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At the 11th Party Congress, Stalin was voted into the position of General Secretary. This was the first time the party had a General Secretary. This was in 1922 Mar/Apr.

Why was Stalin chosen? I noticed that Lenin nominated him, but why? Why not Lenin himself? Why Stalin instead of someone else like Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, etc?

(Note: I included both tags, USSR and Russia, because technically the USSR had not been created yet but the relavence is obvious.)

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    Well, Lenin was dying. He invented the position for Stalin, so apparently he didn't want Trotsky to succeed him.
    – Semaphore
    Mar 19, 2018 at 15:11

4 Answers 4

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It was considered a menial position wasted on Lenin himself, Trotsky, or Zinoviev

It's not completely accurate to say that the General Secretary was created in 1922. The position evolved out of Technical Secretary of the Central Committee, which then became the Chairman of the Secretariat as the administrative needs of the Bolsheviks evolved. Then it became Responsible Secretary, and finally General Secretary.

At its creation, the post was a purely administrative one, like the Secretaries before it. Lenin even referred to Stalin as "comrade card-index." However, one of the things it controlled was the membership of the Communist Party. Stalin took advantage of this as a way to build up a power base in the Party and reduce the influence of his enemies.

The General Secretary post became influential because Stalin was influential, not the other way around. Originally, the Chairman of the People's Commissars (Lenin's position) was the leader of the nation.

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The circumstances of the initial appointment in 1922 are debated, but Trotsky claims that Lenin was opposed to it and only reluctantly agreed - saying about Stalin that "this cook will only prepare peppery [in Russian: sharp/spicy] dishes". Nobody besides Trotsky has directly confirmed this statement, but it became well known and other Bolsheviks opposed to Stalin quoted it later. When the issue of his excessive power over the Secretariat becoming power over the party (since he selected regional secretaries, and half the CC in 1924 was composed of the regional secretaries, mostly indebted to Stalin's Secretariat for their jobs), Stalin did offer to resign the post (obviously as a symbolic gesture) and his colleagues (especially Zinoviev and Kamenev who were still allied with Stalin against Trotsky) "pressured" him to stay.

In one of these instances after Lenin's "testament" erupted into an intra-party scandal (the "testament" was just a dictation of the ailing Lenin calling for the removal of Stalin from the post of General Secretary among other things), Stalin said: "At the very first plenary meeting of the Central Committee after the Thirteenth Congress, I [Stalin] requested the Central Committee plenum to release me from the duties of general secretary. The congress itself discussed this question. Each delegation discussed this question, and all the delegations, including Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev, obliged Stalin to remain at his post. What, then, could I do? Flee the post? That is not in my character." (this was quoted in Pravda of 1927, and in Tucker's biography of Stalin, Vol 1)

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    Tucker's biography of Stalin, Vol 1 - could you add a link to this? It's not clear from the works cited in Wikipedia's Robert Tucker article which book you are referring to. Thanks. Jul 15, 2022 at 5:51
  • It is titled Stalin as revolutionary: 1879-1929. A study in history and personality and it's the first volume of Tucker's (celebrated, but not very good imo) biography of Stalin. Aug 16, 2022 at 19:43
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Stalin proved himself competent to Lenin when he was People's Commissar for Nationalities (this position was integrating ethic groups in different countries such as Kazakhstan, Armenia, e.t.c. into Russia). Stalin had excellent organizational skills, and Lenin saw that and promoted him to a higher position. Lenin did not know that Stalin was smart in a way that he would misuse the position of General Secretary.

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    Sources would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Apr 15, 2018 at 21:32
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Based on the movie Stalin (1992) from HBO (You can watch on youtube), Stalin volunteered to take General Secretary because Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev did not want the position. Stalin was recommended the position because those 3 that I mentioned above wanted Stalin out. They thought by giving Stalin a position, it would keep him busy from matters with Lenin. But they were sadly mistaken later on in the power struggl of the 20s and purge of 1936. Stalin was choosen to be GS because everyone knew Stalin's ability to memorize and organize. So they thought his position was meaningless and simple.

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    How much trust can we put in the historical accuracy of a TV movie?
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 26, 2018 at 16:13

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