This seminar addresses four major questions: 1) What was the nature of the political, social, and cultural system that came into existence under Stalin and how did that system evolve during his lifetime? 2) What was the scope and nature of political repression and state terror under Stalin? Given the reality of state terror, how can we explain the geniune enthusiasm that the regime was able to mobilize for so many of its initiatives? 3) What was the Soviet experience during World War II, and how did the war affect Soviet society and politics? 4) What was the range of experiences that ordinary individuals and families encountered in their private lives during the Stalin era? A major question throughout the course is the character of Stalin's personal rule and the extent of his responsibility for the major developments under his leadership.