Thursday, November 13, 2014

Joseph Stalin - Psychopathology of a Dictator

Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D.

Joseph Stalin was one of the main architects of creating a collective trauma in the Soviet Union. His actions and policies brought immense suffering to the people. The aftermath of Stalin’s repression still impacts the post Soviet Society. However despite all the negative consequences Stalin is still remembered in Russia as a great hero who saved the Soviet Union from Hitler’s Fascist aggression and transformed the country in to a super power. The Stalinist past still shapes the Russian society today (Gouldner 2009). A survey commissioned by the Carnegie Endowment in 2012, suggested that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin has remained widely admired in Russia and other former Soviet nations (The Moscow Times, 2013).

Some historians and social scientists have considered the Soviet regime under Joseph Stalin during the 1930 s to be the embodiment of “totalitarianism,” a term which describes a political system in which power is concentrated at the top and the entire population is mobilized to undertake a sweeping transformation of society (Schmaltz, 2007). 

Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953 ruled the country with an iron fist. According to Professor Harold Shukman of all the dictators the world endured in the twentieth century, Joseph Stalin was unquestionably the mightiest.  Nisbet (1986) describes Joseph Stalin as a low-born revolutionist and bandit from early years, successor by sheer ruthlessness to Lenin as absolute ruler of the Soviet Union, liquidator of the Kulak class in the Ukraine, purger of his own party and totalitarian to the core.

Joseph Stalin’s political strategy to construct socialism is known as Stalinism. Stalinist policies in the Soviet Union included: state terror, authoritarianism, rapid industrialization and the theory of socialism in one country, a centralized state and collectivization of agriculture (Bottomore, 1991). According to Gouldner (2009) Stalinism is historically analyzed as a regime of terror in furtherance of a property transfer which utilized a personal dictatorship and a burgeoning bureaucracy.

Many Soviet and the international politicians observed certain abnormal traits in Stalin’s character. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin saw Stalin as a rude unsympathetic person. Leon Trotsky noticed Stalin’s unstable emotions. Nikolai Bukharin identified his insatiable desire for power disregarding moral values. Among the international politicians Winston Churchill become aware of Stalin’s coldness when he laughed and joked about the killing of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Kulaks while dining with him in 1942 at the Yalta conference. The Yugoslav Communist politician Milovan Đilas perceived inappropriate humor, sycophancy, vulgarity and extreme manipulativeness in Stalin.  

Mental capacity of Joseph Stalin was questioned by the Soviet and the foreign experts. Dr Vladimir Bekhterev detected paranoid symptoms in Stalin in 1927. Stalin’s physician Dr.  Alexander Myasnikov who treated him in 1953 believed that atherosclerosis of the cerebral arteries caused abnormal behavior and impaired judgment in the Soviet dictator. There are a number of theories that intensely discuss Stalin’s terrorizing behavior and long lasting paranoia.  As indicated by Birt (1993) paranoia often begins during childhood in a situation in which the child feels both dependent on and threatened by the father. Birt  (1993) further states that severe emotional ambivalence that Stalin experienced in his childhood may have caused lasting impact on him. 

Stalin was born in 1879 in Gori -Georgia. His real name was Joseph Djugashvili. Stalin had a turbulent childhood. As a young child Stalin underwent severe physical and psychological distresses that affected his adult life in huge capacity. His father Vissarion (Beso) Djugashvili was a cobbler and an alcoholic. His clients paid him partly in wine which was so plentiful in Georgia that many workers received alcohol instead of cash. Furthermore, he did some business in the corner of a friend’s dukhan (tavern), which encouraged him to drink too much (Montefiore, 2007). He was a violent man and was killed in a bar fight. 

Stalin feared his alcoholic father who physically and verbally abused him and his mother. Brackman (2003) states that the neighbors long remembered Vissarion’s brutal beatings of the boy and on one occasion out of rage Vissarion threw a hammer at the boy, barely missing him.  Stalin frequently witnessed family violence. At the age of nine little Stalin was sent to a workshop to work as a child labourer by his father. When he refused to work he was severely punished by Vissarion. Since his childhood he had unresolved psychological conflicts with his father. Stalin's violent tendencies developed in part due to his father's behavior (Stal, 2013). 

Stalin never received the love that he expected from his mother. His mother Yekaterina Geladze was an illiterate woman. She wanted Stalin to become a priest. He was sent to a Seminary in Tbilisi. But young Stalin was expelled from the Seminary due to his poor performance and for reading Marxist books.

The Seminary life made a huge impact on his life in the later years. He frequently underwent physical beatings by the priests. He saw their double standards and found nothing sacred in life itself. Progressively he was captivated by reading Charles Darwin and Karl Marx.

Toward the end of 1898, Stalin’s relations with seminary officials became increasingly hostile. He refused to bow to the inspector, who complained to the Board of Supervisors. An entry in the Seminary’s records states that in the course of a search of the fifth-grade dormitories, ‘Iosif Dzhugashvili tried several times to enter into an  argument with seminary officials, expressing dissatisfaction with the repeated searches of  students, and declaring that such searches were never made in other seminaries. What the record book fails to mention is that Koba’s (Stalin’s) actions were directly responsible for the search.  Koba tried to induce some of his fellow students to drop out of the Seminary and join the revolutionary underground (Brackman, 2003).

Stalin grew up alone and he had no siblings. His mother gave birth to three children who either died in early infancy or were stillborn. In later years she once mentioned that she had two sons and another time she spoke of three babies, which suggests that one of them was a girl.  The causes of their deaths and even their names remain unknown (Brackman, 2003).

Stalin had attachment problems with his mother. (According to some sources Stalin’s mother had an affair with his God father Yakov Egnatashvili and Stalin’s real father was not Vissarion Djugashvili the cobbler). Stalin’s mother used to work in David Pismamedov’s house. Pismamedov was a Jewish businessman in Gori and some residents suspected an illicit affair between David Pismamedov and Stalin’s mother Yekaterina Geladze.

In Georgia—illegitimacy has long been considered a disgrace and the ultimate insult among Georgians with their traditions of family ties, kinship and honor (Brackman, 2003). When young Stalin heard these rumors he became offended. The roots of Stalin’s anti-Semitic feelings may have started from these personal embarrassments.  

Josef Davrichewy, the son of Gori’s police chief, claims in his memoirs that ‘the birth was gossiped about in the neighborhood – that the real father of the child was Koba Egnatashvili… or my own father Damian Davrichewy’. This could not have helped Beso, whom Davrichewy calls ‘a manically jealous runt’, already sinking into alcoholism (Montefiore, 2007). On the other hand there were rumors circulating during Stalin's lifetime that his real father was the explorer Przhevalsky. People uttering these rumors during Stalin's reign of terror were not murdered because Stalin enjoyed the association. Przhevalsky was a well known Russian hero (Lerner, 2014).

Stalin gradually distanced himself from his mother and hardly visited her. When Stalin got angry he often used derogatory names to insult her. Stalin’s mother Yekaterina died in 1937 Stalin did not attend the funeral and he only sent a wreath.

Young Stalin had a negative self image and was plagued by the inferiority complex. His face was badly scarred by smallpox. He had a defect in his left arm. The left arm was shorter than the other and it was half-paralyzed. Fingers on his left foot fused may be due to a congenital defect. These physical defects gave a bizarre “Stalin” gait. He was 165 cm tall and looked short. Glad (2002) hypothesized that Stalin had a "basic inferiority complex.  

Stalin later invented much about his life: his official birthday was 21 of December 1879 over a year later, an invented date. He generally stuck to 6 December 1879 until an interview in 1920 with a Swedish newspaper. In 1925 he ordered his secretary Tovstukha to formalize the 1879 date. There are several explanations, including his desire to recreate himself (Montefiore, 2007).

In his entire life Stalin struggled to overcome his negative self image and inferiority complexes by inflating defensive high self-esteem. The culmination of defensive high self-esteem transpired with the creation of cult of Stalin.

In his character Stalin lacked empathy. When his first wife Ekaterina Svanidze (Stalin called her Kato) died of Typhus Stalin was emotionally devastated. After this heartbreaking event Stalin became emotionally numbed and said to his friends “my last warm feelings for humanity died”. This emotional numbness became the central feature of his character.

