Joseph Vissarionovici Dzhugashvili, known as ‘Stalin’, was the leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and a central figure of the communist world. He was born in the Georgian city of Gori, in the Tiflis Governorate of the Tsarist Empire. Part of the description of Stalin, an obscure Bolshevik at that time, found in the Moscow police department at the beginning of the Russian Revolution, reads: “Dzhugashvili, I.V., peasant from the land and district of Tbilisi, Didi-Lilo Village, an Orthodox, and an accountant.”
Stalin was born into a poor family: he was the son of a shoemaker, Vissarion Ivanovici, and of a simple woman, Ekaterina Gheorghievna, known as Keke. Both parents were of peasant origin. He was the 4th child to be born; however, the first 3 children died at a young age.
As a child, Stalin was given the loving nickname ‘Soso’ by his closest relatives and his classmates at school. Stalin’s childhood was marked by poverty and lack.
Stalin enrolled in the Higher Seminary of Orthodox Theology in Tbilisi at his mother’s insistence. The seminary was run with strict discipline and a dogmatic spirit. For Stalin, this place was his first real formative experience. For three years, he studied and read extensively, becoming the best in his class. The seminary was the place where the young of that generation were formed and gained intellectual training.
Stalin showed no signs of rebellion against authority in his first years at seminary. Later, together with other seminary students, he rented a room in Tbilisi, to be able to meet and talk freely. So, a kind of clandestine club was formed, although it was without revolutionary inclinations. This was the moment when Stalin first had the chance to make himself known and express himself freely.
Stalin took part in a lot of activities typical of revolutionaries: participating in laborers’ groups, supporting Marxist circles, public speaking at laborers’ protests. These led to him being wanted by the police, who found him very quickly by searching the room he lived in.
Stalin held several political roles, which he later used to take over complete power. His political roles were gained due to his reputation as a sensible, hardworking man. He began as the leader of the social democrats in the Caucasus and then joined the Bolshevik party. He became a member of the Central Committee after taking political power from the Bolsheviks. Stalin was director of Pravda, the communist publication, although Lenin controlled it.
Lenin rewarded him for supporting the October Revolution by appointing him as Commissar of Nationalities. Since he supported Lenin’s economic policies, Lenin appointed him as General Secretary of the Communist Party. After Lenin was paralyzed, Stalin eliminated from the party those who supported Trotsky, his main rival to party leadership. Lenin died before he could act against Stalin, who became the leader of the Communist Party in the USSR.
During the years of the ‘Great Terror’, Stalin acted in three ways: Gulags, mass deportation of approximately 6 million people, and summary executions. Fear and terror were the instruments used by Stalin for political repression, both of real or imaginary enemies of the regime, and also of the population. Many people were arrested and taken from their families in the middle of the night, and most of them were unjustly condemned.
Stalin decided to sign a pact of non-aggression with Nazi Germany. The Soviet invasion of Poland, Finland, the Baltic States, Bessarabia and Northern Bucovina followed. After Germany broke the non-aggression pact, the Soviet Union joined the Atlantic Alliance, playing an important role in defeating the Axis powers. The invasion of the USSR by Hitler’s Germany in the Barbarossa campaign caught Stalin unprepared from a military standpoint.
At Yalta, the USA and the UK tried to persuade Stalin to join them in war against Japan. After the end of the Second World War, Stalin installed communist regimes in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. He also imposed the presence of Soviet armies in the Eastern European countries. These withdrew after stable pro-Soviet governments were established.
Stalin was one of the most powerful leaders of the twentieth century in Europe. He managed to attract support but also hate from well-known historical figures. Boris Souvarine, member of the Communist International, wrote in an article: “Stalin wishes to remain the only survivor of Lenin’s comrades in arms, and to have no one around him but mediocre people, incapable of looking ‘the sun’ in the face. Since Stalin claims to be similar to the sun, this is a case for psychiatrists.”
Amongst the communist parties of the Communist International, Stalin was the object of an extraordinary cult, and constituted the absolute standard for loyalty to communism. No one criticised him. Any small dispute or insult brought against the great leader was considered defection to the enemy camp. For all communists in the whole world, Stalin was ‘the great leader and ‘father of the people’.
Joseph Vissarionovici Stalin, the hero of communist nations and Lenin’s successor, went into a coma, with the right side of his body completely paralyzed. A few days later, his heart stopped beating. The whole communist world mourned his passing.
After dinner, Stalin went to sleep, but the next day was found lying on the ground. The possibility of poison was not officially considered. According to Stalin’s bodyguards, it seems that the Soviet leader was probably poisoned immediately after he drank the mineral water which was on his desk.
Stalin’s body was embalmed and preserved in Lenin’s Mausoleum. It was given funeral rites, similar to Lenin, the founding father of the USSR. After the de-Stalinization process began in the Soviet Union, the body of the Soviet leader was buried beside the wall of the Kremlin.