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Joseph Stalin Biography

Madhavi Ghare Mar 4, 2020
Knowledge about the Russian history would be incomplete without knowing about Stalin. Read this post to get some valuable insight on the man who was as strong and rigid as steel.
Here is an account of the biography of Joseph Stalin. The life of Stalin was full of controversial choices and decisions, coupled with difficulties and hardship. Nevertheless, he was quite a powerful man in his own right.

Early Years

Stalin was born as Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili on 18th of December, 1878 in Gori, Georgia (in Russia) to Vissarion Dzhugashvili (a cobbler) and Ekaterina Geladze (an ex-serf). He spent his childhood in a lot of difficulties.
When his father went bankrupt after his cobbler's shop went bust, he joined the shoe factory in Tiflis. It is said that his father often used to get drunk and beat him up, his mother too wasn't spared.
Joseph studied in the Gori Church School, and was a good student. At the age of 14, he graduated top of the class and won a scholarship to the Seminary of Tiflis.
It was during the school years, that he had joined the Georgian Social-Democratic organization and was propagating Marxism. In 1899, just before his examination, Joseph quit (or was expelled from) the Seminary and devoted his time to the political underground in the Caucasus area.
In this time, he was arrested several times and was even exiled to Siberia. In 1913, he adopted the name Joseph Stalin. The name Stalin was a derivation of the Russian word 'stal' which meant 'steel'.

Political Career

Stalin began as a follower of Lenin. Along with him, Stalin attended the Fifth Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in London, in 1907. His practical experience of working for the underground gained him a lot of popularity and usefulness for the Party and helped him get a place on the Central Committee in 1912.
His rise to power was steady and he gained a place as the Politburo of the Central Committee in 1917. In 1922, he was elected as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the (All-) Russian Communist Party, popularly known as the Bolsheviks. He proceeded to make the best use of his positions and gradually created a power structure around himself.
His growing popularity even surprised Lenin, who was dying around that time, and he called for removing Stalin from the Party. Of course, with the political support Stalin enjoyed, nothing ever happened.
In 1924, Lenin died and Stalin began his characteristic political moves. He embarrassed and undermined other political bigwigs in the party, either by forming alliances with other leaders or by publicly humiliating them.
But one by one, all the people who had aligned with him also got destroyed. An example was his chief competitor Trotsky, who was eventually eliminated from the party politics.
Stalin worked hard to create an appeal with the masses by depicting himself as someone who was from them. He was later accused of creating a 'cult of the personality'. He used his concept of 'Socialism in One Country' to generate hope in the minds of the Soviet people who were tired of war and hunger.
In the 1930s, he created the Five Year Plans which were meant to generate a huge growth in Industrialization and Agricultural production in Russia. He sent many students abroad to learn Engineering and Science and even brought several people from other countries into Russia to aid in the development process.
His move to form a collectivist agricultural structure, however, did not go down well. In the process of Collectivization, several farmers and peasants faced a downsizing in their standard of living and way of life.
Only the rich farmers (known as 'kulaks') stood against this policy. This forced Stalin to undertake another of his characteristic remedial measures: arrest, exile or shoot, against all those who stood against his 'reforms.'
In 1932-1933, this Collectivization also caused a lot of disruption in the lives of the Ukrainian peasants, leading to famine and death. The death toll of this famine, generally known as the Holodomor, is assumed to be in the upwards of 10 million people.
The 1930s were dotted with many such 'purges.' In fact Stalin's reign was characterized by them. Those who opposed him, those who could pose a threat to him, anyone denounced by anybody else - all of these people and politicians were subject to the purge where they were arrested, exiled or shot.
Stalin was also involved in re-writing the history textbooks so that the 'Revolution' had only two heroes: Lenin and Stalin.
In 1939, Stalin engineered a pact between Russia and Nazi Germany, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Officially, this pact was a non-aggression treaty. But the pact also divided several areas of Central Europe between these two powers.
Of course, Hitler broke this pact in 1941, and attacked Russia. The invading German forces were thwarted in December 1941 by the Russian Army.
Thereafter, Stalin met with world leaders like Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt in several conferences in Moscow, Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam to discuss military strategy. On the global political front, Stalin came across as a person who was a ruthless negotiator, and a man not given to emotional outrage.
However, he lacked in strategic vision. Perhaps, Stalin recognized this failing of his, and began depending on his military generals to conduct the war. These moves along with his earlier moves for industrialization and his collectivist policies aided to create a Russia which was an equal competitor to the Western Alliance.
Stalin also successfully negotiated the Soviet occupation of territories in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Together, these countries constituted what came to be known as the 'Communist Bloc'.
Stalin already had a secret police in place (NKVD and the Gulag) when he came to power. He began extending the power base by creating a strong intelligence division with spies and agents in all the Western countries. This was the beginning of what came to be known as the 'Cold War.'

Personal Life

Stalin's childhood was marked by a lot of hardship and abuse. Perhaps a part of it dwindled down into his family life, just as a lot of it was instilled into his personality.
Stalin's first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze died four years after their marriage, in 1907. They had one son, Yakov Dzhugashvili. Father and son never got along with each other. Yakov tried to kill himself once and failed, earning Stalin's comment that "He can't even shoot straight".
Yakov was a general in the Red Army and was captured by the Germans. When offered his son in exchange for a German officer, Stalin denied having a son. Yakov later on committed suicide by running into an electric fence at the concentration camp where he was held.
He had another wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, who died in 1932. It is commonly believed that she committed suicide by shooting herself after a fight with Stalin.
They had two children, Vasily and Svetlana. Vasily was a high ranking official in the Soviet Air Force. He proved himself to be a capable air force person in World War II. Svetlana emigrated to the United States in 1967.


On the 1st of March, 1953, Stalin attended a dinner party with his political colleagues and retired to bed. When he did not wake up the next day at his usual time, his guards did not try to find out why, because they had been instructed by Stalin to not disturb him.
However, when he did not come out by evening, they investigated. He was found paralyzed by a stroke. He died on the 5th of March, 1953.
Officially, it was stated that Stalin died of cerebral hemorrhage. A lot of controversy surrounds the death of Stalin, including rumors of poisoning by consumption of 'warfarin' (a powerful rat poison that has no taste and induces hemorrhage).