a Russian politician, born in Georgia, who was leader of the former Soviet Union from the death of Lenin (1924) until his own death. Stalin was responsible for developing farming and industry in his country, and for successfully leading it in the war against Germany (1941-45), but most people now remember his great cruelty. Thousands of political opponents were killed or sent to prisons in Siberia, and Stalin's secret police made ordinary people live in fear (1879-1953). orig. Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili born Dec. 21, 1879, Gori, Georgia, Russian Empire died March 5, 1953, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R. Soviet politician and dictator. The son of a cobbler, he studied at a seminary but was expelled for revolutionary activity in 1899. He joined an underground revolutionary group and sided with the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party in 1903. A disciple of Vladimir Lenin, he served in minor party posts and was appointed to the first Bolshevik Central Committee (1912). He remained active behind the scenes and in exile (1913-17) until the Russian Revolution of 1917 brought the Bolsheviks to power. Having adopted the name Stalin (from Russian stal, "steel"), he served as commissar for nationalities and for state control in the Bolshevik government (1917-23). From 1922 he became secretary-general of the party's Central Committee, a post that later provided the power base for his dictatorship, and was also a member of the Politburo. After Lenin's death (1924), Stalin overcame his rivals, including Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinovyev, Lev Kamenev, Nikolay Bukharin, and Aleksey Rykov, and took control of Soviet politics. In 1928 he inaugurated the Five-Year Plans that radically altered Soviet economic and social structures and resulted in the deaths of many millions. In the 1930s he contrived to eliminate threats to his power through the purge trials and through widespread secret executions and persecution. In World War II he signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact (1939), attacked Finland (see Russo-Finnish War), and annexed parts of eastern Europe to strengthen his western frontiers. When Germany invaded Russia (1941), Stalin took control of military operations. He allied Russia with Britain and the U.S.; at the Tehrn, Yalta, and Potsdam conferences, he demonstrated his negotiating skill. After the war he consolidated Soviet power in eastern Europe and built up the Soviet Union as a world military power. He continued his repressive political measures to control internal dissent; increasingly paranoid, he was preparing to mount another purge after the so-called Doctors' Plot when he died. Noted for bringing the Soviet Union into world prominence, at terrible cost to his own people, he left a legacy of repression and fear as well as industrial and military power. In 1956 Stalin and his personality cult were denounced by Nikita Khrushchev
[ 'stä-l&n, 'sta-, -"lE ] (biographical name.) From Russian Сталин, Иосиф Виссарионович|Сталин, Иосиф Виссарионович]], from сталь (“steel”)
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