Joseph Stalin Biography

(Soviet Political Leader & Dictator Who Led the Soviet Union from 1922 Until His Death in 1953)

Birthday: December 18, 1878 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Gori, Georgia

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, the controversial Russian dictator, was born in Georgia in the Russian Empire in the later part of the nineteenth century into a poor family. Drawn early in his life to the ideals of Vladimir Lenin, he joined Bolsheviks almost at its inception and very soon made a place for himself with his organizational capability, playing an important role during the October Revolution. Later as the Bolsheviks came to power, he quickly rose through the ranks to become the party’s General Secretary. He first used his post to consolidate his position and then to eliminate all his rivals to become the supreme leader of the country, continuing to rule Russia with an iron hand till his death at the age of seventy-four. Although he single-handedly elevated Russia from a backward country to a major world power, he was also responsible for millions of deaths and deportations. It was during his tenure that the USSR became the second country to develop a nuclear bomb. After his death, his successors, notably Nikita Khrushchev, denounced his legacy and initiated a process of de-Stalinization.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili

Died At Age: 74


Spouse/Ex-: Kato Svanidze (m. 1906–1907), Nadezhda Alliluyeva (m. 1919–1932)

father: Besarion Jughashvili

mother: Ketevan Geladze

children: Svetlana Alliluyeva, Vasily Dzhugashvili, Yakov Dzhugashvili

Born Country: Georgia

Quotes By Joseph Stalin Dictators

political ideology: Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Died on: March 5, 1953

place of death: Kuntsevo Dacha

Notable Alumni: Seminary Of Tiflis, Gori Church School, Tbilisi Spiritual Seminary

Cause of Death: Cerebral Hemorrhage

More Facts

education: Tbilisi Spiritual Seminary, Gori Church School, Seminary of Tiflis

awards: 1949 - Order of Lenin
1945 - Czechoslovak War Cross
- Hero of the Soviet Union

- Hero of Socialist Labour
- Order of Victory
- Order of the Red Banner
- Jubilee Medal

Childhood & Early Years

Joseph Stalin was born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili (Russian version: Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili) on OS December 18 (NS December 6), 1878, in Gori, Georgia. At that time, it was a small town in the Tiflis Governorate under the Russian Empire.

His parents, Besarion “Beso” Jughashvili and Ekaterine "Keke" (nee Geladze) came from Orthodox Christian serf families. Beso was a cobbler, who eventually established his own workshop. He had a severe drinking problem, which not only affected his work but also made him very abusive towards his family.

Ioseb was the youngest of the couple’s three children. With his elder siblings, Mikhail and Giorgi, dying in infancy, he was also their only surviving son, and therefore, Beso wanted him to learn the trade of shoemaking. But Keke insisted that he should have proper education.

When in 1888, Ioseb received a scholarship, Keke enrolled him at Gori Theological School against her husband’s wishes. Enraged, Beso went on a drunken rampage, attacking not only his wife but also the police chief, as a result of which, he was banished from Gori.

In 1894, fifteen-year-old Ioseb graduated from school first in class and entered Tiflis Spiritual Seminary with a scholarship. But by the year's end, he had become an atheist and began to read forbidden materials, especially the works of Karl Marx. However, he continued his studies at the Seminary.

In 1898, he joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, formed in the same year to unite the different revolutionary groups. Sometimes now, he also came across the writings of Vladimir Lenin and was much inspired by them.

In 1899, just before his final examination, Ioseb had to leave the seminary, ostensibly because he could not pay the fees, which had undergone a steep hike. However, many believe that he was actually expelled because of his political views that went against the tsarist regime.

Continue Reading Below
Ioseb Becomes Stalin

After leaving the seminary, Ioseb became a clerk at Tiflis Metropolitan Observatory. Although the monthly salary of 20 rubles was relatively low, it gave him plenty of time for his political activities, which were mostly confined to giving speeches, leading demonstrations, and organizing strikes.

When on the night of April 3, 1901, many of his comrades were arrested, Ioseb went underground, living on donations from well-wishers. From then on, he became a full-time revolutionary.

In October 1901, he moved to Batumi, where he received employment at an oil refinery owned by the Rothschilds. Here too he continued with his political activities, organizing a series of strikes, resulting in a number of deaths. It led to his first arrest on April 8. 1902.

