Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (Joseph Stalin)
Leader of the Communist party and the Soviet Union (1922-1953)
Joseph Stalin was probably one of the most discrepant political figures of the 20th century. A long time Bolshevik party and Soviet government leader, Lenin’s companion-in-arms and organizer of the Soviet repressions of 1930-1940’s,during which time hundreds of thousands (mostly innocent) people were killed and even more of them – sent to Siberia.
But at the same time Stalin was a leader of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1953. And it is obvious that during his ruling the Soviet people made a great step forward. In the beginning of 1920’s Russia was a post-war ruinous agrarian country with the desolated economy’s, social and cultural chaos. Within the next 20-30 years the new State – Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), a World super-power, was built and the soviet economics reached an outstanding level of development.
We do not intend to give the political appraisal for Stalin’s activity and deeds. We will rather let everybody have their own opinion. The following is just a biography of this extraordinary political figure.
JOSEPH STALIN was born on December 21, 1879 in Gori, Georgia, a province of the Russian Empire located in the Caucus Mountains. Although his father, Vissarion Dzugashvili was said to be of Ossetian descent, a cobbler by trade, and his mother, Yekaterina, a house servant, was a Georgian, Stalin always claimed to be a Georgian and carried the Georgian accent all his life.
As a child, Stalin, nicknamed 'Soso,' was sickly, having suffered from smallpox, yet very physically fit. Early on, it is said he exhibited a ruthless attitude towards his classmates and sadistically enjoyed their misfortunes. He was an excellent student and was said to have an excellent singing voice. He graduated from the Gori Church School in 1894 with honors.
Stalin continued on to study at the Tiflis Theological Seminary, which shows his religious upbringing. In 1899, however, he was expelled from the seminary for his affiliation with Marxism to which he had converted some time earlier. He continued to work as an accountant at the seminary for another 2 years.
Up to this point in his life, Stalin had gone by his birth name, Dzugashvili. As he entered into the political arena, he began to publish articles under the pseudonym of "Koba," a superhero from a Georgian fairy tale. Later, he changed his pseudonym to "Stalin," meaning "man of steel," or "the steel one”.
Due to his revolutionary activities, in 1902, Stalin was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison after which he was exiled to Siberia. He escaped exile in 1904. Soon after, in 1905, Stalin met Lenin for the first time at a Bolshevik Convention in Finland. Stalin was not impressed by this little man at first (although Stalin only reached 5'4' at his peak).
Also in 1905, Stalin married his first wife, Yekaterina Svanidze who subsequently bore him his first son, Yakov. Yekaterina died in 1907. Yakov, the Soviet Army officer, was killed in a Nazi concentration camp in 1943.
Prior to that, Stalin was offered an exchange of Jacov for Field marshal Paulius, who was captured along with his army at the end of Stalingrad battle. Stalin declined the offer.
Stalin continued his revolutionary activities and was arrested off and on until the 1917 coup d'etat being exiled to Siberia several times and always escaping. In 1916, he was nominated to the Central Committee by Lenin who was very impressed with his writings.
After the successful revolution in February of 1917 which led to the abdication of the Tsar and the beginning of the Provisional Government, Stalin returned from Siberia (where he was again in exile) to Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) to continue his revolutionary work.
After being named to the Pravda board of directors (responsible for the editing and publishing of the Bolshevik newspaper), he began expressing the need to continue the war against Germany and to cooperate with the Provisional Government until he was strongly criticized by Lenin and forced to reverse his policy.
Stalin and Molotov
Stalin disagreed with Lenin on several issues, including the matter of an "armed insurrection" against the Provisional Government. Stalin, like others, however, always fell in line behind Lenin in the end.
On November 7, 1917, the Bolsheviks overthrew Alexander Kerensky's Provisional Government and seized power of the country. Stalin was named to the post of the People's Commissar for Nationalities and on November 15, 1917 released the Decree of Nationality giving all minorities equal rights in Russia.
In 1918, Stalin moved to Volgograd (later named Stalingrad) to assume his new post as Director General of Food Supply in the South of Russia. Stalin was very successful at this post, supplying food and supplies to Moscow and drastically improving the railway system during the continuing Civil War.
During a Cossack and anti-Bolshevik attack on Volgograd in 1918, Stalin, against Trotsky's (Supreme Commander of the Red Army) desire, commanded the defense himself. During this time, Stalin carried out his first executions of Cossack and White army captives. Lenin was impressed with Stalin's motivation and decisiveness. Stalin was recalled to Moscow shortly thereafter.
