia  -  · The vast, frosty region, covering all of northeast Russia, where political prisoners were sent, both under the Tsars and under Stalin
Soviet Union  -  · Literally, a "Soviet" was a worker's council, like the Petrograd Soviet during the Revolution. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or U.S.S.R., was the name that the Bolsheviks gave to their newly organized nation in 1922. It lasted until 1991.
Tiflis Theological Seminary  -  · The Georgian institute where Stalin received his higher education, and became a Marxist
Tsar  -  · Derived from "Caesar," the Tsars were the Emperors of Russia before the Revolution.


Cold War -  · The decades-long duel between the Soviet Union and the United States for world supremacy, ignited by Stalin's push, in the late 1940s, to assert Soviet dominance over Europe
Great Terror -  · The period in the mid-1930s when Stalin ruthlessly persecuted and executed his enemies--both real and imaginary
Five-Year Plan -  · Several Five-Year Plans existed, all intended to bring Soviet industry up to speed with other nations, but the most famous, and deadly, lasted from 1927 to 1932, and involved collectivization of agriculture and the purging of the kulaks.
New Economic Policy -  · Pursued by the Soviet Union from 1921 to 1927, this policy allowed the market economy to operate in rural areas.
Russian Revolution  -  · This term refers to the period from 1917 to 1920, when the Tsars' government fell, and the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia.
Show Trials -  · Conducted at the height of the Great Terror, these widely broadcast trials featured Stalin's old rivals confessing to treason (after having been secretly tortured) and being sentenced to death.
World War II  -  · The conflict (1939-45) that pitted Nazi Germany and Japan against Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States. It ended with the Nazis' defeat, and the emergence of the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. as the world's two "superpowers." For more information, see the History SparkNote on World War II.

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