Compare and contrast Stalin and Trotsky

Light on why Stalin, not Trotsky, took power after Lenin's death...

  1. Both had made-up names - Stalin means 'man of steel' (which tells you something about Stalin, I think (poser)). Trotsky took his name (it was the name of one of his jailers) to avoid detection by the Okhrana while he continued his revolutionary activities (which tells you something about him - rebel).

  2. Stalin had been going to be an Orthodox priest - Trotsky was a Jew (there was massive anti-semitism in Russia).

  3. Both were vigorous revolutionaries in the years before 1917 - but where Trostky fled into exile and waged a pamphlet war on the government, Stalin stayed and went to prison.

  4. Stalin was always a Bolshevik and supporter of Lenin from the beginning. Trotsky was a keen Menshevik, and only joined the Bolsheviks in 1917 when he saw that they were going to bring revolution.

  5. Both were prominent in the 1917 revolution, but where Stalin was POLITICALLY prominent (a member of the Politburo), Trotsky was MILITARILY and ORGANISATIONALLY important (he organised the actual revolution).

  6. After the revolution, Stalin took on the boring role of Secretary, and used it to build up political alliances and push his supporters into key positions in the Party. Trostsky took over the Red Army and the Cheka and used them to crush the White Terror and establish the revolution.

  7. Stalin believed in 'Revolution in one country' (establish power in Russia first, and then perhaps conquer the world). Trotsky believed in world revolution, going straight out and fomenting revolution in other countries all over the world.

  8. Trotsky was a brilliant speaker and a THINKER (he write lots of books on the theory of Communism); many historians write that he was opinionated and not well-liked. Stalin was more pedestrian, but a much better POLITICIAN; he completely out-manoeuvred Trotsky politically (see the webpage)

  9. Stalin was hard-working, strong as an ox and utterly ruthless in the pursuit of power. Trotsky broke himself to bring in the revolution, and was a sick man (particularly in the years immediately after the death of Lenin).


When you think about it, all the cards were in Stalin's hands, the conniving, plotting toad.

Essay Idea

These points could be the basis of a comparison - all you would need to do would be to place the contrasting points in the context of events at the time, and explain whether you regard each as a strength or a weakness for each man.



For a lot of extra detail, try the Wikipedia articles on the rise of Stalin, and Trotsky's fall from power.