Territoriality and the onset of mass violence: the political extremism of Joseph Stalin

Manus I. Midlarsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This study seeks to understand Stalin's murderous behavior by analyzing the nexus between his personal history and that of Georgia-Russia. It explores the intimate connection between territoriality, a major concern of international relations scholars, and Stalin's propensity for mass violence. The ephemeral gain provides this connection in the form of a social psychological basis for humiliation-shame, perceptions of injustice leading to anger, and the threat and consequent fear of reversion to a subordinate condition vis-à-vis the West. An ephemeral gain exists when a severe loss or the threat of its imminent occurrence (territory, population), typically perceived as a catastrophe, is preceded by a period of societal gain, which in turn was preceded by a period of subordination. Stalin's political biography demonstrates the ephemeral gain in two consecutive cycles. Further empirical support is found in the form of Stalin's open expressions of shame at the territorial losses to Japan stemming from the Russo–Japanese War, and open hostility including murderous behavior toward the Poles, another agent of defeat and territorial loss (in 1920). This interpretation is extended to Stalin's genocidal behavior toward four North Caucasus peoples—the Chechens, Ingush, Kalmyks, and Karachai—deported during World War II.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-283
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Genocide Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Territoriality and the onset of mass violence: the political extremism of Joseph Stalin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this