Stalin was given several other military assignments and performed relatively well. His ruthlessness made him an unbelievably efficient leader. After the victory over a White offensive from Estonia, he had 67 officers executed for disagreeing with him during the
The Civil War continued a little while longer but was concluded when the Red Army took Armenia and Georgia in 1921. Although Stalin was a Georgian, he strongly encouraged Lenin to attack. In 1920, Lenin had already recognized Georgia's independence but changed his mind at the encouragement of Stalin. Even in his homeland, Stalin recommended the complete oppression of non-Bolsheviks.
In 1919, Stalin married a second time, this time to Nadya Allilueva who gave Stalin another son, Vassily, in 1921 and a daughter, Svetlana, in 1926. Nadya was 17 when she married the 39-year-old Stalin. Nadya killed herself in 1932 after an argument with Stalin.
In April of 1922, Stalin was named General Secretary of the Central Committee. In May of 1922, Lenin had his first stroke. At this first appearance of Lenin's physical weakness, Stalin began to assert his will and began to have many arguments with Lenin over Policy of the new state. Stalin wanted to incorporate all the outer countries that had been conquered into one nation under the central control of Moscow. Lenin, however, wanted to give them some self-rule and their own governments. Lenin's plan became the basis for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which came into being later that year.
Lenin had several other strokes and was eventually bedridden. During these years, Stalin asserted his ideas and will more and more. Eventually, even Lenin began to plan for Stalin's removal due to his extreme nature. Before he could do so, Lenin died on January 21, 1924. Stalin was allegedly joyful upon hearing of Lenin's death.
The power struggle that followed distinctly showed Stalin's conniving, ambitious, and power-hungry nature. There were three groups vying for power after Lenin's death: the Bukharists, led by Nikolai Bukharin; the Trotskistes, led by Leon Trotsky (Bronstein), and the group 'troika'('the trio', comprised of the alliance of Stalin, Zinovyev, and Kamenev). Troika, designated the "leftist" contender, by means of skillful manipulation defeated the Trotskistes and turned their attention to the Bukharists. At this point Stalin betrayed his temporary partners and shifted his alliance to the Bukharists. Trotsky then joined with Zinovyev and Kamenev to vie against Stalin. Through clever conniving and the subtle interpreting of Lenin's precepts of the new generation that came to age in the 1920's, Stalin gained the upper hand over all his rivals. By 1929 at the age of 50, Stalin was the new ruler of the Soviet Union.
In the late 1920's, Stalin lifted the USSR's agricultural output by launching a program of collectivization forcing the peasants into practical serfdom, reminiscent of pre-Soviet times. Peasants were tied to the collective farms indefinitely. Millions of peasants were removed from their homesteads and forced to labor on the collective farms. Thousands died from this fierce offensive.
In the 1930's, Stalin raised the USSR up as an industrial power equal to the world's standard. This industrialization was more effective and successful than his previous collectivization programs.
In the mid-1930s, Stalin began his infamous purges. Political, military, industrial, and party individuals were executed at the slightest hint of opposition. Many were forced to confess to trumped up charges in trials and then were executed. Stalin's rivals of the 1920s, Bukharin, Zinovyev, Kamenev and others were disposed of in this way. This period of purges, labor camps, and secret police affected almost every family in the Soviet Union and gave rise to the term "Stalinism."
During World War II, Stalin's flawed war direction and his previous purges of military leaders caused the Soviet Union to suffer greatly. But Stalin’s decisiveness and strong leadership as well as Stalin’s willingness to sacrifice huge numbers of troops in battles, led to the successful eradication of the Nazis from Russian soil and contributed in German Nazi’s overthrow.
Stalin's victory and participation in the Allied talks after the war allowed for the USSR to consolidate and solidify it's influence over several of its border countries and be recognized as an international power. Stalin's determination to keep Western influence out of Russia led strongly to the continuation of the Cold War.
In March of 1953, just before Stalin began a purge of Moscow doctors for suspected medical assassination, Stalin died. During Stalin's public funeral, several citizens were trampled to death due to the enormous numbers of people attempting to view his casket. Stalin was entombed in Lenin's mausoleum and then moved to a private plot some years later.
Additional sources of information on Joseph Stalin