After Kato’s death Stalin became aimless. He abandoned his first born infant child Yakov Dzhugashvili and went for revolutionary activities. Stalin organized a number of armed robberies to raise funds for the party. Gradually he was turning in to a brutal person.  Some unofficial reports concur that Stalin cold-bloodedly killed people in armed robberies. After he came in to power Stalin wiped out most of his old gang members. Hence he erased his criminal history from the records.

Stalin was arrested for revolutionary activities and exiled to Siberia. There he underwent awful human conditions which further deteriorated his emotional wellbeing. But he managed to escape in 1904.

He worked with the Bolsheviks. But unlike Lenin or Trotsky, Stalin had no profound theoretical knowledge in Marxism. Stalin was famously weak in his Marxism on a personal and interpersonal level (Amadon, 2011).  He was not a revolutionary hero either. However he was a pragmatic activist and was highly manipulative. Stalin was able to win Lenin’s trust. He had organizational skills and worked with an iron will. He knew the importance of terror in achieving the goals and defending the Revolution. Stalin used ruthless measures during the Russian Civil War earning a fearsome name. 

The American journalist and socialist activist best known for his first-hand account of the Bolshevik Revolution “Ten Days that Shook the World” John Reed once gave a brief description about Stalin. Reed concluded: He’s not an intellectual like the other people you will meet. He's not even particularly well informed, but he knows what he wants.

In 1922, Stalin became the Secretary General of the Party. It was only an insignificant bureaucratic position, but Stalin transformed it into a very important post (Lerner, 2014). Stalin was rude, intolerable and had a bad temper. Lenin denounced him when Stalin verbally abused his wife Krupskaya. Lenin demanded an apology from Stalin.

Shortly before his death in 1924 Lenin wrote to the Central Committee that Stalin must be removed from the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR and be replaced by another who was "more loyal, more courteous, and more considerate of comrades, less capricious. But this decision was overruled by Stalin with the help of his supporters in the Politburo. As the General Secretary Stalin could control the party members. Thus he was able to put his own supporters into place and establish himself a strong base for support (Daniels 1953).

After Stalin became the leader of the Soviet Union he unleashed his cruelty to his supporters. He condemned most of the people who supported him and got rid of them. He eliminated any person who could be a potential threat. Stalin used numerous unorthodox methods to suppress his opponents.  

Trotsky was an intellectual and respected by the party members. Trotsky had demonstrated his loyalty to the revolutionary cause during two stints of imprisonment and exile under the tsar. He played a role in the 1905 Revolution as vice-chairman of the first St. Petersburg Soviet. During the October Revolution of 1917 Trotsky directed much of the power seizure in the Russian capital while serving as chairman of the Bolshevik majority Petrograd Soviet (Kelsey, 2011).Trotsky created the Red Army from the Red Guards. He was the Commissar for Civil War and one of the outstanding orators.

Stalin’s jealousy and insecurity grew vastly and he saw Trotsky as a potential threat. After Lenin's death it appeared that it was Trotsky who had the biggest aspirations on becoming the new leader (Daniels 1953, p. 154). Together with Kamenev and Zinoviev, Stalin formed a `triumvirate' in order to put pressure on Trotsky. Stalin hated Trotsky's use of former Tsarist officers in his division of the red army. In December Stalin proposed his concept of Socialism in one country" in order to launch an attack on Trotsky (Kliesch, 2007).

After Lenin’s death Trotsky’s position became vulnerable. As Trotsky’s political prowess decreased, Stalin began to diverge from Zinoviev and Kamenev, and began to develop a new alliance with Bukharin (Westwood, 2002). Trotsky was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1929 and later he was assassinated in 1940 in Mexico on Stalin’s orders.

When Trotsky’s death was confirmed, Stalin wrote an editorial for Pravda, headed ‘The Death of An International Spy’. Stalin declared that Trotsky ‘was finished off by the same terrorists whom he had taught to murder from behind a corner’ and that he had ‘worked for the intelligence services and general staffs of England, France, Germany, Japan…’ and that having ‘organized the villainous murders of Kirov, Kuibyshev, Maxim Gorky, he became the victim of his own intrigues, betrayals, treason, evil deeds…  (Brackman, 2003).

When Kirov emerged as a new member of the communist party it might have threatened Stalin's rule (Kliesch, 2007). Sergey Kirov was a young popular Bolshevik. He was in charge of the party organization in Leningrad and also the chief of the Leningrad Party. Astoundingly Stalin became very close to Sergey Kirov. Kirov spent time in Stalin’s dacha drinking and dining together. Stalin showed a great affection towards Kirov. In 1934, Kirov was assassinated by a lone gunman. Many suspected Stalin behind the assassination. Apparently Stalin benefitted by Kirov’s murder. Kirov’s death gave him a vast opportunity to hunt down his rivals.  

Immediately following the death of Kirov, Josef Stalin unleashed one of the greatest political purges in history. The show trials organized by the Communist Party implicated thousands of political opponents in the conspiracy to kill Sergey Kirov. This information coupled with the fact that Stalin may have seen Kirov as a political rival, as well as the strange circumstances surrounding the assassination, has led many to assert that Stalin played a role in the murder (Lalor, 2006).

Stalin arrested two prominent Politburo members- Zinoviev and Kamenev on false charges. They were tortured heavily by the Stalin’s Secret Police. Kamenev and Zinoviev confessed that they were the key conspirators behind the murder of Sergey Kirov. During the interrogation Zinoviev could not bear the physical and psychological anguish and went in to an acute stress reaction. Although Stalin gave them a personal assurance that their lives would be spared both were shot in 1936.

Yet Stalin’s hunt was not over. Following Stalin’s terror Mikhail Tomsky who was the leader of the trade union movement committed suicide in 1936. Mikhail Tukhachevsky –the former Red Army chief-of-staff arrested in 1937 and shot. Sergo Ordzhonikidze - Commissar for Heavy Industry ended his life in 1937 as a result of forced suicide instigated by Stalin. The Politburo member Jānis Rudzutaks was accused of Trotskyism and espionage for Nazi Germany shot in 1938. Stalin purged more than 40, 000 Red Army Officers. Some of them were active participants of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and heroes of the Russian Civil War.

Aleksandr Orlov –the Ex NKVD officer and the author of the famous book “the Secret History of Stalin's Crimes” of the view that Stalin's envy of all the old Bolshevik leaders may have been a large part of his motivation to destroy them.

Stalin's behavior in the power struggle was ambiguous. It might well be that his sudden change in policy, especially on the economic policy, was due to the social and economic developments and constraints, and his own opinion. However, it seems that Stalin operated tactically, rather than ideologically, and his moves were mainly intended to play out his competitors against each other. He placed himself in the centre of the debate, initially proposing moderate views (Daniels 1953; Kliesch, 2007).

The Revolutionary intellectual Nikolai Bukharin once stated:" Stalin is a Genghis Khan, an unscrupulous intriguer, who sacrifices everything else to the preservation of power. 

Bukharin was a major figure in both the political and philosophical development of Marxism (Sheehan, 2007). He was a cosmopolitan intellectual, exposed to an array of intellectual influences and accustomed to mixing with intellectuals of many points of view and arguing the case for Marxism in such milieux (Sheehan, 2002). Undoubtedly Stalin felt jealous of Bukharin’s charisma. In his xenophobic conspiracious mind Stalin perceived Bukharin as an imminent threat that had to be eliminated.

Bukharin stood for what he called 'socialist humanism', socialism with a human face, socialism with an open mind, socialism with an honest voice, socialism with an outstretched hand. He advocated a more evolutionary path to socialism, an opening of a process where a society would grow into socialism, where those who questioned might be persuaded and not necessarily coerced or executed, where theoretical questions were settled by theoretical debates and not by accusations of treason, purges of editorial boards and disappearances in the night (Sheehan, 2002). But Stalin had a different view on social construction and he twisted Marxism for his own advantage. 

