The ambiguous legacy
Joseph Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for thirty-one years (1922-53). Over the next nearly forty years there were six others (Malenkov, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev), three dying in ofﬁce and three ousted by their rivals within the party leadership. During those years an enormous number of changes – economic, social, administrative, technological, cultural and military – were introduced. The sum total of those changes is often described as a process of de-Stalinization; in other words, an undoing, dismantling or reconstruction of the system and the machinery for running it, which Stalin had created. Before discussing to what extent the term is accurate or even appropriate, it is ﬁrst necessary to deﬁne what is meant by Stalinism itself.