After a prolonged inquiry, he was finally sent to the Siberian village of Novaya Uda, reaching the place on December 9, 1903. It was here in Siberia that he adopted his new surname, Stalin, which in Russian means steel. However, some biographers believe that he took up the name much later in 1912.

Joining the Bolsheviks

In August 1903, the Social-Democratic Labour Party split into two factions with Vladimir Lenin forming the Bolsheviks and Julius Martov forming the Mensheviks. When Stalin came to know of this, he obtained false papers and with that, he left Siberia on January 17, 1904, with the intention of joining the Bolsheviks.

On reaching Tiflis on January 27, he immersed himself in party work, organizing strikes as well as writing and distributing propaganda materials. He also raised funds through bank heists, kidnappings, and extortion. Among that, the most spectacular was the holdup he helped to plot in Tiflis on OS June 12, 1907.

His organizing skill and ability to convince people brought him close to Lenin and enabled him to rise quickly through the ranks of the Bolsheviks. In January 1912, he was co-opted into the first Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, subsequently becoming editor of ‘Pravda.’

Stalin was arrested 6 more times, several of which culminated in exile to Siberia. In February 1917, during his last exile near the Arctic zone, he was conscripted into the army but was rejected on medical grounds. Thereafter he spent the last few days of his exile at Achinsk.

Continue Reading Below
October Revolution & Aftermath

On his return to Petrograd on OS March 12, 1917, Stalin resumed the editorship of Pravda. Initially, he advocated cooperation with the provisional government, which had come to power after the February Revolution. Later under Lenin’s influence, Stalin became more militant, advocating for the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power through armed struggle.

In April 1917, Stalin was elected to the Bolshevik Central Committee and also co-opted into its bureau along with Zinoviev, Lenin, and Kamenev. This enabled him to play a major role in the October coup d’état, now known as October Revolution.

As the Bolsheviks came to power in October 1917, Stalin was appointed People's Commissar for Nationalities' Affairs. Very soon, as the civil war broke out in Russia, Lenin formed the five-member Politburo, of which Stalin was made a member.

Stalin now set out to suppress the civil war. Going against the wishes of other Politburo members, he not only killed many counter-revolutionaries but also had renegades publicly executed as traitors. To intimidate peasants, he had many villages destroyed.

In 1919, he was appointed a Minister for State Control (or workers’ and peasants’ inspection), a position he held until 1923, concurrently with that of the People's Commissar. Meanwhile in 1922, as the Civil War ended, he was made the Secretary General of the party’s Central Committee.

Stalin used his position as Secretary General shrewdly, outmaneuvering his rivals, including Trotsky and Grigory Zinovyev. At the same time, he appointed his allies in government positions, thus securing his base. By the time others realized what had happened, it was already too late.

Succeeding Lenin

As Lenin died from a stroke on January 21, 1924, a power struggle erupted among the Politburo members. Stalin now set out to destroy his potential rivals, accusing them of aligning with capitalist nations and calling them ‘enemies of the people’.

Some, like Trotsky, were sent into exile, where they were later assassinated, while others were summarily executed. By the end of the 1920s, Stalin was in full control. Very soon, he started implementing new policies.

Continue Reading Below

In 1928, Stalin abolished Lenin’s New Economic Policy in favor of state-organized industrialization under five-year plans. Here too he was ruthless in his demand. Those who could not reach their target were either imprisoned or executed.

His policies resulted in a huge increase in the production of coal, oil, and steel, and very soon the country experienced massive economic growth. But his agricultural policies brought in great disaster.

Stalin seized farmlands and compelled the peasants to amalgamate into collective farming. Those who resisted were either shot dead or sent to concentration camps to die under pathetic conditions. Agricultural production began to fall, resulting in widespread famine in many parts of the country.

To make his position secure, Stalin also undertook a great purge within the party. On December 1, 1934, he had Sergey Kirov, a popular leader from Leningrad, assassinated. Thereafter, he systematically purged all oppositions within the party, summarily executing important leaders. Ultimately, out of the original leaders, only he remained.

Not willing to take any chance, he also court-martialed leading generals including Marshal Mikhail on charges of treason and had them executed. To silence the voice of dissidence, he next set in a reign of terror.

