Stalin pp 181-207 | Cite as


  • Robert H. McNeal
Part of the St Antony’s book series


Did Stalin turn insane around the mid-1930s? The scope of his killings among his own comrades in the last half of the decade inevitably raises this question. One might argue that his conduct for many years previous would justify the diagnosis of insanity, but it is hard to sustain this opinion unless one considers the mainstream of Soviet Communism up to that point to have been mad. Stalin succeeded in making himself the leader of this movement by articulating the widespread opinion of psychologically normal people and by providing stable administration, not by imposing on the party and the bulk of the populace notions that most people perceive as deranged. True, he repeatedly had pushed for harsher punishments of defeated Bolshevik opponents than the party élite was willing to approve. The élite realized this, and they probably reasoned that Stalin’s conduct on this matter was extreme but not threatening. He had, after all, no record of imprisoning or killing those who followed the ‘general line’ and he had accepted the restraint of his comrades concerning defeated oppositionists for about ten years prior to the mid-1930s. Some may have been sufficiently disenchanted with Stalin for one reason or another to contemplate parliamentary means of reducing his power or replacing him as leader, but none of the bits of arguable evidence that have reached us concerning such ideas have suggested that there was any serious notion that the issue was Stalin’s sanity. The very absence of any substantial concern on this issue very likely helped to disarm Stalin’s high-level comrades when his conduct toward them did indeed turn vicious rather abruptly after the middle of the decade.


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Copyright information

© Robert H. McNeal 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert H. McNeal
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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