Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) was the longtime leader of the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin. Stalin took part in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and after the successful overthrow of the tsar, he served in the new revolutionary government. In 1922 he became the secretary general of the Communist Party. In that position he clashed with party leader Vladimir Lenin. Despite Lenin’s condemnation of Stalin, the secretary general assumed leadership of the Soviet Union after Lenin’s death. In the 1930s Stalin ordered the murders of his political opponents in mass “purges” and was responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people. At the beginning of World War II he signed a pact with Nazi Germany, which Hitler later broke in attacking the Soviet Union in 1941. Stalin joined the Allies to fight Hitler and directed the Soviet Army in its defeat of the German invasion. After the war, Stalin remained the dictatorial leader of the Soviet Union. Upon his death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev replaced him as leader of the USSR.

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