Why wasn't Stalin? Note that the cult of personality around Stalin was not so much directly tied to the man and his vanity, but various state projects.
- So how did Stalin manage to control USSR so absolutely, even when total loyalty to him was never rewarded long term?
User "kieslowskifan" wrote on r/AskHistorians
But being on the Team always carried with it an element of risk. Displeasing Stalin or creating some sort of pretext for removal was an ever-present threat during the Purges. Genrikh Yagoda's fall exemplified that no one was immune from the process. Yagoda, as head of the NKVD, was notoriously corrupt and inefficient and enemies within the Team and the NKVD used this against him. His successor, the much younger Nikolai Yezhov, conducted his duties with far greater probity and thoroughness than the venal Yagoda. But although Yezhov was a more efficient executor, that very status painted a target on Yezhov's back. Like many intelligence chiefs, Yezhov actively sought out intelligence on his political rivals. Such files were dangerous in the collective paranoia of the Great Purges as trivial biographical details and missteps could become treason. Stalin's habit of simultaneously delegating and then micromanaging the Team gave Yezhov plenty of evidence on the Teams' activities that could be spun into a charge. Not surprisingly, Yezhov was the most powerful member of the inner circle to be purged. Even here, the purging process was quite different and staged with a gradual stripping of his power before his arrest, show-trial, and execution. A similar fate befell Yezhov's successor Beria after Stalin's death, illustrating the occupational hazards of being Stalin's chief of secret police.