From 1937 to 1938, he had 700,000 people executed, many of whom were ordinary workers, peasants, homemakers, teachers, priests, musicians, and soldiers. Many were also relocated, where they died of hunger and disease.

World War II

In 1939, before the start of the Second World War, Joseph Stalin attempted to form an alliance with France and England against Germany, but when that failed, he signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler. This encouraged Germany to attack Poland, thus starting the war.

By May 1941, Stalin had begun to suspect Hitler’s motives and therefore appointed himself as the Primer of the Soviet Union. This was his first governmental position after 1923. Until now, he had been ruling de facto as the Secretary General of the party.

At that time, with the execution of top military generals, Russia’s defense system was almost dysfunctional. Therefore, when Germany attacked Russia on June 22, 1941, they did not face much resistance and occupied a large portion of the Russian territory.

Continue Reading Below

The unprovoked attack threw Stalin into temporary shock, but he soon picked himself up and appointed himself Supreme Commander in Chief. Remaining at Leningrad, surrounded by German artillery, he conducted the war, organizing a counter-offensive.

By winter, the Soviet army was organized enough to win the Battle of Stalingrad. However, it was the Battle of Kursk, won in the summer of 1943, which turned the tide against the Germans. The war ended as Germany acknowledged defeat in May 1945. Stalin was now a war hero.

Last Years

As World War II came to an end, Stalin became obsessed with the threat of invasion from Western European countries. Therefore, from 1945 to 1948, he concentrated on establishing communist governments in a number of Eastern European countries, thereby creating a buffer zone between Russia and the West.

When in 1948, Yugoslavia defected from the Soviet camp, Stalin unleashed a reign of terror to keep others in the communist fold. At home, another reign of terror made sure the artistic and intellectual circle followed the party line.

In his later years, Stalin grew more paranoid and in January 1953, he decided to make another purge. But before he could undertake it, he died all of a sudden.

Personal Life & Legacy

On OS July 16, 1906, Joseph Stalin married Ketevan "Kato" Svanidze at Saint David's Cathedral. The couple had one son, Yakov Iosifovich Jugashvili, born on OS March 18, 1907. Kato died seven months later on OS November 22, 1907, from typhus.

In 1919, Stalin married a second time. His wife, Nadezhda Sergeevna Alliluyeva, bore him two children; Vasily Iosifovich Stalin (1921) and Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva (1926). In 1932, Nadezhda allegedly committed suicide after a spat with Stalin at a public dinner. Svetlana later defected to the USA, causing a furor.

Stalin’s health began to deteriorate towards the end of the Second World War. In October 1945, he had a severe heart attack, but he continued to perform his duties, leading his usual lifestyle. On March 2, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage caused by hypertension and also a stomach hemorrhage; he died from these on March 5, 1953. His death was so sudden that many believed it to be a case of assassination.

In spite of his ruthlessness, he was a popular leader and as his body lay embalmed, almost 150 million people came to pay their respect. On March 9, his remains were laid to rest in Lenin's Mausoleum. But when the de-Stalinization process began, they were relocated to the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.


Stalin wrote several articles and books to spread his ideology among the Soviet populace. Some of his popular works include ‘Leninism,’ ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR,’ ‘Foundations of Leninism,’ and ‘Marxism and the National Question.’

While he fought against Germany in World War 2 and played a major role in the defeat of the Axis powers, Stalin went on to follow Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies. Under his rule, the Soviet press continuously attacked and vilified the Jews. There were also rumors that Stalin planned to deport all Soviet Jews to the Jewish Autonomous Region.

He wasn’t very fond of traveling and almost never traveled by plane.

Recommended Lists:

See the events in life of Joseph Stalin in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Joseph Stalin Biography
- Editors,

People Also Viewed

Yakov Dzhugashvili Biography
Yakov Dzhugashvili
(Georgian, Russian)
Lavrentiy Beria Biography
Lavrentiy Beria
(Georgian, Russian)
Obafemi Awolowo Biography
Obafemi Awolowo
Dick Cheney Biography
Dick Cheney
Michele Bachmann Biography
Michele Bachmann
Francis Marion Biography
Francis Marion
Syngman Rhee Biography
Syngman Rhee
(South Korean)