Cult of Personality

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Lesson One - Stalinism in the Soviet Union
Outcomes (SWBAT)

  • Describe Stalin’s “Cult of Personality”

  • Identify and discuss the elements of Stalinism to 1941


  1. Stalin Stories … hand out these mini-stories that give insight into the personality of the Soviet Union’s strongman. Students are to rank them from 1-10 based on those they think most portray Stalin as a ruthless dictator to the least.

  2. Stalin – PPT with note-taking sheet

  3. A&E Biography – Stalin “Red Terror” from 09:56 – 17:00

  4. Stalin Cult of Personality PPT

  5. Stalin Rewrites history – Cult of Personality notes with examples of doctored photographs

  6. Post-lesson responder quiz


  1. Stalin Cult of Personality PPT

  2. Stalin Stories assignment

  3. Stalin PPT with note-taking sheet

  4. “Cult of Personality” notes and photos

  5. post-lesson responder quiz

Stalin Stories
The Guard Boot Story

Soldiers in the Kremlin guarded Stalin. The floors are made of marble and one soldier was worried about keeping Stalin awake at night by the sound of his boots on the marble floor. He decided to take his boots off and simply wear socks as he marched outside Stalin’s bedroom door. One night, Stalin woke up at 1:00 and couldn’t hear his guard. He went to the door, peeked out, saw the guard without boots, and asked him what he was doing. The guard replied, “Comrade Stalin, I did not want to wake you so I removed my boots.” Stalin thanked him and went back to bed, but thought to himself, “I can’t hear him, what if he decides to kill me?” So, Stalin picked up the phone, called the KGB, who came, arrested, and executed the guard.

Child/Parent Story

One day at school, as the teacher extolled the virtues of Stalin, a little girl put up her hand and asked whether Stalin was good for Russia? The teacher replied, “Of course,” and the child very politely wondered aloud why her parents, the night before, had whispered to each other that there had been more food in Russia before Stalin. The teacher reported the incident to a Community Party official and that night the parents of the child were taken by the KGB and exiled to Siberia.

Stalin’s Family Story

Stalin was married twice. His second wife committed suicide (?) after Stalin berated her at a party. His son tried to commit suicide when he was 16 but flinched at the last moment and simply creased his skull with the bullet. When told of the incident, Stalin replied, “My son is such an incompetent, he couldn’t even kill himself correctly.” The Germans captured Stalin’s son during WWII. After the Russians at Stalingrad captured Von Paulus, the Germans offered to trade Stalin’s son for Von Paulus. Stalin answered, “I don’t have a son by that name, and why would I trade a captain (his son’s rank) for a Field Marshal (Von Paulus’ rank)?” Stalin’s son was shot trying to escape the POW camp.

Stalin’s Daughter

Stalin called his daughter “my little housekeeper”. When she was a teenager, she went out with a young man, Aleksei Kapler, who Stalin did not like. Stalin had the KGB arrest the young man and sent him to Siberia.

Kulak Marching Story

When the Kulaks resisted Stalin’s collectivization program, he had many killed and many more were forced to march to Siberia to the salt mines. Hundreds were tied up together with slipknots around their throats. As they marched, many weakened and some died. The Kulaks on either side of the dead person had to therefore carry that person between them or the weight of the body would have tightened their own slipknots and killed them. The guards marched them for miles like this – the weak carrying the dead

Shaking Hands Story

Stalin used to love to have parties where a lot of vodka was consumed. Everyone had to pretend they were having a good time and sometimes Stalin would shake hands with men much bigger than he. He would try to crush their hands with his and their choice was to allow this to happen and be safe, or squeeze back and be in danger.

Khrushchev and Vodka

Stalin and the Politburo used to drink at the Kremlin or at Stalin’s dacha. Often they would drink all night and near dawn, KGB would sometimes appear and remove a potential rival to Stalin. One night, Stalin stood behind Khrushchev and poured a bottle of vodka over Khrushchev’s baldhead and onto his cheap Russian suit. Khrushchev laughed and laughed, playing the buffoon, knowing this was his only way of survival. He was right and eventually the buffoon replaced Stalin as leader of the Soviet Union.