After Kirov’s death Bukharin’s days were numbered. Stalin wanted Bukharin dead. Stalin played with Bukharin expressing admiration and affection, all the while scheming against him, jealous of his intellectual acuity and all round popularity and vengeful against any alternative to his absolute authority, as his megalomania swept all into a hurricane of destruction. They lived and worked in close proximity to each other, first in exile and later in the Metropol and Kremlin. After Stalin’s wife Nadezhda Alilueva committed suicide, Stalin asked Bukharin to change apartments with him, as the memory was too painful. In the same bedroom, where she was driven to her death, Bukharin went through his last agony before his arrest, feeling all the possibilities of life closing down on him (Sheehan, 2004).

Bukharin was arrested on false charges. Stalin was manipulating the entire case against Bukharin fabricating allegations against him. The case of Nikolai Bukharin was set during the last of the Moscow Show Trials. Prior to his false confession Bukharin was severely tortured and intimidated. Several times Stalin visited the Show Trial to observe his victim -physically and mentally shattered Bukharin.

Stalin’s presence in these show trials in the 1930s, were confirmed by many of his former associates. He used to sit in a darkened room and watching the anguish of the accused who had been his comrades and associates (Tucker, 1990, pp. 500-501).  Stalin relished their agonies. He laughed immoderately on seeing an imitation of the old Bolshevik leader Grigori Zinoviev being dragged to his execution, making pleas for mercy with obscenities (Glad, 2002). Stalin derived sadistic satisfaction by watching these tormenting episodes. He may have felt superior over them.

Bukharin was a psychologically strong person and Nikolai Yezhov the head of the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) could not crack his morale. Stalin became uneasy and got Lavrentiy Beria to break Bukharin’s strength of mind. Beria threatened to kill his wife Anna Larina. To spare the life of his young wife Anna Larina Nikolai Bukharin agreed to sign a false confession. Bukharin admitted a large number of crimes which he never committed.  He was shot in the Lubyanka. Anna Larina was sent to a Gulag. After nearly fifty years of Bukharin’s execution in 1988 Bukharin was finally “rehabilitated” and cleared of all charges by the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

After the Moscow Show Trials whole history of the Revolution was rewritten. Books of Bukharin, indeed of all the purged, disappeared from libraries. Photographs were doctored to erase their presence from seminal events. Soon after the trial came the publication of The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik): Short Course. It set the trials within the panorama of a brazenly falsified version of soviet history. Millions of copies were printed and it became the basic text for the study of Marxism in the USSR (Sheehan, 2004).

Before facing the death penalty Bukharin sent a small note to Stalin: Koba, zachem tebye nuzhna moya smert' ( Koba why do you need my death?) But Stalin was unemotional. After Stalin’s death this small note was found on his desk. He may have kept it as a trophy.

According to some reports Stalin actively engaged in signing death warrants.  Stalin personally ordered and signed tens of thousands of death sentences. On just one day in December 1937, he approved 3,167 death sentences, and then watched a movie (Conquest, 1991, pp. 203, 207; Glad, 2002). Like the NAZI s Stalin hugely lacked empathy. [The American Psychologist Gustavo Gilbert analyzed many NAZI leaders including Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg Trial and concluded that the NAZIs lacked empathy (Jayatunge , 2010) ]

Stalin’s emotional coldness and fascination for certain kind of moves indicate the dual nature of the dictator’s mind. He loved to watch the musical comedy Volga Volga. He liked Charlie Chaplin’s comedies and frequently watched American gangster movies. After signing death warrants he could calmly watch a movie and enjoy it to the fullest extent.

No member of Soviet society was left untouched by these purges, which brought down countless numbers of diplomats, writers, scientists, industrial managers, scholars, and officials of the Comintern. Stalin’s political purges seriously alarmed all military officers, industrialists, and researchers in the Soviet Union (Cheong, 2000).  He maneuvered fear tactics like Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great.     

Stalin came to power in the absence of a broad consensus on the legitimacy and necessity of his personal rule. Indeed the ruling party did  not yet enjoy a firm ideological or cultural hegemony among the population,  and repression and even mass terror had been-periodically used, as in the Civil War and the collectivization of agriculture, to enforce the power of the   state and remove-potential sources of opposition ( Suny,1991). 

Stalin encountered series of identity crisis throughout his life probably due to insecurities that vastly affected him.  In his young days he adopted the name Koba -a Georgian fictional hero. According to Lerner (2014) Koba -the name of hero from the1883 novel, The Patricide by Alexander Kazbegi. Stalin very liked this book and he used the name as pseudonym).  then Stalin (man of steel), Thovarisch Stalin (Comrade Stalin), Velikiy Stalin (Great Stalin), nash Velikiy Vozhd' (Our Great Leader) and finally Otets Narodov (Father of the Nation). He was troubled by his Georgian heritage ruling the Russian masses.  He spoke Russian with a thick notable accent.

Stalin was highly sensitive to criticism.  He was unable to accept any jokes about himself. Even his short stature was compensated for by wearing built-up shoes (Tucker, 1973, p. 438). Stalin suggested Maxim Gorky to write his biography. But Gorky declined his request. Hitherto in 1935 the Soviet Writer Nikolai Ostrovsky wrote to Stalin: Dear, beloved Comrade Stalin! I want to address to you--our leader and teacher, the dearest human being for me etc. Nikolai Ostrovsky was in ill health for a long period and died in 1936.

Stalin’s cronies tried to induce Gorky to write a biography of ‘The Great Stalin’. Yagoda, who bribed Gorky with privileges, ordered an NKVD officer by the name of Pogrebinsky to convince Gorky to write the biography.  Stalin also ordered Yagoda to ask Gorky to write an article titled ‘Lenin and Stalin’ for Pravda on the occasion of the seventeenth anniversary of the October Revolution, but Gorky refused. He also refused to write articles against Kamenev and Zinoviev, whom Stalin accused of instigating the murder of Kirov, and of other crimes. Stalin used his secret police to suppress Gorky. In a letter to the French Communist writer Romaine Rolland, Gorky complained that he was trapped and felt like an ‘old bear with a ring in my nose’. (Brackman, 2003). 

Maxim Gorky once wrote a short story narrating the daring attitude of the great Conquer Tamerlane’s poet. The valiant poet could boldly comment on Tamerlane’s idiocy. But Stalin needed blind followers. Maxim Gorky died in 1936 many suspected Stalin's involvement. Some believed that Gorky had been administered cardiac stimulants in large quantities by the Stalin’s secret police. However Stalin blamed Trotsky and other ex Politburo members including Bukharin for murdering Maxim Gorky.

Stalin wanted to use the literary skills of the great novelist Mikhail Sholokhov to glorify his image. When Stalin invited him for a meeting Sholokhov drank a bottle of Konyak and went to the meeting under the influence. The meeting became unsuccessful (Ivanov, 1988)

Sholokhov respected Stalin for leading the victory over Fascist Germany and liberating the USSR. But he refused to worship Stalin blindly like many others. On the contrary, he challenged Stalin’s prejudices that were projected on the Russian POWs. According to Stalin POW s were traitors who did not fulfill their sacred military task. Many POW s were executed or deported by Stalin when they returned to their motherland. Sholokhov disagreed with Stalin on this point. In his outstanding short story "Sud'ba Cheloveka" (Destiny of a Man) Mikhail Sholokhov, discloses a character named Andrey Sokolov- a Red Army POW who escaped from the Fascists with a heroic effort.

Stalin used numerous methods to inflate his personality via the Soviet media. His defensive high self-esteem created a new cult in the Soviet Union. He launched anti-religious campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church. The Stalin’s picture replaced the God’s image and he became a Demigod. He destroyed churches and religious monuments to proliferate Cult of Stalin.  

Between the late 1920s and the early 1950s, one of the most persuasive personality cults of all times saturated Soviet public space with images of Stalin. A torrent of portraits, posters, statues, films, plays, songs, and poems galvanized the Soviet population and inspired leftist activists around the world (Plamper, 2012). For Communists of the old guard, the Stalin cult was probably something of an embarrassment. Yet in their eyes too, he was becoming a charismatic leader, though of a somewhat different kind than for the broad public. Stalin’s public image in the 1930s, like the Tsars’ before him was that of a quasi-sacred leader, font of justice and mercy, and benevolent protector of the weak; he was often photographed smiling paternally on shy peasant women and children (Fitzpatrick, 2000). 

