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Joseph Stalin

By Stephanie L. McKinney, PhD, Contributing Writer

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Stalin's Cult of Personality
A picture of Joseph Stalin with a young girl named Galia.

Soviet Communist leader Joseph Stalin (1879-1953), with Galia Markifova, at a reception for the elite of the workers of the Biviato autonomous socialist republic. In later life, Galia was sent to a labor camp by Stalin. (1935)

(Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)
Stalin is also known for building an unprecedented cult of personality. Presenting himself as a paternal figure watching over his people, Stalin's image and actions could not have been more distinct. While paintings and statues of Stalin kept him in the public eye, Stalin also promoted himself by aggrandizing his past through tales of his childhood and his role in the revolution.

No Dissent Allowed

However, with millions of people dying, statues and tales of heroics could only go so far. Thus, Stalin made it a policy that showing anything less than complete devotion was punishable by exile or death. Going beyond that, Stalin eradicated any form of dissent or competition.

No Outside Influence

Not only did Stalin readily arrest anyone remotely suspected of having a different view, he also closed religious institutions and confiscated church lands in his reorganization of the Soviet Union. Books and music that were not to Stalin's standards were banned as well, virtually eliminating the possibility of outside influences.

No Free Press

No one was allowed to say a negative thing against Stalin, especially the press. No news of the death and devastation in the countryside was leaked to the public; only news and images that presented Stalin in a flattering light were allowed. Stalin also famously changed the name of the city of Tsaritsyn to Stalingrad in 1925 to honor the city for its role in the Russian civil war.
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