Joseph Stalin

leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (born as Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili) (18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953) (Name in Georgian იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე ჯუღაშვილი; Russian: Иосиф Виссарионович Сталин) was a Georgian-born Russian revolutionary and politician who was the 2nd leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. He replaced Vladimir Lenin as leader of the Soviet Union. His ideas and policies turned the Soviet Union into a powerful, relatively modern country, as the largest on Earth. His way of thinking was called Marxism-Leninism. His form of government was later called Stalinism.

Joseph Stalin

Stalin in 1943
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office
3 April 1922 – 16 October 1952
Preceded byVyacheslav Molotov
(as Responsible Secretary)
Succeeded byGeorgy Malenkov (de facto)
Nikita Khrushchev
(office reestablished)
Premier of the Soviet Union
In office
6 May 1941 – 5 March 1953
First DeputiesNikolai Voznesensky
Vyacheslav Molotov
Preceded byVyacheslav Molotov
Succeeded byGeorgy Malenkov
People's Commissar for Defense of the Soviet Union
In office
19 July 1941 – 25 February 1946
Preceded bySemyon Timoshenko
Succeeded byNikolai Bulganin
after vacancy
Personal details
Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili

(1878-12-18)18 December 1878
Gori, Tiflis Governorate, Russian Empire
Died5 March 1953(1953-03-05) (aged 74)
Kuntsevo Dacha, Kuntsevo, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Cause of deathStroke
Resting placeKremlin Wall Necropolis, Moscow (from 31 October 1961)
Political partyCommunist Party of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s)Ekaterina Svanidze (1906–1907)
Nadezhda Alliluyeva (1919–1932)
ParentsBesarion Jughashvili (Father)
Ekaterine Geladze (Mother)

Stalin invaded Poland on 18 September 1939. In the subsequent World War II, Stalin stayed neutral but signed a peace deal with Germany's leader Adolf Hitler. He then led a bloody war after Germany invaded the Soviet Union known as Operation Barbarossa, and after the end of the war Stalin gained control of all Eastern Europe including part of Germany. There, a series of loyal Marxist-Leninist single-party states were set up, extending his power and making the Soviet Union a superpower.

Stalin was born as Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili or Iosif Dzhugashvili. He began calling himself "Stalin" in 1912.

  • In Russian: Ио́сиф Виссарио́нович Ста́лин - Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin; born Джугашвили - Dzhugashvili.
  • In Georgian: იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე ჯუღაშვილიი - Ioseb Jughashvili
  •  Joseph Stalin 

Early life

The house where Stalin was born, in Gori, Georgia

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was born in a small one room house in Gori, Georgia, on 18 December 1878. His father made and repaired shoes.[1] His father was often drunk and used to hit his wife and his son. This resulted in Joseph getting struck by a sports carriage in January 1890, resulting in his left arm becoming shorter.[2] Joseph had smallpox when he was young. This left his face scarred. Later, photographs were often changed to hide the scars.[3] He was educated at the Gori church school. Joseph studied to be a priest at a seminary (school for priests) in Tbilisi.[4] He was an active student reading many books, especially books that were not allowed by the seminary. This included books by Karl Marx. He joined a Marxist group in 1898, the Mesame Dasi, or Group Three.[3]


Stalin in 1902

Stalin left school in 1899 and got a job at the Tbilisi Physical Institute.[3] He joined groups that were trying to start a revolution to remove the Tsar. They wanted a different type of government. The police raided his house in 1901 while hunting for people who opposed the government. Stalin escaped but went into hiding so the police could not find him. He organized anti-government activities such as May Day marches and protests. He became a Bolshevik. He supported a violent revolution, and did not support the Mensheviks. The secret police caught him in April 1902 and exiled him without trial to Siberia.[1] He lived in the village of Novaya Uda.[5]

He soon escaped from Siberia. This led to many later claims that he was a police spy. The arrest of another Bolshevik, Stephan Shaumyan, a rival of Stalin, increased these beliefs.[3] At the end of 1905, he went to a meeting in Finland and met Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Lenin was not what Stalin had expected.[3] The government arrested and exiled Stalin several times in the next ten years. This increased his power in the Bolshevik party and he was elected to the Central Committee of the party in 1912.[6] He was promoted to a position at St.Petersburg.


Stalin (right side) with Lenin (left side) in 1922

Stalin was a member of the Bolshevik Party, but did not do much in the Russian Revolution of 1917.[1] He was writing and editing Pravda, the party newspaper.[7] He had a number of organizational jobs in the Communist Party. In 1922 he became General Secretary. He was able to give jobs to people he liked in the Communist Party.[1] These supporters helped him become the leader after Vladimir Lenin died in 1924.

Food and agriculture


Stalin tried to collectivize farms. Collectivization meant taking the land from owners of all farms and joining it into large farms run by the government. Communist officials then let farmers work the new farms and told them to turn the harvest over to the government.