The actor Alexei Dikiy played the role of Stalin in propaganda films. The Soviet public saw great Stalin in fields and in factories encouraging and motivating masses.  When the picture of Stalin appeared on the screen people hailed with elation. The public were galvanized by watching the God like man – Great Stalin.  Although Alexei Dikiy made grand films about Stalin he could not escape the dictator’s repression. His other films were censored and Dikiy was banned from public performances in the latter stages. Banished from his theatrical work Alexei Dikiy found no aim in his life. He suffered from depression and died in 1955.

Stalin was not the genuine successor to Lenin. Stalin attempted to construct legitimacy through the development of a ‘cult of personality (Stronga & Killingsworthb, 2011). Koeneke   (2010) identifies that the major factor in the success of Stalin was his establishment of a major personality cult. The cult of Stalin as Communism's first philosopher in succession to Marx, Engels, and Lenin had now been founded. But this was not all. Embryonic in this development was the monolithism that became a hallmark of Stalinist intellectual culture in all fields and that distinguished it from pre-Stalinist Bolshevism (Tucker   1979).  

By the time of the Teheran Conference, Stalin felt confident of victory. The German Army had suffered defeat at Stalingrad and had been driven from the Caucasus which opened the route for delivery of aid through Iran by his Western allies. On 6 March 1943 Stalin bestowed upon himself the rank of ‘Marshal of the Soviet Union’, and he was proclaimed ‘the greatest strategist of all times and all peoples (Brackman, 2003). But Stalin never had any military training or never served in the Army.  

Although Stalin was depicted as a great leader with an inimitable vision and outstanding intelligence, in real life he was shortsighted and took erroneous decisions in a number of times. His decisions made thousands to suffer in vain. 

Joseph Stalin’s economic plans swallowed human lives in gigantic proportions. His actions weakened the Red Army and it gravely affected the Winter War with Finland in 1939. He miscalculated Hitler’s intensions. Stalin disregarded reports from the Red Army military intelligence. On 3 April 1941 Churchill sent a message to Stalin, informing him of Hitler’s intention to invade the Soviet Union. Stalin was receiving similar warnings from various sources, but shrugged them off as attempts by Britain to sow discord between him and Hitler. A former Czech agent in Berlin, code-named ‘Shkvor’, reported to Soviet intelligence the concentration of German troops along Soviet borders. Stalin read Shkvor’s report and wrote on it in red pencil, ‘English provocation’. He ordered the NKVD to assassinate Shkvor (Brackman, 2003).

Although Stalin found enemies everywhere he failed to see his biggest enemy. He thought that he could ally with Hitler. When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union Stalin went in to despair. He abandoned all his work and hid from the public eye. Paradoxically, the war years were psychologically the most normal time during Stalin’s rule: for once, the country was not fighting ‘enemies of the people’ who were figments of his imagination (Brackman, 2003).  

During the Great Patriotic War Stalin used to disrupt the military campaigns giving unnecessary deadlines. He tried to control everything on the front-line with the help of the Communist Party commissars. This had disastrous results as the Germans came close to capturing Moscow (Owen, 2014).

The General Georgy Zhukov who planned the major military strategy to defeat Hitler’s forces had to fight two war fronts simultaneously. He fought one against Hitler and other one against Stalin’s ego. However Hitler’s Moscow invasion made the man of steal nervous and the General Zhukov was given more power and liberty to control the armed forces. But soon after the war General Zhukov was sidelined and sent to Odessa. He was partially denounced using the term Bonapartism of Zhukov.  If not for his popularity Stalin would have purged one of the proficient military generals of all time.

Stalin’s mass projects that glorified him consumed millions of human lives. His sanity and leadership were secretly questioned by some of the party leaders. But many feared him and maintained the conspiracy of silence. In 1932 Martemyan Ryutin - Russian Marxist revolutionary wrote a thesis titled Stalin and the Crisis of the Proletarian Dictatorship. Ryutin argued that the party and the dictatorship of the proletariat have been led into an unknown blind alley by Stalin and his retinue and are now living through a mortally dangerous crisis. For this thesis Ryutin paid heavily. Martemyan Ryutin was shot in 1937 with his two sons.   

Stalin’s paranoid defense grew more and more. He saw spies, saboteurs, foreign collaborators, Trotskyites, etc everywhere. Stalin feared his own shadow and trusted no-one, even him-self. He increasingly withdrew from official functions and he muttered menacingly to his close associates that it was time for another purge. (Hachinski, 1999) His list of enemies became extensively long.  His rational thinking was obscured by fear and paranoia. 

Stalin was a covert anti semite. Although in 1930 Stalin publicly stated that Anti-semitism is an extreme form of racial chauvinism he took a number of measures to suppress Jewish people in the Soviet Union.  After his defection Stalin's personal secretary Boris Bazhanov revealed that Stalin made crude antisemitic outbursts even before Lenin's death (Miklós, 2003). Conquest (1991) indicated that Stalin, from his earliest days as a seminary student in Tiflis, demonstrated anti-Semitic feelings.

One of the most bizarre aspects of Stalin’s anti-Semitism was its explosion precisely at a time when he was pursuing a policy of support for the newborn State of Israel. He hoped to turn Israel into a Soviet satellite similar to the ‘Popular Democracies’ he was setting up in Eastern Europe (Brackman, 2003). Stalin established Jewish autonomous oblast in 1934.

However his antisemitic feelings were evident. Stalin arrested Molotov’s Jewish wife Polina Zhemchuzhina for greeting in Yiddish to the first Israeli ambassador to Moscow- Golda Meir at a Kremlin reception. He invented “Delo Vrachey” (Doctors' plot) and arrested prominent Jewish doctors like Dr. Kogan, Feldman, Ettinger,  Vovsi, Grinstein, Ginzburg, and many others. He had a plan to deport all the Soviet Jews to Birobidjan in Siberia. After Stalin’s death the whole world would hear of the deportation planned by Stalin (Goldberg& Mayer, 1961).

During the Stalinist period intelligentsia were exposed to reprisals. Stalin executed thirteen Jewish intellectuals who were academics, writers and poets active in various cultural realms. The Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky became disillusioned with Stalin's repressions committed suicide in 1930. Stalin banned Boris Pasternak’s novels and poems condemning it as anti-Soviet literature. Pasternak’s partner Olga Vsevolodovna Ivinskaya who was an editor at "Novy Mir" magazine was arrested in 1949. She was sentenced to five years in prison. Olga became the main inspiration for the character of Lara Antipova in Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago.  

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was arrested in 1945 for criticizing Stalin in a letter. He was sent to a Gulag.  Solzhenitsyn described his personal experiences in Lubianka –the central Soviet political prison– through Innokentii Volodin in The First Circle. Interrogations started in late February 1945 with the obligatory sleepless nights, bright lights, the box, and total isolation from other human beings. Solzhenitsyn’s eight-year camp experience opened his eyes to the reality of the Soviet Union’s economic foundation, of which prison labor made up a third (Fedyashin & Kondoyanidi, 2009). In the later years Solzhenitsyn vividly described the victims of the infamous “political Article 58” and exiled inhabitants of the Kolyma. His books: the Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich are testimonials of Stalinist horror.

Stalin suppressed a number of research work in the Soviet Union.  The suppression of research began during the Stalin era and scientists who engaged in research labeled as "idealistic" or "bourgeois   (Graham, 2004). Stalin banned Genetics Research in the Soviet Union. The famous Soviet geneticists –Professor Vavilov, Professor Koltsov, and Professor Serebrovski were removed from the academia. The official ban on Mendelian genetics was an example of pernicious political interference in science during Stalinist era.

