Joseph Stalin was one of the greatest leaders of the former Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union serving from 1922 until his death in 1953. While in power, Joseph crushed his contemporary prominent party leaders and opponents he gained popularity among the low-working class people for his socialist-economic policies. He introduced the concept of "Five-Year-Plan" in Soviet Union seeking a rapid industrialization and economic collectivization. In the late 1930's, Stalin instigated a campaign against corruption and treachery both within the party and outside it what he called 'The Purge'. It resulted in a number of executions of party members as well as other sectors of the Soviet Union who appeared to be suspicious and not loyal to Stalin. Under his leadership, the country joined the ally forces against the Nazi Germany after it violated the non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union that resulted in the defeat of Germany and a huge death toll in the Soviet Union.
Joseph Stalin was born in Gori, Georgia on 21 December, 1879. Georgia was then a part of the Russian empire. Stalin’s original name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. His father was a cobbler and an alcoholic. His mother worked as maid. As a child, Joseph experienced the poverty that most peasants had to endure in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century. At the age of seven he suffered from smallpox. He survived but the scars remained on his face. Due to this, he was called as “pocky” by his friends.
Stalin's mother tongue was Georgian and was very strong in the Georgian accent. Even after long years, Stalin could speak in perfect Georgian accent. He studied the basic education, at Gori Church School, where every child, as per Tsar Alexander III’s policy, was forced to speak Russian only.
In, 1894, Stalin received a scholarship to the Tiflis Theological Seminary in the Georgian capital. Instead of devoting his time to the studies he involved himself into the revolutionary movement against the Russian monarchy. He joined a secret revolutionary organization called, “Messame Dassy”. They were demanding an independent Georgia from the clutches of Russian Monarch.
It was through the people he met in this organization that Stalin first came into contact with the ideas of Karl Marx and Engel. However, when his allegiance to revolutionary activities was discovered, Stalin was expelled from the Seminary.
After being thrown out of the seminary, Stalin started giving private lessons to middle class children. Since, the job he was doing was not a regular and time bound, Stalin had sufficient time to motivate workers and peasants in organizing strikes and shutdown. He soon became popular among the laborers and low class working people. His popularity also caught attention of the “Okhrana”, secret police of the Monarch. On 3 April, 1901, the police launched a manhunt to capture the persons involved with revolutionary activities. Fearing his arrest, Stalin went underground. To enlighten the workers and peasants Stalin wrote many provocative articles for a Georgian newspaper, called Brdzola Khma Vladimir. He spent the next few years as an activist and for a number of occasions was arrested and exiled to Siberia.
In 1903, while he was in Siberia, Stalin came to know about the split in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. The faction under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin came to be known as the Bolsheviks while the admirers of Julius Martov formed the Mensheviks. Meanwhile, Stalin, producing false documents and certificates managed to return to Russia.
He joined the Bolshevik faction of the party and started working very religiously against both the Mensheviks and Tsar Nicholar II. Vladimir Lenin was impressed with Stalin's efforts and achievements. In 1912, Stalin became the editor of Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Russia.
Following the end of Tsarist rule, Alexander Kerensky formed a provisional government in Russia. After his return to Russia, Lenin on 3rd April, 1917, Lenin refusing to accept the Kerensky government urged the Bolshevik revolutionaries to pull down the government. Stalin and other members of the Bolshevik Party were severely rebuked by Lenin for supporting the Kerensky government.
Post Kerensky Period
In mid-July 1917, armed revolutionaries under the leadership of Lenin came out in huge numbers to the streets of Petrograd. The masses were divided into two groups, led by Trotsky and Stalin. They seized Petrograd and formed the new revolutionary authority, the Council of People's Commissars. The entire power of the organization was concentrated into the hands of Lenin. He formed a five-member Politburo that included Stalin and Trotsky. During this time, only Stalin and Trotsky were granted the permission to see Lenin without any prior appointment Lenin also appointed Stalin as People's Commissar for Nationalities' Affairs. His task was to win over the people non-Russian origins and persuade them to support Lenin.
Besides, a political commissar in the Red Army, Stalin was also appointed as People's Commissar of the Workers and Peasants Inspection in 1919, a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the republic in 1920 and a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets in 1917.
Post Lenin Period
There were lot of frictions between Stalin and Trotsky over a number of decisions of the party. Stalin even wrote to Lenin asking that Trotsky be relieved of his post. Lenin believed that Trotsky would prove a better leader than Russia. The difference between the two became more evident after the death of Lenin in January 1924. Lenin had wished Trotsky to serve as the Commander of the Communist Party after him. But it did not happen. Stalin shedding the traditional emphasis of the Bolshevik on international revolution framed a new policy of establishing "Socialism in Soviet. Trotsky wanted to spread the revolution across the world. He termed it “Permanent Revolution”.
Stalin was so cunning and desperate to become the leader of the party that he manipulated his opponents and played them off against each other. He created the enmity between Trotsky and other prominent leaders like Zinoviev and Kamenev. Taking the opportunity, Stalin started campaigning against both Trotsky and Zinoviev. He claimed that there were lot of differences between Lenin and Trotsky. In 1927, both Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the party and also sent to exile.
Following the exile of Trotsky and Bukharin, Stalin had become the supreme authority of Soviet. In 1928, Stalin launched the first Five-Year Plans in Soviet Union, emphasizing on the heavy industry to lay the foundations for future industrial growth. His policies gained popularity among the peasants and poor working class. Stalin's reign also stressed on the concept of collectivization of agriculture. This was done to increase agricultural output and bring the peasantry under more direct political control. Stalin was the head of the Politburo and enjoyed absolute power and authority. Besides the reforms on the path of socialism, Stalin also justified expelling opportunists and counter-revolutionary infiltrators.
During Second World War, Stalin conducted a series of mass scale deportations estimating around 3.3 million to Siberia and the Central Asian republics. The reasons of the deportation, as cited by the authority, were separatism, resistance to Soviet rule and collaboration with the invading Germans The deportations had a profound effect on the peoples of the Soviet Union. The memory of the deportations played a major part in the separatist movements in the Baltic States, Tatarstan and Chechnya, even today. The archives of Russia record that about 800,000 prisoners were executed under Stalin for either political or criminal offences, while around 390,000 perished during kulak forced resettlement.
On March 1, 1953, after an all-night dinner in his residence in Krylatskoye, near Moscow with Lavrentiy Beria and Georgy Malenkov, Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin did not emerge from his room, having probably suffered a stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body. He died on March 5, 1953, at the age of 74.