Why Does Joseph Stalin Matter?

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  • Published: 07 June 2018
  • Recorded on January 25, 2018.

    “Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator, creator of great power, and destroyer of tens of millions of lives …” Thus begins this episode of Uncommon Knowledge, which dives into the biography of Joseph Stalin. This episode’s guest, Stephen Kotkin, author of Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941(amazon.com/Stalin-Waiting-1929-1941-Stephen-Kotkin/dp/1594203806), examines the political career of Joseph Stalin in the years leading up to World War II, his domination over the Soviet Union, and the terror he inspired by the Great Purge from 1936–38.

    “Why does Joseph Stalin matter?” is a key question for Kotkin, as he explains the history of the Soviet Union and Stalin's enduring impact on his country and the world. Kotkin argues that Stalin is the “gold standard for dictatorships” in regard to the amount of power he managed to obtain and wield throughout his lifetime. Stalin stands out because not only was he able to build a massive amount of military power, he managed to stay in power for three decades, much longer than any comparable dictator.

    Kotkin and Robinson discuss collectivization and communism and how Stalin’s regime believed it had to eradicate capitalism within the USSR even in regions where capitalism was bringing economic success to the peasants, with the potential of destabilizing the regime. This led to the Great Purge, a campaign of political repression that resulted in the exile and execution of millions of people.

    For the full transcript go to
    hoover.org/research/why-does-joseph-stalin-matter

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Comments • 1 107

  • Ro Mary
    Ro Mary  6 days back

    Capitalism is evil socialism eradicate
    Capitalism collictism lenin coup bolsheviks
    Nationalism 1920
    Regime at top Marx lenin stalin socialism
    Urban activists , division deport executeclass warfare
    Chaos commune take land class warfare
    KGB 5,7 starves to death 1/3 die 1 dozen surround stalin critics
    Die 36 38 hilled million
    Kills loyal ppl party intell elites killed enslaved by dictator
    Trotskyist dictator 1036 trotskyist exiled
    Mexico spain anti civil war franco fascists
    Revolt in spain police quota confesskilled
    Marshall dukochevishy
    Terror collectication

    • Hoss skul
      Hoss skul  1 weeks back

      10:00 Even though they saw capitalism working they still wanted to get rid of it because of their idealism, they had to maintain the purity of the idealism no matter what the reality is telling you, this is Proof A mental illness.

      • Nayan Mipun
        Nayan Mipun  2 weeks back

        How did Stalin did these at the 1 st place? They should have killed him

        • Dyre
          Dyre  2 weeks back

          Really fascinating. I didn't even know that under Lenin the Russians sort of made things work by allowing the peasants to practice pseudo-capitalism. Then Stalin came along and really, uh, turned Russia into a new direction...

          • Ender
            Ender  2 weeks back

            Scary how easily he turned the population against each other, a warning for our times.

            • Soy el coipo
              Soy el coipo  2 weeks back

              Stalin was a great leader.

              • Fernando Reyes
                Fernando Reyes  2 weeks back

                long live Stalin

                • Cécile Fox
                  Cécile Fox  2 weeks back

                  Absolutely fascinating history.

                  • Anton Autushka
                    Anton Autushka  4 weeks back

                    And now they try to present him as a hero-savior of Mother Russia, indoctrinating kids and installing statues. I personally know people who outright dismiss his crimes and want to see the likes of him in power again

                    • jimbob2810
                      jimbob2810  1 months back

                      Peter Robinson wonders aloud why Stalin insisted that the accused during the Great Purge confess. This reflects a category error: Robinson places Stalin in the category of Attila, Genghis Khan, and Tamarlane. However, Stalin was not a nomadic conqueror, but the head of an ideological state that governed in the name of the People. The leaders of such states always seek to delegitimize their political rivals and to justify their actions to the People. Stalin's insistence upon confession is little different than an American prosecutor's insistence on a guilty plea. In the former case, the accused were given a choice between unbearable torture (including the torture of having family and friends imprisoned or executed) or confession and a swift execution. In the latter case, in modern America, the accused are given the choice between an unbearable prison term (perhaps also including the torture of solitary confinement and the threat of having family members prosecuted) or a guilty plea and a relatively light penalty. Not as bad as Stalin's USSR by orders of magnitude, but the state's insistence upon confession is the same.



                      By the way, the US Ambassador to the USSR, Joseph Davies, at the time insisted that the victims of the Great Purge really were spies, saboteurs, and rogues who got what was coming to them. He wrote a book titled "Mission to Moscow" and Hollywood turned it into a pro-Stalin movie that featured that fake "fact".