Stalinist culture was dominating the Soviet science. Sociology and the other academic disciplines were gradually "politicized, Bolshevisized and eventually, Stalinized (Weinberg, 1974). Stalin despised Psychology. The Freudian Psychoanalysis was considered as a Bourgeois pseudoscience. The Russian psychoanalyst Nikolay Y. Ossipov who personally knew Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung left the country in 1921 and his work was banned in the Stalinist USSR. Under the Stalin’s orders the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky’s books were prohibited. Stalinist censure even reached the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.   

 Stalin felt intimidated by the presence of intellectuals and men with charismatic personality. He deliberately kept people with weak personalities in his inner circle. Although the high ranking officials feared Lavrentiy Beria he was not largely respected and they used to spread rumors about his sexual deviant behaviors. Lazar Kaganovich was a dogmatic Stalinist and blindly followed Stalin’s orders. Nikita Khrushchev was considered as an ill-mannered peasant from Ukraine. Stalin often ridiculed at Vyacheslav Molotov and sometimes called him an idiot. Mikhail Kalinin often became the laughing stock due to his senile diminished behavior. Although Kliment Voroshilov was a Civil War hero sometimes Stalin used to verbally abuse him. He used Georgy Malenkov to insult military leaders like Zhukov, Semyon Budyonniy , Konstantin Rokossovsky, Semyon Timoshenko etc. Among the inner circle Stalin behaved with an exaggerated pride often embarrassing and degrading others.  

The inner circle gathered frequently and dined together. But very seldom they had intellectually stimulating conversations. Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva recalls how in the period after the war the whole of the Politburo dined with Stalin almost every night. During a visit to Sochi in 1947, she found the whole group coming to dinner and spent three or four boring and tiring hours listening to the banal and repetitive conversation with little connection to what was happening in the world and the session continuing late into the night. Even in her last visit to her father at the end of 1952, she found the same set of cronies, repeating the same jokes and asides she had been hearing for years (Alliluyeva, 1967, pp. 21, 208; Glad, 2002).

Stalin often felt grave emptiness inside may be due to his inferiority complex. Boredom and monotony struck him vigorously. Very seldom he left Moscow and most of the time he stayed in his dacha in Kuntsevo surrounded by same people almost all the time. In such a tedious environment he was determining the destiny of millions of people. Sending them before a firing squad or sending them to a labor camp gave him immense sense of power and control internally and externally. He felt omnipotent supremacy within himself.        

Stalin was an impulsive character. As described by Khrushchev (1970) sudden impulses decided large-scale public projects such as the building of canals or momentous political decisions such as the postwar partition of Germany. Associates would be suddenly summoned and meetings would be ended abruptly or the agenda switched at the whim of Stalin. Without regular meetings of the governing bodies Khrushchev noted, “the government virtually ceased to function." Stalin often postponed for months dealing with critical problems that needed to be solved urgently (Khrushchev, 1970, p. 297; Glad, 2002).

Stalin’s neurotic traits were known to the professionals as early as in 1927. The Great Russian Psychologist Vladimir Mikhailovic Bekhterev (1857–1927) was ordered to examine Josef Stalin in December 1927 during the First All-Russian Neurological Congress in Moscow (Kesselring, 2011). Vladimir Bektharev found psychopathology in Stalin. Bekhterev said only one word “paranoiac” (Antonov-Ovseyenko, 1981). Vladimir Bektharev’s diagnosis of Stalin was paranoia. After making this diagnosis Bekhterev had less than 24 hours to live. He died mysteriously and without a post mortem his body was cremated. His family members suspected foul play (Lerner et al., 2005).     

The Kremlin doctor - Professor D. Pletnev knew Stalin for a long time. According to Professor Pletnev Stalin was vindictive and had a strong tendency to adventurism and delusions of persecution (Lerner, 2014). Professor Pletnev was arrested in 1937 on Stalin’s orders. He was tortured and his tormentors forced him to sign a false confession stating that he was involved in the murder of Maxim Gorkey. Pletnev was shot in 1941 in Medvedevsky forest.

In the later years some  prominent Soviet psychiatrists  suggested a  number of other definitions of Stalin’s malady: ‘paranoid schizophrenia, delirious  condition, derived from paranoid psychopathy, heavy psychopathy’, placing Stalin in the  category of ‘epileptic-psychopaths’ During a panel discussion a psychiatrist stated that Stalin was ‘cruel, devoid of any feeling of pity, completely amoral, easily excitable. I personally consider [his condition] a psychical monstrosity, a moral depravity. It is an anomaly but not a sickness.’ Another psychiatrist reminded the audience of Hamlet’s ‘method in the madness’, adding that Stalin was afflicted with ‘megalomania of a limitless scale (Brackman, 2003).

The Western Professionals too analyzed Stalin’s behavior. Robert Tucker in his authoritative biographical study of Josef Stalin suggested that Karen Horney's theory of neurosis can be used to explain his grandiosity and insecurities (Tucker, 1990, pp. 3-5; Glad, 2002).  Karen Horney held that neurosis originates in emotional insecurity. The neurotic forms an unrealistic ideal of what the person should be which is separated from the actual innate capacities and the concrete circumstances of the person and traps the neurotic in an impossible task (Gudan, 2007). Stalin suffered emotional insecurities since his young days. Following his emotional insecurity Stalin fixated on a narrow view and had apathy, isolation, arrogance, increased fear and suspicion.

Professor Russell V. Lee of the Stanford University Medical School wrote: In Russia there was Joseph Stalin, the man of steel  and ruthless slayer of millions of his own people; completely devoid of  scruples of any kind, he was a sociopath, a moral imbecile, and in  complete control of Russia (Lee, 1974).

Although many experts commented on Stalin’s mental status his skills and achievements cannot be overlooked. The sheer scale of Stalin's achievements and institutionalized terror has prompted some authors to label him as a paranoid megalomaniac. Whatever the merits of this diagnosis, his undeniable accomplishments and the rationality of many of his actions cannot be explained by the workings of a disturbed mind (Hachinski, 1999).

Stalin used brutal but effective measures during the Russian Civil War defeating the White Grads. In early stages he could became one of the trusted men’s of Lenin. He was manipulative and had the convincing power to form allies with Politburo members isolating Trotsky. After dealing with Trotsky he targeted remaining Politburo members eliminating all possible threats for power. Stalin’s unmatched craftiness demonstrates his eagerness to achieve his goal.

Ironically Stalin became an internationally recognized figure. He was considered as one of the great Marxist pragmatists by radicals. The ideas of Stalin were not confined to the borders of the USSR. They exerted a decisive influence on countries “liberated” by the Red Army from German fascism and Japanese imperialism after World War II. The fact that the Stalinist version of Marxism-Leninism played an important role in the formation of the North Korean ideological system was confirmed by Kim Il Sung in his speech delivered on the occasion of Stalin’s death in March 1953 (Seong-Chang Cheong, 2000). Stalinism influenced Mao Zedong notably. Mao's 1953 First Five-Year Plan followed the Soviet model (Worden et al., 1987). The East German official state security service “Stasi” adopted many Stalinist -NKVD interrogative systems and Cambodian communist revolutionary Pol Pot used Ukrainian Holodomor type genocide in Cambodia deporting the people of Phnom Penh in to the killing fields.

 When Stalin came in to power the Soviet Union was a semi feudal state. He transformed the country in to a nuclear super power. He made the Soviet Union to enter in to the Space age. He did many things that unsound mind could not even imagine of. However there was another part of Stalin that was pathological and noxious. 

Stalin had a mind of a murderer. Stalin was allegedly involved in many murders on a personal basis even before the October Revolution. He meticulously planned the assassination of Leon Trotsky in 1940. After the Moscow Trials it was inevitable that Stalin should make a desperate effort to kill Trotsky. Trotsky was the man Stalin feared and hated most. Stalin's determination to get rid of Trotsky must have increased ten-fold after his pact with Hitler and after war was declared. Envy, hate and desire for revenge play a large role in his make-up (Goldman, 2010). 

The historians have ample evidence to show that Stalin was behind the Katyn Forest massacre in which the NKVD killed 22,000 Polish officers who were taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland. Stalin blamed the Nazis for the massacre, but then in 1990 the Russian authorities admitted Stalin’s involvement. The orders for the mass murder had been given by Lavrenty Beria, the head of NKVD and had been signed and approved by the Soviet Politburo including its leader Joseph Stalin (Sterio, 2012).