Collectivization did not work well.[8] There was a famine 1932–33, in which millions died. Because farmers were not paid much money, and whatever they grew went to the state, the workers did not try their best. The best farming worked on very small bits of land given to the peasants to grow what they liked. On these pieces of land, farmers could keep what they grew. In 1938 these parts of land were 4% of Soviet farmland.[8] However, they grew 20% of its produce.[8]

There was a second great famine in the Soviet Union in 1946–1947. The conditions were caused by drought, made worse by the devastation caused by World War II. The grain harvest in 1946 totalled 39.6 million tons - barely 40% of the yield in 1940.

Mass executions

Mass graves of victims killed during Stalin's rule in Belarus

To eliminate "enemies of the working class", Stalin instituted the "Great Purge". Over a million people were imprisoned and at least 700,000 executed between 1934 and 1939.[9] Those executed included most of the generals in the Red Army, whom Stalin saw as a threat to his rule. This greatly weakened the army in the early months of the Wehrmacht's offensive against the Soviet Union in 1941.[9]

World War II

Stalin Giving a speech to the Red Army during the 1941 October Revolution Parade
Stalin with Churchill and Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference in February 1945

Stalin cooperated with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. They signed a mutual non-aggression pact. However, Hitler hated communism. After invading and neutralising France, Germany attacked the Soviet Union. After the Operation Barbarossa invasion, the USSR began working with the Western Allies to defeat Germany. In the end, Germany lost, but the USSR had more casualties than any other country during the war.

When World War II was over, the Soviet army occupied many countries in Europe, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and parts of Germany. They imposed Marxism-Leninism on these countries. This was done against the wishes, and over the protests, of the American and British governments.

Stalin continued to rule over the Soviet Union until he died. He also militarized Russia by focusing the country's time and energy towards weapons, vehicles, and the armed forces.

Stalin's Funeral in Moscow on March 9

In his later years, Stalin faced various health issues, including cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and a series of strokes. His health deteriorated, leading to his death on March 5, 1953, officially attributed to a stroke.[1]

Led by Lavrentiy Beria, the leading group in the Kremlin were Vyacheslav Molotov and Georgy Malenkov and Nikita Krushchev. Much later, Krushchev began a process of "De-Stalinization", which meant taking apart much of the political system that Stalin made. Stalin was denounced as a tyrant. After outsmarting and defeating his rivals, Krushchev established a personal control over the government comparable to Stalin's own. Krushchev is himself a fascinating figure in Soviet history. His attempts to expand Soviet influence ended with the Cuban missile crisis.

Conspiracy theory


In 2003 a group of Russian and American historians claimed that Stalin had been poisoned with powerful rat poison warfarin, possibly by the men who took over the government after Stalin died.[10] Bear in mind, however, that Stalin was in his mid-seventies when he died, and modern pharmacology was in the future (statins etc.). Those facts make it likely that his death was natural.


Museum of Stalin in his hometown of Gori

Stalin is a controversial figure in history. Many historians see him as a ruthless dictator, though some praise him as the Father of the Soviet State.[11] Stalin has been criticized for his role in the Holodomor. A recent poll in Russia (2008) listed him as the third most popular person in Russian history.[12] In 2006, a poll stated that almost half the adults in Russia thought Joseph Stalin was a good person.[13][14] At over 29 years, he was Russia's longest serving Ruler throughout the 20th Century and his record remains unbroken till date.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Joseph Stalin (1879 - 1953)". Historic Figures. Archived from the original on 2009-02-05. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  2. Kotkin, Stephen (2014), Stalin, Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928, New York City: Penguin Press, p. 21, ISBN 978-1-59420-379-4
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Blundell, Nigel (1996). A Pictorial History of Joseph Stalin. London: Promotional Reprint Company Ltd. ISBN 1856483266.
  4. "Biography: Joseph Stalin". Archived from the original on 20 February 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
  5. "Joseph Stalin. Biography of the great Russian Communist Leader. 1879-1904". Archived from the original on 2010-06-28. Retrieved 2009-03-27.
  6. "Stalin, Joseph. Biography and photos". Archived from the original on 2006-02-05. Retrieved 2009-03-27.
  7. "CPGB: Stalin: Slander and Truth". Archived from the original on 2013-06-25. Retrieved 2009-03-27.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Koontz, Terri; Mark Sidwell, S.M. Bunker (June 2005). World Studies. Greenville, South Carolina 29614: Bob Jones University Press. ISBN 1-59166-431-4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Khlevniuk, Oleg V. 2015. Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator. Translated by Nora Seligman Favorov. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-16388-9.
  10. "Secret documents reveal Stalin was poisoned". PRAVDA.Ru. 29 December 2005. Archived from the original on 27 April 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  11. "CPGB: Tribute to Stalin". Archived from the original on 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2009-03-27.
  12. "Dictator Josef Stalin third most popular Russian figure". Archived from the original on 2009-02-28. Retrieved 2009-03-27.
  13. Mendelson, Sarah E.; Gerber, Theodore P. (January 2006). "Failing the Stalin Test". Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  14. Walker, Shaun (14 May 2008). "The Big Question: Why is Stalin still popular in Russia, despite the brutality of his regime?". The Independent. Archived from the original on 22 June 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2008.
Preceded by
Post created
Previous party leader: Vladimir Lenin
General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party
Succeeded by
Nikita Krushchev
Preceded by
Vyacheslav Molotov
Prime Minister of the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
George Malenkov