                      • jimbob2810
                        jimbob2810  1 months back

                        Peter Robinson wonders aloud why Stalin insisted that the accused during the Great Purge confess. This reflects a category error: Robinson places Stalin in the category of Attila, Genghis Khan, and Tamarlane. However, Stalin was not a nomadic conqueror, but the head of an ideological state that governed in the name of the People. The leaders of such states always seek to delegitimize their political rivals and to justify their actions to the People. Stalin's insistence upon confession is little different than an American prosecutor's insistence on a guilty plea. In the former case, the accused were given a choice between unbearable torture (including the torture of having family and friends imprisoned or executed) or confession and a swift execution. In the latter case, in modern America, the accused are given the choice between an unbearable prison term (perhaps also including the torture of solitary confinement and the threat of having family members prosecuted) or a guilty plea and a relatively light penalty. Not as bad as Stalin's USSR by orders of magnitude, but the state's insistence upon confession is the same.



                        By the way, the US Ambassador to the USSR, Joseph Davies, at the time insisted that the victims of the Great Purge really were spies, saboteurs, and rogues who got what was coming to them. He wrote a book titled "Mission to Moscow" and Hollywood turned it into a pro-Stalin movie that featured that fake "fact".

                        • Edd Tredd
                          Edd Tredd  1 months back

                          why would there would not make disscutions about kinda themes who can argue and have different point of view , otherwise its pointless

                          • Marxist Vision
                            Marxist Vision  1 months back

                            Because the goal of bourgeoisie is not truth, but the defamation of socialism.
                            This journalist and historian are simply the agents of bourgeois ideology,
                            lackeys of capital.

                        • Western Unity
                          Western Unity  1 months back

                          Because without his genocide, the allies would have had to negotiate peacefully with Germany and accept them as an equal power.

                          • ochaleklaw
                            ochaleklaw  1 months back

                            CORPORATE HISTORIAN....NO DAVID IRVING

                            • Nadish Sharma
                              Nadish Sharma  1 months back

                              Communism has shown the world how to get a kill count of 100 million in the quickest way.

                              • Otro Ciudadano
                                Otro Ciudadano  1 months back

                                Joseph Stalin Soviet Genius.

                                • Orion Max
                                  Orion Max  1 months back

                                  FASCINATNG interview!! Very revealing.

                                  • Sean Kelly
                                    Sean Kelly  1 months back

                                    What do you mean Stalin's funny ? , Like a clown

                                    • Roger McIntyre
                                      Roger McIntyre  1 months back

                                      I'd like to hear Kotkin's comments on someone like Alexander Solsyneetsm!

                                      • Roger McIntyre
                                        Roger McIntyre  1 months back

                                        S.Kotkin is definitely an expert on the subject of Stalin. Very knowledgable; good insights!

                                        • Some Guy
                                          Some Guy  2 months back

                                          Stalin wasn't alone. The very word Soviet in English directly translates to Council.
                                          This to me paints too soft a picture. Stalin was a bank robber when he was younger, and may have had ties in the southern caucuses with the Baku field oil barons. Some of which, who's family names are famous even now, for their suspected far reaching power. Watch any of the old videos of him speaking publicly or in any of his non military meetings to see he had characters on par with him around him. This is a common misconception and seems such a wonder because it is just that.

                                          Much of the population was also deportated to mines and very little record was keep of that.
                                          As well much of the mass starvation was because prior and even during the famines food was taken and sold abroad. He implemented robbery extortion and murder on a national scale. This was purely to build up a military machine to take over Europe. An ancient goal the same as it ever was.

                                          One only need to know a bit of economic.
                                          As well as pre-ww2 soviet invasion history. i.e. military history as well to connect these items.
                                          Or post ww2 us military policy towards Europe.

                                          In fact the cold war us military policy from the late 1940's right up till 1990's was centered on tactical nuclear war with Russia in Europe if they ever invaded. Because they had so much military and military investment. The estimate was even with nuclear shelling as the allies fell back Russia would take the whole of Europe within 2 months and the USA would have to fight a tactical nuclear war to re-invade and take it back.

                                          Stalin also waged a extermination campaign against the Kosaks and others who did fight back as well as those who were loyal to the old Emporer or Christian guard but it wasn't just him, one guy alone can't do it alone. The starvation figures are also more likely skewed by wholesale deportation of entire peoples to mines and other areas to work as forced labor. You don't keep meticulous records of your own dirty deeds.

                                          I doubt any common man saw him as a hero ever. As one soviet solder in ww2 said
                                          "We had a choice between two dictators we preferred the one that spoke Russian".

                                          • Some Guy
                                            Some Guy  2 months back

                                            I think the real problem is the distinction between communism and capitalism has thinned.
                                            In the modern day usa as capitalism has matured to be a ugly and stark contrast between rich and poor and monopoly over competition with corruption and bribery without moral.
                                            To the point were people make little distinction in these ism's and only ask what can i do to get ahead myself when i can't afford things i need. Or how do i get justice when it is denied.