The Beria Story

Beria was Stalin’s handpicked executioner. He shot those that Stalin felt were most dangerous to him. In return, Beria was allowed to roam the streets of Moscow in a Russian limousine with his own bodyguards. When Beria saw a woman he wanted, the car was stopped, the guards grabbed the woman in front of her husband/father/son/brother, threw her in the car where Beria raped her. The women of Moscow learned to be fearful of Beria and his car. After Stalin’s stroke in 1953, Stalin was left lying on the floor for 24 hours, as his orders were that he was not to be disturbed and everyone was terrified of him. When his doctor was called and everyone knew Stalin was about to die, Beria, this evil man, stood over Stalin and shouted profanities at him, accusing him of destroying Russia. Stalin became semi-lucid and mumbled a few words that were understandable. Beria, terrified, felt to his knees, put his head on Stalin’s bed and begged his forgiveness. This evil man was afraid of Stalin even though he was only a few hours away from his death. Six months after Stalin died, Beria was brought down to the basement of Lubyanka Prison and executed by a bullet in the back of his head.

Stalin’s name

When his son Vasily exploited his father’s name saying “But I’m a Stalin too,” Stalin replied: “No, you’re not. You’re not Stalin and I’m not Stalin. Stalin is Soviet power. Stalin is what he is in the newspapers and the portraits, not you, no not even me!”

Don’t Stop Applauding

Solzhenitsyn writes:

Here is one vignette from those days as it actually occurred. A district party conference was underway in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with "stormy applause, rising to an ovation."

For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the "stormy applause rising to an ovation" continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin.

However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform and it was he who had called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who'd been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD [an early form of the KGB] men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first.

And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the leader, the applause went on—six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn't stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks. At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly—but up there with the presidium, where everyone could see them?

The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter ...

Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a business-like expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed the Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him:

"Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!"

History 12 Name ___________________________________

Ms. Lacroix


Also known as…

იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე ჯუღაშვილი

Worked with the Bolshevik cause

Attraction of Stalin to Lenin?

Trotsky vs Stalin

Civil War…

Eliminating Trotsky

Purges of the 1930’s

the first Moscow show trial of the so-called "Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center" was staged in front of an international audience.

The court found everybody guilty and sentenced the defendants to death, Trotsky in absentia.

Karl Radek and sixteen other leading members of the Communist Party were put on trial.

Thirteen of the accused were found guilty and sentenced to death. Radek and two others were sentenced to ten years.

21 leading members of the party were accused of being involved with Trotsky in a plot against Stalin and with spying for foreign powers. They were all found guilty and were either executed or died in labour camps.

Red Army Purges

NKVD Purges

History 12 Name ___________________________________

Ms. Lacroix

A cult of personality occurs when a leader uses mass media to create an idealized or heroic public image using flattery and praise without a balanced viewpoint. 
Stalin’s image was literally everywhere, portraying him as Lenin’s heir.

Paintings, poetry, prose, and sculpture were all used.

Opera and films glorified Stalin’s role in the Revolution, portraying him as the chief hero in the Civil War.
How did Russians respond to this propaganda?

1. Some saw him as a benefactor

  • he industrialized the USSR and transformed it into a world power

2. Some saw him as a defender of the people

  • enthusiasm increased by the threat of war

3. Many saw him as a charismatic leader

  • even intellectuals, experienced party members, and workers, although aware of the absurdities surrounding the Cult, admired and respected him as a great leader, even though he used harsh methods.

The “cult” influenced all areas of Soviet society, ushering in feelings of unity, purpose, and clarity during a very unstable and changing era.

Stalin would also rewrite and later history… in text and photographs.

Lenin & Stalin – good buddies?
Lenin’s last will reads:
Stalin is too rude, and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest the Comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post.”

Lenin & Trotsky?

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