Birthday: December 18, 1878
Died At Age: 74
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Born Country: Georgia
Born in: Gori, Georgia
Famous as: Communist Revolutionary & Ruler of former USSR
Quotes By Joseph Stalin
political ideology: Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Died on: March 5, 1953
place of death: Kuntsevo Dacha near Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
education: Seminary of Tiflis, Gori Church School
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
Who was Joseph Stalin?
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 USSR became the second country to develop the nuclear bomb. After his death, his successors, notably Nikita Khrushchev, denounced his legacy and initiated a process of de-Stalinization.
Childhood & Early Years
Joseph Stalin was born as 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 vey 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 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. Sometime now, he also came across the writings of Vladimir Lenin and was much inspired by it.
In 1899, just before his final examination, Ioseb had to leave the seminary, ostensibly because he could not pay the fees, which had underwent a steep hike. However, many believe that he was actually expelled because of his political views that went against the tsarist regime.
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Ioseb Becomes Stalin
After leaving the seminary, Ioseb became a clerk at Tiflis Metropolitan Observatory. Although the monthly salary of 20 roubles 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 3 April 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 series of strikes, resulting in a number of deaths. It led to his first arrest on 8 April 1902.
After a prolonged enquiry, he was finally sent to the Siberian village of Novaya Uda, reaching the place on 9 December 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 17 January 1904 with the intention of joining the Bolsheviks.
On reaching Tiflis on 27 January, 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 extortions. 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 in the first Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, subsequently becoming editor of ‘Pravda.’
Stalin was arrested six more times, several of which culminated into exile to Siberia. In February 1917, during his last exile near the Arctic zone, he was conscripted in the army, but was rejected on medical grounds. Thereafter he spent the last few days of his exile at Achinsk.
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October Revolution & Aftermath
On his return to Petrograd on OS 12 March 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 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 People's Commissar. Meanwhile in 1922, as the Civic 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.
As Lenin died from a stroke on 21 January 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.
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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 huge increase in the production of coal, oil, and steel, and very soon the country experienced a 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 1 December 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 no-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.
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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 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.
As the 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 16 July 1906, Joseph Stalin married Ketevan "Kato" Svanidze at the Saint David's Cathedral. The couple had one son, Yakov Iosifovich Jugashvili, born on OS 18 March 1907. Kato died seven months later on OS 22 November 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 cerebral hemorrhage caused by hypertension and also a stomach hemorrhage; he died from these on 5 March 1953. His death was so sudden that many believed it to be a case of assassination.
In spite of his ruthless, he was a popular leader and as his body lay embalmed, almost 150 million people came to pay their respect. On 9 March, 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.