CUP Undergraduate Research

Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2019

Document Type



College of Arts & Sciences



Degree Name

History, BA

First Advisor

Joel Davis, Ph.D.


How could Stalin reasonably justify within himself killing millions of people in a nation that he simultaneously wished to glorify? This is the basic question that will be explored in this thesis. What was Stalin’s reasoning, motivation, and purpose for sending so many to the Gulags? There has to be a better answer than “because he was bloodthirsty killer”. This was the basic motivation for the decision to explore this topic. How can a man that forcefully took the Soviet Union from a nation of poverty and peasants to nation that would be considered a world superpower for decades to come be dismissed as a lunatic? There was something missing. This thesis is a balancing act of attempting to understand the logic of Stalin without unintentionally justifying it. Use of proper sources also became a balancing act during the writing of this thesis as Western sources of information are strongly biased (largely due to Khrushchev’s era of de-Stalinization and anti-communist sentiment), along with the fact that Soviet sources are full of conspiracies, lies, and cover-ups. Even Soviet photos cannot be used as evidence as many of them were doctored in order to fit Stalin’s narrative. This thesis will be an attempt to help the reader better understand what was really going on during the purges and in doing so the reader will make their own decision as to whether Stalin was an inevitable product of communism, or simply a bloodthirsty lunatic.

Included in

History Commons