It was estimated that nearly three million German prisoners of war were captured by the Soviet Union during World War II. In the Battle of Stalingrad Field Marshal Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus surrendered to the Soviet forces with 91,000 German soldiers.  But only 6,000 returned home (Werth,, 1999). According to Overy (2004) 356,000 out of 2,880,000   German prisoners of war died in the Soviet labor camps.

Some investigators believe that Stalin knew the plight of Raoul Wallenberg – the Swedish diplomat. In 1945 Raoul Wallenberg left Budapest for a meeting with the Soviet commander, Marshal Malinovsky to discuss matters relating to the surviving Hungarian Jews. Wallenberg was arrested by the NKVD. Stalin who had decided the fate of   individual people, ethnic groups and entire populations did not hesitate to decide the destiny of Raoul Wallenberg. He was killed in Lubyanka. Reemerging Raoul Wallenberg the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov stated: Raoul Wallenberg was one of those people who make not just all of Sweden but all of humanity proud. But for Stalin he was just a number.

Stalin disliked Josip Broz Tito. Tito did not trust Stalin and he refused to agree on Stalin's proposal of making Yugoslavia a Soviet satellite state. Stalin became furious.  Tito–Stalin split resulted heavy tension between both countries. The Soviet state security and intelligence organs devised a multitude of secret plots to assassinate Tito. If Stalin had lived longer, he would eventually have ordered Soviet troops to occupy Yugoslavia. There is considerable evidence that in the final two years of his life he was seeking the capability for a decisive military move in Europe, possibly against Yugoslavia (Kramer, 1993).

Stalin could disconnect himself from warm human emotions. Stalin's ability to psychologically cut himself off from individuals who had once seemed to be close to him was one of the sources of his cruelty (Glad, 2002). He drove his second wife Nadezhda Allilueva to commit suicide. He had shallow feelings for his son Yakov from his first marriage. When Yakov became a POW during the Battle of Smolensk in 1941 Stalin did not make any attempt to release or comfort him. Yakov committed suicide at the Sachsenhausen death camp in 1943. Stalin’s malevolent attitude towards his other children affected them detrimentally. Vasily Stalin died of chronic alcoholism.  Svetlana Allilueva (Lana Peters) defected to the West in 1967.

Stalin was a self centered person and an isolated character who had no value in friendships. He could harm his close associates without any personal feelings. One refinement of Stalin's sadistic cruelty was to reassure personally some of his colleagues and subordinates that they were safe to the extent of toasting their "brotherhood," and then have them arrested shortly afterward sometimes the very same day (Fromm, 1973, p. 285; Glad, 2002). Sergo Ordzhonikidze was one of his old comrades. But Stalin gave Sergo only two options: either to denounce Nikolai Bukharin and testify against him or to commit suicide. After removing Yagoda Stalin appointed Yezhov as the NKVD chief showing him friendship and brotherhood. He was known as Stalin's faithful friend. In December 1938 Yezhov was removed accusing him as an enemy of the people. Yezhov was shot in 1939. Stalin made his old Georgian friend Alexander Egnatashvili as his personal bodyguard. He served Stalin with utmost loyalty. He disappeared somewhere in 1953. He was probably shot on Stalin’s orders. 

Stalin was troubled by delusions of conspiracy and feelings of victimization. He saw enemies everywhere.  He suspected Red Army Marshal Vasily Blyukher was a Japanese spy and he was killed in 1938. He thought the Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, was an American agent. He constantly accused Beria for being an English spy. He thought that his personal physician Professor Vinogradov was an agent of British intelligence. Stalin fantasized the doctors’ plot in 1953. General Vlasik, the head of Stalin’s bodyguards was arrested on false charges in connection with the Doctors' plot. As Khrushchev recalled, Stalin "instilled in ... us all the suspicion that we were all surrounded by enemies" (Khrushchev, 1970, p. 299; Glad, 2002).  Trotsky intensely documented Stalin‘s unstable moods and mood swings. According to Trotsky Stalin had unpredictable moods. Lazar Kaganovich one of the main associates of Joseph Stalin remarked: he was a "different man at different times ... I knew no less than five or six Stalins.  

Stalin ruled the Soviet Union creating mass fear and anxiety. From the top government officials to the ordinary peasants and labourers lived under constant fear and tension. Soviet mass media publicized the names and addresses of the people who were charged with espionage, sabotage and being involved in anti Soviet activities. These enemies of the state were publicly denounced. The victims were arrested, then tortured and often shot or sent to subhuman habitats known as Gulags. This social havoc was similar to the European Witch Craze of the 14th to 17th Centuries. People became suspicious of their neighbors, friend’s even family members.  Anybody could betray anyone at anytime.

Denunciations became a part of the political mechanism. Workers denounced their co workers and family members denounced family members. Social relationships disintegrated.  Denunciation by neighbors, colleagues, and schoolmates was a common hazard in the lives of people with bad social origins. The child of a kulak, adopted and educated by her aunt and uncle, was denounced in a letter from the village to her Komsomol organization. Later she was denounced again in a letter sent to a newspaper; its publication led to her dismissal from her job and the breaking of her engagement to a Communist, who was given an ultimatum by the party (Fitzpatrick, 2000).

Tens of thousands of people had disappeared under the Stalin's regime.  The NKVD often used black vehicles to abduct people. These black vehicles were known as Chorniy Voronok - Black Raven. By seeing these vehicles old women used to make sign of cross on their foreheads. It was considered as a bad omen.

During Stalin’s era death was everywhere. The NKVD carried out mass arrests and executions. Sometimes people were shot in public. The NKVD conducted mass killings. According to the historical archives an estimated 100,000–225,000 corpses buried in the Bykivnia Graves in Kiev, Ukraine. Mass graves were also found in Kurapaty (Minsk, Belarus), Sandarmokh (Karelia, Russia), Butovo (Yuzhnoye Butovo District in Russia), Ulan-Ude ( Buryatia) etc.

The NKVD could liquidate anyone on Stalin’s orders. Most of the NKVD men became addictive killers. Rather than anger or prejudice often the murders were committed out of coldness. There were two words -Tibunal (court-martial) and Rasthrel (shoot down) that brought paralyzing fear to the general public. Vasili Blokhin served as the chief executioner of the   NKVD who was handpicked by Stalin. He is known as the history’s most prolific executioner. In later years Blokhin suffered from alcohol-induced psychosis (PTSD?) and committed suicide.

It was like in the kingdom of King Twala – one of the main characters in Sir H. Rider Haggard’s book “the King Solomon’s mines”. In the kingdom of King Twala people lived in extreme fear. The king ruled the country with the help of Gagool the evil old hag. The evil witch used to dance in the King’s court and points out any person who could be a possible threat to the King. Then he would be removed and murdered without a trial. Every night hundreds were sent to death. People feared to think of any evil against the King Twala. They feared that Gagool would know their hidden motives and might select them in the courtyard.

Stalin used similar fear evoking tactics to keep his power among his subjects. Like the King Twala Stalin used Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Yezhov and finally Lavrentiy Beria and Viktor Abakumov to do the witch-hunt. Stalin controlled everybody through fear—fear of death, fear of torture, fear of exile. His belief that everyone was plotting against him contributed to him forcing “confessions” out of many innocent people; he felt that if he had a scapegoat, then he was closer to eliminating the prospect of his defeat (Volkogonov, 1988). After inflicting fathomless evil on the society he conveniently found scapegoats. Scapegoating became Stalin’s one of the major political tactics.

The Stalinist state needed terror for its own existence. The regime of terror derived also from its inability to supply material incentives and, also, because the party's ideology of "scientific socialism" led it to expect that the peasantry would be reluctant to collaborate in building socialism (Gouldner, 2009). Terror became a part of Stalin’s ideology and his paranoia.

