Stalin's cult of personality

Joseph Stalin's cult of personality became a prominent part of Soviet culture in December 1929, after a lavish celebration for Stalin's 50th birthday. For the rest of Stalin's rule, the Soviet press presented Stalin as an all-powerful, all-knowing leader, and Stalin's name and image became omnipresent. From 1936 the Soviet journalism started to refer to Joseph Stalin as the Father of Nations.

The Soviet press constantly praised Stalin, describing him as "Great", "Beloved", "Bold", "Wise", "Inspirer", and "Genius". It portrayed him as a caring yet strong father figure, with the Soviet populace as his "children". Interactions between Stalin and children became a key element of the personality cult. Stalin often engaged in publicized gift giving exchanges with Soviet children from a range of different ethnic backgrounds. Beginning in 1935, the phrase, "Thank You Dear Comrade Stalin for a Happy Childhood!" appeared above doorways at nurseries, orphanages, and schools; children also chanted this slogan at festivals.

Speeches described the dictator as "Our Best Collective Farm Worker", "Our Shockworker, Our Best of Best", and "Our Darling, Our Guiding Star". The image of Stalin as a father was one way in which Soviet propagandists aimed to incorporate traditional religious symbols and language into the cult of personality; the title of "father" now first and foremost belonged to Stalin, as opposed to the Russian Orthodox priests. The cult of personality also adopted the Christian traditions of procession and devotion to icons through the use of Stalinist parades and effigies. By reapplying various aspects of religion to the cult of personality, the press hoped to shift devotion away from the church and towards Stalin.

Initially, the press also aimed to demonstrate a direct link between Stalin and the common people; newspapers often published collective letters from farm or industrial workers praising the leader, as well as accounts and poems about meeting Stalin. Shortly after the revolution of October 1917 the Ivan Tovstukha drafted up a biographical section featuring Stalin for the Russian Granat Encyclopedia Dictionary. Even though most of the description of Stalin's career was very mush embellished, it had gained so much favor with the public that they released a fourteen-page pamphlet of it alone named Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin: A Short Biography with a print run of 50,000. However, these sorts of accounts declined after World War II; Stalin drew back from public life, and the press instead began to focus on remote contact (i.e. accounts of receiving a telegram from Stalin or seeing the leader from afar).

Another prominent part of Stalin's image in the mass media was his close association with Vladimir Lenin. The Soviet press maintained that Stalin had been Lenin's constant companion while the latter was alive, and that as such, Stalin closely followed Lenin's teachings and could continue the Bolshevik legacy after Lenin's death. Stalin fiercely defended the correctness of Lenin's views in public, and in doing so Stalin implied that, as a faithful follower of Leninism, his own leadership was similarly faultless.

Lenin did not want Stalin to succeed him, stating that "Comrade Stalin is too rude" and suggesting that the party find someone "more patient, more loyal, more polite". Stalin did not completely succeed in suppressing Lenin's Testament suggesting that others remove Stalin from his position as leader of the Communist party. However some such as historian Peter Kotkin have argued that these statements of Lenin were actually forgeries, they were not written or signed by Lenin but were allegedly spoken by him and taken down. According to V. Sakharov the dates on these allegedly forged portions also contradict the dates in the diaries of Lenin's secretaries and doctors. Kotkin argues that the leaders of the party, both Stalin and his opponents knew these segments were forged and for this reason they didn't have much impact and Stalin wasn't removed from his post even though he offered to step down. Interestingly Stalin did not contest the validity of the forged segment but turned it into a propaganda weapon against his enemies. The allegedly forged section called him "too rude"; in answer Stalin admitted and apologized for his rudeness, but said he could not help being rude to those who harm the party. Lenin's sister Maria also defended Stalin against his opponents regarding his friendship with Lenin. Later even Lenin's wife N. Krupskaya came to Stalin's defense, despite earlier being a supporter of Zinoviev.

This page was last edited on 21 June 2018, at 06:38 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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