                                        • DIMITRIOS LOVE YOU
                                          DIMITRIOS LOVE YOU  2 months back

                                          THANKS FOR THE VIDEO ❤❤❤❤

                                          • 011090
                                            011090  2 months back

                                            “Even though it was working””.......reminds me of people who would rather a recession than see Trump succeed......

                                            • 011090
                                              011090  2 months back

                                              This idea about forcing people to modernize.....it reminds me of school... we are forced to go to school to become a modern people..... but the crap we are taught doesn’t serve us......

                                              • 011090
                                                011090  2 months back

                                                “Political crimes for speaking the truth”.....sounds familiar.

                                                • 011090
                                                  011090  2 months back

                                                  We heard about Hitler all the time, but not so much about Stalin, in school.

                                                  • Alec Ohare
                                                    Alec Ohare  2 months back

                                                    Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator, creator of great power, and destroyer of tens of millions of lives …” And a friend of Franklin Roosevelt, may I remind you all!

                                                    • Moutton Noir
                                                      Moutton Noir  2 months back

                                                      Brilliant mind, fascinating discussion

                                                      • Arc Mas
                                                        Arc Mas  2 months back

                                                        Donny Deutche?

                                                        • 54647234543
                                                          54647234543  2 months back

                                                          15:00 is basically happening right now in the US

                                                          • sundiii99OWS
                                                            sundiii99OWS  2 months back

                                                            It was 1917, 1930, 1934, 1940 etc! They didn’t all have radios and telephones and TVs. Now with computers there won’t be any difficulties. Communism will work perfectly the next time. Today or soon. Capitalism will die forever soon.

                                                            • sundiii99OWS
                                                              sundiii99OWS  2 months back

                                                              Droughts will no longer cause millions of deaths because there is hydroponics, growing food without soil. See YouTube. Growing food obviously should be free so no one starves. Capitalists have no hearts nor brains because anyone with a brain would NOT want capitalism.

                                                              • sundiii99OWS
                                                                sundiii99OWS  2 months back

                                                                How did anyone ever want capitalism?? It’s obviously wrong because it’s a tiny temporary income. When someone gets too sick to ever work again they’re screwed, but the few rich capitalists don’t care one bit that they’re starving and homeless and very sick, they want them to die.

                                                                • sundiii99OWS
                                                                  sundiii99OWS  2 months back

                                                                  Russia only started the KGB because USA started the CIA, they had to try and defend themselves! Read “ROGUE STATE” by Wm Blum!

                                                                  • sundiii99OWS
                                                                    sundiii99OWS  2 months back

                                                                    Russia did an amazing job for having started way back in 1917 with very poor communication! Listen to MICHAEL PARENTI and RICHARD D WOLFF.

                                                                    • sundiii99OWS
                                                                      sundiii99OWS  2 months back

                                                                      Russia started in 1917 with almost NO fast communication, remember? Few radios&TVs, few books&newspapers, few phones, NO computers! American women couldn’t VOTE until 1929! You are deceitful! American women couldn’t open bank accounts, have credit cards, or own property until the 1960s and 1970s! , say that! Russia gave women more equality before America did! Listen to Michael PARENTI! And Richard Wolff! Michael Parenti, Michael Parenti, Michael Parenti. American women couldn’t get jobs until WW2! Get divorced easily until 1969! Couldn’t divorce husband for beating her until 1966! Practice law until 1971! Serve on a JURY until 1973! Couldn’t refuse to have sex with husband until 1970s marital rape didn’t exist! Couldn’t seek legal redress if sexually harassed on the job until 1977! Couldn’t keep her job while pregnant until 1978!

                                                                      • sundiii99OWS
                                                                        sundiii99OWS  2 months back

                                                                        Peterson, 3:44 Michael Parenti said there’s never been any proof Stalin killed millions, so saying that is a LIE until proven otherwise because people will hear you and think it’s true because they don’t hear/see that ITS NOT TRUE!
                                                                        5:30 K says Marxism says capitalism is evil, alienation, exploitation, war, mass unemployment! Capitalism PRODUCED communism! Produced means GIVE BIRTH TO! And there are only TWO WAYS in life: slavery and freedom! Yes collectivization was slavery because ALL WORK IS SLAVERY, but to get to the point someday where all people can work part time takes time! And Russia was very poor and started in 1917 when there was no or very poor communication, did they have a few radios! No TVs or telephones, and definitely NO COMPUTERS which would have made teaching the masses what they expected everyone to DO until the whole system was set up and working smoothly, which day never happened because America was trying in every way to destroy them and kill them (by not selling them tractors, cars, phones, whatever) to FORCE them to fail! Capitalism PRODUCED communism! NOT!
                                                                        Also if most Russians wanted collectivization all it took is for ONE person to be unhappy about to make you think no one wanted it!
                                                                        SK 3:50: American women couldn’t OWN their own property or BANK ACCOUNTS or credit cards until the 1960’s and 70’s! Russia started in 1917, and if you don’t know math that’s TEN years before American women could VOTE but you don’t say that! Russia gave women equal rights in many more ways SOONER than America did!
                                                                        To be HONEST you should compare them and US by telling US here where US was at the SAME TIME, or you’re lying by omission!