Robins & Post (1997) elucidate that when a paranoid leader becomes chief of state his paranoia infects the nation. The Soviet people experienced this phenomenon with Stalin. Stalin injected profound fear and anxiety in to the Soviet society during his reign. One in twenty Soviet subjects would be arrested. People lived with mistrust and disbelief. Social connections and social ties disintegrated. People feared to tell anecdotes; they feared keeping diaries, visiting friends etc. Widespread confusion and fright prevailed in the Soviet society during the Stalinist era and it impacted the later generations.

Stalin had a marked psychopathic personality (Retief & Wessels, 2008).  Stalin demonstrated shallow sentiments, emotional numbing, deep mistrust, paranoia, suspicion, intense rage and urge to seek revenge. The thirst for revenge was stronger than Stalin. In Party circles the story is often mentioned how Stalin one evening in 1923 in Zubalovo said to Dzerzhinsky and Kamenev: ‘to choose the victim, to prepare the blow with care, to slake an implacable vengeance, and then to go to bed…there is nothing sweeter in life.’ Bukharin hinted at this conversation (‘Stalin’s philosophy of sweet vengeance’) in his discussion last year about the struggle with the Stalinists (Brackman, 2003). Stalin never forgave anyone.

Stalin’s delusions and obsessions caused millions to suffer. Stal (2013) hypothesizes that evidence of a troubled upbringing, depression, paranoia, and alcohol abuse suggests psychopathology as an implicating factor behind Stalin’s actions. 

The diagnosis of paranoia in the case of Stalin was, no doubt, well founded in the ICD-10 F60.0: paranoid personality disorder; excessive sensitivity to rejection; bearing on slightest suspicion; tendency to distort experiences; neutral or friendly actions of others misinterpreted as hostile or contemptuous; recurring unjustified suspicions regarding sexual fidelity of spouse or sexual partner; contentious and continued insistence on their own rights; inflated self-esteem and frequent, excessive self-absorption ( Kesselring, 2011).  

In varying degrees most politicians exhibit forms of paranoia. Political paranoia, as distinct from clinical paranoia, ‘begins as a distortion of an appropriate political response but then far overshoots the mark. . . . The person is always the underdog, always the victim.’ But political paranoia is a label; it is not a clinical diagnosis. The paranoid leader, whether despotic or democratic, is at the centre and everything is self-referenced. He or she tends to be hypersensitive, often self-absorbed and jealous (Owen, 2014). The paranoia that Stalin experienced was not limited towards others, rather it included him; this is allegedly caused by his suspicion that he is not as great as he believes himself to be. This made Stalin dependent on the attitude of others, believing that if they see him as a hero-figure, then it is so (Volkogonov, 1988). 

Owen (2014) indicates that the origins of Stalin’s paranoia probably lie in his roots in Georgia. Many of his ruthless, brutal features are better explained as those of a ‘Caucasian chieftain’ rather than deriving from a dogmatic Marxism. In any normal democratic society Stalin, as likely as not, would have ended up in prison. ‘Throughout his life Stalin’s detached magnetism would attract and win the devotion of amoral, unbounded, psychopaths. 

Stalin also had all the signs of what was described recently as ‘hubris syndrome (Owen & Davidson 2009; Kesselring, 2011). As clarify by Owen & Davidson (2009) extreme hubristic behavior is a syndrome, constituting a cluster of features (‘symptoms’) evoked by a specific trigger (power), and usually remitting when power fades. The key concept is that hubris syndrome is a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.

Hubris syndrome was formulated as a pattern of behavior in a person who: (i) sees the world as a place for self-glorification through the use of power; (ii) has a tendency to take action primarily to enhance personal image; (iii) shows disproportionate concern for image and presentation; (iv) exhibits messianic zeal and exaltation in speech; (v) conflates self with nation or organization; (vi) uses the royal ‘we’ in conversation; (vii) shows excessive self-confidence; (viii) manifestly has contempt for others; (ix) shows accountability only to a higher court (history or God); (x) displays unshakeable belief that they will be vindicated in that court; (xi) loses contact with reality; (xii) resorts to restlessness, recklessness and impulsive actions; (xiii) allows moral rectitude to obviate consideration of practicality, cost or outcome; and (xiv) displays incompetence with disregard for nuts and bolts of policy making (Owen & Davidson, 2009).

Some experts suspect malignant narcissistic syndrome in Joseph Stalin. According to Glad (2002) Stalin’s behavior could be explained through the malignant narcissistic syndrome. His extreme lack of empathic ties is evident in his destruction of people who had been in his inner circle without evident remorse. Stalin exhibited the classic symptoms of narcissism with strong additional elements of sadism and paranoid tendencies. The latter trait quite probably also concealed an element of inferiority and personal cowardice (Retief & Wessels, 2008). 

Narcissists are typically not comfortable with their own emotions. They listen only for the kind of information they seek. They don’t learn easily from others. They don’t like to teach but prefer to indoctrinate and make speeches. They dominate meetings with subordinates. They lack empathy and often are emotionally isolated. They are relentless and ruthless in their pursuit of victory ( Maccoby, 2000).

Unlike the reparative narcissist, the malignant narcissist is not bound by a mission he shares with his followers. Rather, he manifests contempt not only for the law, but for the values of his followers as well. Unlike the antisocial personality, however, he does not specialize in minor criminality. As a would-be tyrant he works to create an environment, a social and ideological structure, in which the manifestations of his disorder-cruelty, paranoia, and what would normally be criminal behavior-become legitimized and justified behavior. This is facilitated in the early stages of the tyrant's career, during his climb to power by the adoption of political and social positions that are shared by other revolutionaries but are contrary to the prevailing values. Thus Stalin's opposition to the Tsars and the capitalists of the world (Glad, 2002).

Stalin consumed alcohol on regular basis. Stalin suffered from chronic insomnia and many other organic symptoms. He had hypertension and often complained of joint pains. His paranoid delusions led him not to seek medical assistance from doctors. Volkogonov (1988) considered that the combination of paranoid personality disorder, alcohol abuse, intelligence, and a cruel nature created the foundation for Stalin’s infamous mass killings.  

The actual numbers of Stalin’s victims are still not known. The Georgian historian Roy Aleksandrovich Medvedev estimates that the total death toll directly attributable to Stalin’s repression could be 20 million.  According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 60 million people perished due to Stalin’s actions. Dyadkin (1983) states that Stalin killed 34 to 49 million people. The British historian Norman Davies believes that the numbers could be high as 50 million.

Stalin was pathologically fascinated by death. He saw deaths in his family and later in the society that he lived. He saw death as a perfect remedy for all social maladies.  He publicly stated yest' chelovek - yest' problema: net cheloveka - net problemi" ("[there] is [a] person; [there] is [a] problem: [there] is no person, [there] is no problem.”) He thought that death solves all problems. For Stalin deaths of millions became merely statistics.

Toward the end of his life, Stalin decided to destroy all evidence of his crimes. The task was formidable. He needed, for one thing, to obliterate the ‘burial grounds’ containing the remains of hundreds of thousands of his executed victims so that these mass graves could not be discovered, as had happened with the Katyn Forest graves of Polish officers. To destroy thousands of mass graves all over the Soviet Union was a titanic undertaking and needed time. A number of these graves, such as the one in Kuropaty near Minsk, were excavated and the skeletons destroyed (Brackman, 2003).

Indisputably Stalin was one of the leading tyrants in the modern history. The Greek Philosopher Plato gives vivid descriptions about tyrants. As Plato observed that the tyrant is very likely to get caught up in a cycle of disintegration. His actions are governed by insatiable desire for power. To maintain power tyrants engage in injustices. Hence one injustice breeds another and the tyrant becomes increasingly isolated from the people he would lead. The tyrants constantly live in fear and suspicion. Feeling endangered, he acts with greater and greater impulsivity. His actions become irrational and erroneous. Eventually he ends up "mad” (Plato, 1941). Plato’s description is greatly applicable to Joseph Stalin.  

Stalin used numerous methods to achieve power. Stalin’s appointment as party General Secretary in 1922 was crucial to his success in the succession struggle after Lenin’s death (Rees, 2004). Once power is attained, however, a complete system is created (in legal and political terms) that transforms the intrinsically antisocial and criminal behavior of the tyrant and his associates into measures necessary for the preservation of the polity against internal and external enemies. When the tyrant nears his zenith, the criminality takes on massive proportions as in Stalin's purges (Glad, 2002).  

