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How did Lenin’s death impact the power struggle in the USSR?

Lenin's death in 1924 sparked a power struggle in the USSR, leading to the rise of Joseph Stalin as the supreme leader.

The death of Vladimir Lenin, the first head of the Soviet state, left a significant power vacuum in the USSR. Lenin had been the driving force behind the Bolshevik Revolution and the establishment of a socialist state. His death created an opportunity for a power struggle among the top echelons of the Communist Party. The main contenders were Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev.

Stalin, who was the General Secretary of the Communist Party, used his position to consolidate power. He strategically appointed his supporters to key positions within the party, thereby strengthening his base. Stalin also manipulated the ideological differences among his rivals to his advantage. For instance, he initially allied with Zinoviev and Kamenev to marginalise Trotsky, only to turn against them later.

Trotsky, on the other hand, was a brilliant orator and the architect of the Red Army. However, his intellectualism and perceived arrogance alienated him from the party's rank and file. His advocacy for permanent revolution also put him at odds with Stalin's concept of "Socialism in One Country". Trotsky's failure to attend Lenin's funeral, due to alleged misinformation by Stalin, further damaged his standing within the party. This period highlights the emergence of superpower rivalry in Europe and Asia, as global power dynamics began to shift.

Zinoviev and Kamenev, despite being part of the initial triumvirate with Stalin, were outmanoeuvred by him. They underestimated Stalin's political acumen and ambition, and their alliance with him backfired. Stalin eventually branded them as traitors, leading to their downfall.

By the late 1920s, Stalin had effectively emerged as the supreme leader of the USSR. He initiated a series of purges, known as the Great Purge, to eliminate potential threats to his rule. Many of his rivals, including Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Trotsky, were executed or exiled. This period also set the stage for significant political developments and challenges in various parts of the world, influenced by the consolidation of power in the USSR.

A-Level History Tutor Summary: Lenin's death in 1924 led to a power struggle in the USSR, with Joseph Stalin eventually emerging as the leader. Stalin used his position and political skills to outmanoeuvre rivals like Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev, consolidating his power. By the late 1920s, Stalin had become the supreme leader, initiating purges to eliminate his opponents. This struggle for power can be compared to other historical events such as the industrialisation and democracy movements and the suffrage movements that shaped modern political landscapes.

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