                                                                        • sundiii99OWS
                                                                          sundiii99OWS  2 months back

                                                                          Capitalism is private property only for the FEW WHO GET high wage JOBS, so most people never own property, and property is lifelong DEBT SLAVERY! And if they get too SICK to ever work again (it happens all the time) they lose everything! Yes capitalism is evil slavery, and it produced communism!

                                                                          • Witness of matryoshka
                                                                            Witness of matryoshka  3 months back

                                                                            Stalin is just a meme today. The main cause of hatred towards him in the west is just because he was an enemy of capitalism and a leader of communist block. His rule brought prosperity and strengthned communism that's why he is hated and lots os these pseudo-intellectual smear merchant are paid to deceive masses in the west. Today's capitalist world economy is crippling. People become more oppressed and wealthy become richer as poor get poorer. Thus, people seek alternative to this inhumane system which is communism. Who were the greatest communist leaders? Stalin and Lenin. So they need to slander them as much as possible in order to slander communism and socialism too. They concentrate attention on bad parts of their rule(that are still mostly exaggerated lie) and totally ignore good sides. These guys are fcin liars. Don't believe them people.

                                                                            • FERN
                                                                              FERN  3 months back

                                                                              I would like to bring a controversial contradiction to the historian Stephen Kotkin.
                                                                              My point is that he should analyze the events through the filter of the ethnic group.
                                                                              and not from the point of view of notions in "ism" lik communism, socialism , etc.
                                                                              Otherwise, the Russian State has always preserved the Russian Orthodox ethnic group ,by deporting or anhilating systematically the rival ethnic groups.
                                                                              (understand the ethnics Russians with orthodox religion and with blue eyes, it's a racist and religious distinction ) .
                                                                              Analyzing Russia through another grid of reading ,maybe an analysis error.an opinion?

                                                                              • joshua hand
                                                                                joshua hand  3 months back

                                                                                Did these people have the right to bear arms?

                                                                                • john smith
                                                                                  john smith  3 months back

                                                                                  Hmm, so the communists understood subterfuge and deception was necessary in order to bring about saving all peoples? Where did these ideas spawn? What peoples/tribe might come up with this plan? Who would have the moxy to think they should rule us all and why? Hmm. Perhaps they thought they were following God's will and were mislead. Say it ain't so.

                                                                                  • c Nomor
                                                                                    c Nomor  3 months back

                                                                                    The term useful idiots was coined by Lenin. This is what your leaders think of you.

                                                                                    • Lee Nicholson
                                                                                      Lee Nicholson  3 months back

                                                                                      Many people in today's politics, press and universities continually compare the United States to an ideal that never existed -- and find very little that is positive here compared to that ideal as a benchmark. The benchmark needs to be other real societies such as the USSR under Stalin and China under Mao -- or any other real society for that matter. No, the US isn't (and never has been) perfect. The US, and our somewhat free society (economic and civil liberties), needs to be compared to these real alternatives.

                                                                                      • Rudolph van Rooyen
                                                                                        Rudolph van Rooyen  3 months back

                                                                                        #StargateUniverseFutura
                                                                                        Isn't that a font?

                                                                                        • John Doe
                                                                                          John Doe  3 months back

                                                                                          I don’t understand: how did Stalin get the peasants to turn on each other (kulak-ization) in the first place?

                                                                                          The man says Stalin has supporters o the city. The man said there were quotas for each village of kulaks to be turned over. Seems like a few steps got missed here. 🤷‍♂️

                                                                                          • Indupac S.A.
                                                                                            Indupac S.A.  3 months back

                                                                                            Great analysis of the butcher . However, if you study carefully the Spanish Repulic mentioned, it was not a legitimate government. They (the leftists) had destroyed the Republic before the putch and they lost municipal elections by a landslide. They were applying terror on a large scale and subverting the weak institutions that remained there. Having myself fought the communist , I can say that your analysis of the personal imprint of Stalin on terror are true and so are other sinister communist despots like Castro and others.

                                                                                            • Joy Dull-Bond-Trick
                                                                                              Joy Dull-Bond-Trick  3 months back

                                                                                              33:00
                                                                                              This is now sounding like Satanism. Has anyone written on Stalin and Satanism?