Friday, 5 March 2010

On this day...

Former Russian leader Joseph Stalin died in 1953 at the age of 74. Viewed by most as a cruel and dictactorial leader, Stalin was the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee from 1922 and leader of the Soviet Party from 1924. His tenure was marred by famines, rumblings of torture and a non-committal response to Nazi Germany. Yet, perhaps, his most far-reaching and long lasting effect in that of the formation of the Eastern Bloc, a group of countries who existed under the 'iron rule' until its dissolution in 1991.

Stalin is undoubtedly best known for his politics, yet authorship and literary works played no small part in his life. Indeed it was the writings of Lenin that persuaded Stalin to become a Marxist revolutionary and join the Bolsheviks. He himself became and author later in his premiership, as he attempted to rewrite history in textbooks and propaganda, namely to increase his own standing in the revolution and subsequent events. Stalin also established 'socialist realism', by which all arts must be approved by the State to be deemed satisfactory. Such works are supposed to be proletarian, typical, realistic and partisan and included writers such as Maxim Gorky and Mikhail Sholokhov. Thus Stalin is an example of how literature can be manipulated and misused to fulfil a political agenda.

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