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Josef Stalin (1878-1953) was the leader of the Soviet Communist Party from 1922 until his death in 1953. Following the death of V.I. Lenin, the first leader of Soviet Russia, Stalin managed to win complete control of the party, ruling as a dictator for the next thirty years. He led the Soviet Union through World War II and—not without justification—believed that his country made the greatest sacrifices to defeat Nazi Germany.

Stalin's absolute insistence upon Soviet domination of Eastern Europe following the war's end was not entirely without justification; after all, Germany had invaded Russia via Eastern Europe during both World Wars, at a cost of tens of millions of Soviet lives. In Stalin's view, only Soviet control of the nations of Eastern Europe, including East Germany, could ensure that there would not be another repeat. Americans, however, viewed Stalin's power grab in Eastern Europe—which crushed millions of people's dreams of self-determination—as proof of Soviet aspirations for world domination, and began to take measures to contain Soviet influence. The Cold War was on.

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