Stalin had a marked xenophobia. His political and cultural repressions were significantly connected with his xenophobic mind-set. Stalin’s drive to isolate the country from foreign influences proved highly detrimental for all fields of academic research. Scholars studying foreign countries, foreign literature, or foreign languages were deemed suspect. Anything smacking of Western influence was potentially grounds for criticism and expulsion--and even arrest. The bizarre nature of the process was evident when a well-known military historian, P. A. Zhilin (who later was elevated to the rank of Lieutenant-General and appointed head of the Institute of Military History), was asked publicly "why he does not use French sources in his work." To thunderous applause, Zhilin responded, "I do not use enemy materials. (Azadovskii & Egorov, 2002).

The xenophobia that was ignited by Joseph Stalin in the USSR still has a major impact on the Russian society. Goble (2014) reports that Xenophobia and hate crimes in Russia has risen to unprecedented levels. Foreigners, migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus frequently suffer both from organized attacks and individual violence.

Stalin’s last crime denoted as the Doctors’ Plot. It reveals how his paranoia intensified in his old age. In his last years, however, his life-long suspiciousness became florid paranoia (Hachinski, 1999).    

Stalin severely mistrusted doctors (Clarfield, 2002).  He eschewed medical advice, listening to a veterinarian and treating his hypertension with iodine drops (Hachinski, 1999).  His mental and physical health started to deteriorate rapidly. He became more suspicious, irritable and paranoid.  

Stalin suffered at least one stroke prior to his fatal intracerebral haemorrhage in 1953. Given his untreated hypertension and the autopsy report, it is probable that he had a number of lacunar strokes. These tend to predominate in the fronto-basal areas, and disconnect the circuits that underpin cognition and behaviour. The most plausible explanation of Stalin's late behavior is the dimming of a superior intellect and the unleashing of a paranoid personality by a multi-infarct state (Hachinski, 1999). 

Late in 1951 Stalin had a regular checkup by his personal physician- Professor V.N.Vinogradov. During the examination Stalin said that the Politburo members A.S.Shcherbakov (in 1946) and A.A.Zhdanov (in 1948) had been poisoned by Kremlin doctors. Stalin mentioned the names of the doctors, all of whom were Jewish.  Vinogradov knew them well and said he had absolute trust in their honesty and professional competence. After the checkup, Vinogradov advised Stalin to rest more and work less. To Stalin this advice had a familiar ring: three decades earlier, plotting to hasten Lenin’s death and pretending to worry about his health, he had insisted that Lenin be kept from his daily duties. Stalin at once suspected Vinogradov of conspiring against him and ordered his arrest (Brackman, 2003).

With his unsound mind in early 1953 Stalin planned to stage a show trial of several doctors most of whom were Jewish and who were falsely accused of acting against the state (Clearfield, 2002). The infamous “Doctors' Plot” speaks volumes about Soviet politics, Stalin's role, the persistence of a medieval view of doctors as potential prisoners and the survival of overt anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union (Amis 2002; Heynick ,2002 ;Clarfield, 2002).  Stalin’s sudden death brought the Doctor’s Plot to an end. Although the doctors were released after his death the victims suffered immensely during the interrogations.

According to some reports Stalin was planning another purge. This time he wanted to get rid of his inner circle.  On the 1st  of March 1953 Stalin’s inner circle were invited to dine with him as usual. During the dinner Stalin got drunk and chased all the guests including Lavrenthi Beria, Nikita Khrushchev, Vyacheslav and Molotov.  Expelling the visitors from the dinner table Stalin said “It’s over for all of you”. Then Beria knew that they were doomed. He realized that Stalin was planning another purge. After this incident less than 72 hours Stalin suffered a stroke and became unconscious. He was lying on the floor helplessly. Beria did not call the medics. At the last stage the Doctors wear called but it was too late. Stalin died. Stalin’s son General Vasily Stalin who was present at the Dictator’s death bed accused the top ranking officers (Beria?) for assassinating his father. Later Beria said to Nikita Khrushchev that I saved all of you from Stalin’s final blow. Considering all these accounts its possible suspect that Beria had poisoned Stalin (Jayatunge, 2011).

In having Stalin embalmed, Beria destroyed any traces of poison in Stalin’s body, and he did not destroy the ‘personality cult’ by treating Stalin’s body with the same veneration that had been accorded to Lenin’s remains (Brackman, 2003).

According to Faria (2011) Stalin’s “Post-mortem examination disclosed a large hemorrhage in the sphere of the subcortical nodes of the left hemisphere of the brain. This hemorrhage destroyed important areas of the brain and caused irreversible disorders of respiration and blood circulation. Besides the brain hemorrhage there were established substantial enlargement of the left ventricle of the heart, numerous hemorrhages in the cardiac muscle and in the lining of the stomach and intestine, and arteriosclerotic changes in the blood vessels, expressed especially strongly in the arteries of the brain. These processes were the result of high blood pressure.

The announcement of Stalin's death came on 5th of March 1953. It linked his name with that of Lenin in an eulogy of the Party as leader of the people. It underscored the "steel-like, monolithic unity" of Party ranks and defined its task as the "guarding of unity'; as the "apple of our eye.   Reuters at the time recalled that Malenkov used this phrase in his October Party Congress speech and suggested that he was the author of the document. The same phrase, however, had appeared in connection with Lenin's death. Neither Malenkov nor any other associate of Stalin was mentioned in the announcement. (Office of Current Intelligence; Central Intelligence Agency Report released in 2007). 

When the death of Stalin was announced the whole county mourned. Tens of thousands of people gathered to pay their last respect to Joseph Stalin. People lined up in cold weather. Even the former victims of Stalinist political repression including their family members were among the crowds. (It had been reported that many prisoners in the Gulags shed tears for the loss of Stalin) Mourning masses wanted to get a glimpse of Stalin's corpse. Thousands of mounted militiamen, security police and soldiers tried to maintain order, but they could not stop the human avalanche. Large crowds were pouring into Moscow’s streets, stampeding and crushing under their feet thousands of crazed worshipers of Stalin, whom he was dragging along with himself into the grave even after his death (Brackman, 2003).    

Stalin transformed the Soviet Union in to a nuclear superpower. Under his leadership the country made tremendous economic, industrial, educational, scientific advances.  But the social cost was extremely high. He stirred fear psychosis in the society deporting massive numbers of people to the Gulags and also killing millions. His slave army built canals, hydro dams, railways and cites and finally perished in to oblivion. The Soviet society achieved its glory via blood and sweat of the millions of innocent people. The psycho social consequences of Stalin’s reign impacted the later generations. The aftermath still echoes in the post Soviet society.

Personal communications

1)      Personal communication with the Right Honourable Doctor the Lord Owen CH PC FRCP MB BChir

2)      Personal communication with  Vladimir Lerner, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Head of Department Be'er Sheva Mental Health Center

3)      Personal communication with Professor Helena Sheehan Dublin City University Dublin Ireland

4)      Personal communication with the late Professor Alexander Bukhanovskiy  -The former   Professor Head of the Psychiatry and Narcology Department at Rostov State Medical University.

5)       Personal communication with  Roger Brooke, Ph.D., ABPP Professor of Psychology Director, Military Psychological Services Department of Psychology Duquesne University

6)      Personal communication with Marina Stal MA. - Teachers College at Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

7)      Personal communication with Prof. Mikhail Reshetnikov, MD, PhD, Russia

8)      Personal communication with Professor Alexander Karayani PhD Russia

9)      Personal communication with Ivanov E.I -Senior Teacher in the Soviet History: Vinnitsa Medical University Ukraine


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  1. I added link this blog to my english blog and sinhala blog.

  2. This article is in Lankanewsweb now. If you do not want it to be there please send a message.

  3. Thanks Dr. for very informative article. Sadly very little comments. Hope you may find time to write about Prabhakaran, Vijeweera and Premadasa also.


  4. Wow.. brilliant one. This needs more recognition than this. Thanks.


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