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Chris Ward’s “Stalin’s Russia” Book Summary

Ward’s work on Stalin’s Russia has seven chapters. Chapter 1 tries to explain the rise of Stalin. Chapter 2 focuses on the assessment of the industrialization campaign that happened between the years 1924 and 1941. Chapter 3 tries to capture the reasons for the collectivization drive that happened between the years 1927 and 1941 and the results of this drive. Chapter 4 illuminates different opinions that were aired regarding the origins and nature of purges that took place between 1928 and 1941. Chapter 5 entirely focuses on myriad sources, successes, and failures of the foreign policy that Stalin embarked on between 1922 and 1941. Conflicting appraisals of the war period and late Stalinism constitute chapter six of Ward’s book. It is estimated that these activities must have transpired at the onset of the Second World War and proceeded even after the war. Chapter seven talks about different accounts given by different people in interpreting the role Stalin played and the changes he instigated in the culture of the Russians when he was at the helm of leadership. This essay will summarize all the seven chapters of Chris Ward’s work on Stalin’s Russia.

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Ward registers that Stalinism is too big a phenomenon that cannot be merely interpreted in the context of socialism, communism, or totalitarianism. Ward notes that the distinct nature of Stalinism regime structure, how it relates to the state and the society, and how it has led to cultural transformation has prompted many researchers to apply the term Stalinist quite often compared to other terms like communist and socialist. Differentiation of the terminologies enables scholars to distinguish both implicitly and explicitly between Stalinist and other periods of history in the Soviet Union. This would help in warding off the notion that Stalinism was the product of Marxism. Ward emphatically notes that prior studies on Stalinism were insufficiently self-reflective and this formed the basis of his studies. Ward’s work highlights intricacies that have dogged scholarly debate on the nature and causes of the Soviet Union’s remarkable population losses, repressions, and brainwashing that Stalin engineered. Ward elaborately captures continuities between the policies Stalin put in place, the policies that were there in the pre-evolutionary Russia, and the similarity between Stalinism and administration and the ideological base of the mass murders that were witnessed in 20th century Europe.

Pertaining to collectivization, Ward (90) mentions Alec Nove’s location of its origins both in the Bolshevik Weltanschauung and in cultural inheritance. Ward notes the Russian government was obviously aware of the relationship that there was between the agrarian revolution, the federation’s economic strength, and the military might and how these would affect the general peace and tranquility of the populace. However, the government neglected the country’s defenses (Ward 96). This was reflected in the words of a minister who retorted that the grains have to be exported even if people go hungry (Ward 96). Ward notes that the worst Stalinist economic policy was the heavy state involvement in the running of the economy. Stalin cracked a whip on his political enemies in the right and left party leadership, not because of personal differences but due to deprivation of intuitional basis, asserts Ward (110). Ward notes that Stalin perfected the use of disavowed egalitarianism in the treatment of employees. This was eventually applied in formulating educational policies when every student had to pay school fees to be enrolled in a secondary school (Ward 231). The Russian language was imposed on the citizenry of the Soviet Union as the official language. Family policies were very conservative and at that time, male homosexuality was outlawed. Stalinist cultural policy promoted nationalism and integrated aspects of racial discrimination and xenophobia. The last year of Stalin’s rule was characterized by a disguised anti-Semitic campaign (Ward 243).

Works Cited

Chris, Ward. Stalin’s Russia. London: Edward Arnold, 1999.

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