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Stalin Joseph(1879-1953) leader of the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1953, who is held responsible for decisive features of STATE SOCIALIST SOCIETIES (see also STALINISM). A member of the BOLSHEVIK Party in Russia from 1904, Stalin was appointed General Secretary of the Party in 1922, and after the death of LENIN in 1924 he emerged from the ensuing power struggle as the dominant leader. At first he supported policies of gradual industrialization with controlled market mechanisms, as incorporated in the New Economic Policy initiated under Lenin, against those (including TROTSKY) who argued for the more rapid introduction of socialist industrialization. In 1924 and 1925, he introduced the policy of'Socialism in One Country’, which was opposed by those who saw this as contradicting the international nature of COMMUNISM. By 1929, partly in response to the failure of the New Economic Policy, Stalin adopted a policy of broad and rapid collectivization and industrialization combined with the consolidation of a party and state bureaucracy firmly under his dictatorial control. In the 1930s millions of peasants who opposed collectivization were murdered or starved to death, and thousands of political activists were murdered, some after the totally bogus Moscow Trials. Labour camps were also introduced, and the cult of Stalin as the father of the nation was established.
Defenders of Stalin argue that he made possible the industrial base from which the USSR was able to defeat Hitler's invasion from 1941, and that the defeat of the German Army, at a cost of 20,000,000 Soviet deaths, was decisive for the outcome of World War II. However, in 1939 Stalin had signed a nonaggression pact with Hitler and appeared surprised by the 1941 invasion. From 1945 onwards Stalin maintained his position in the USSR partly on the basis of his leadership during the war, and extended his influence into Eastern Europe, especially where the Red Army had liberated territories from German occupation. See also SOCIALISM, MARXISM, STALINISM.