1879 - 1953


Brilliant Politician and Mass Murderer

An expert in genocide and all things bulk depopulation, Stalin was one of the few individuals Nut Adolf could have learned from.

Under Stalin's reign, the Soviet Union, the world's largest country by area, became a world power.

He might or might not have died of natural causes.

Read an  interview with Stalin's grandson, article provided by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Russian Memorial human rights group put together a list of more than 2.6 million names of victims of Stalin's mass killings. All in all, it is believed that approx 12 million people were murdered.

And because of the sheer incomprehensibility of this number, allow ingenious Eddie Izzard to help you grasp.



Joseph Stalin's Name

Stalin's original name was Ioseb Dzhugashvili, or in Russian, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. Also spelled Josif.

Stalin derives from the Russian word stal which means steel.


Joseph Stalin's Date of Birth

Officially, Stalin's birth date is December 21, 1879 (December 9, 1879 old style.) But historians found out that December 18, 1878 (December 6, 1878  old style) was his real birthday. Nobody knows for sure why Stalin gave different birth dates.


Joseph Stalin's Family

Stalin's parents were peasants from Georgia. Thus, Stalin was as Russian as Hitler was German.

(Stalin was not a Russian but a Georgian and grew up with the Georgian language. Hitler was not a German but an Austrian and grew up yodeling. Back to Stalin.)

Stalin's father was Vissarion Ivanovich Dzhugashvili, a shoemaker and a boozer. Vissarion was also called Beso. He was born around 1850. Nobody knows when he died, some say 1909, some say he was still around in the 1930s.

Stalin's mother was Yekaterina Georgievna Geladze, also spelled Ekaterina, and also called Keke. Yekaterina was a seamstress, who occasionally dabbled in laundry.

Vissarion and Yekaterina Dzhugashvili married in 1874. Stalin was Yekaterina's first child to survive. He was her third son.

Stalin married in 1904 or 1905. Together with his first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze, Stalin had a son, Yakov Dzhugashvili, also spelled Jakov, or Jacob. Yakov was born in 1907. Ekaterina died later in 1907 of pneumonia.

Yakov, in turn, married Yulia Meltzer. Together they had a son, Evgeny Dzhugashvili. Evgeny was born in 1936. Yakov was taken prisoner by the Germans in WWII. He was shot in 1943 while trying to escape. Stalin had refused to arrange a prisoner exchange with the Germans. Some say, Yakov grabbed the fence of the prison camp just to provoke his getting shot.

Together with his second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Joseph Stalin had a son Vasily, and a daughter, Svetlana Stalin. Nadezhda killed herself in 1932. Vasily died an alcoholic aged 40. Svetlana was born in 1926. Svetlana, also known as Svetlana Alliluyeva and later Lana Peters, defected to the West in 1967. On November 22, 2011, she died at 85 of colon cancer, in Wisconsin. Here is the  AP article. And here is the photo:

Lana Peters aka Svetlana Alliluyeva, in 2010
Lana Peters in 2010
AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Steve Apps


Joseph Stalin's Early Years

Stalin became a Marxist in his teens / early twenties. He was busy organizing strikes and protests. Soon, his ruthlessness attracted police attention. Stalin was arrested many times.

Stalin joined the Bolsheviks after their split from the  Mensheviks.


Joseph Stalin's Reign

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union had Stalin as their secretary-general from 1922 until the end of Stalin's life.

In 1941, Stalin became premier of the Soviet Union. Dictator, in effect.

Stalin collectivized the land by force. Under Stalin, the country's industrial output soared. Human life, on the other hand, wasn't worth a kopeck. One Russian rubel made 100 kopecks, by the way.

Stalin emphasized education and fought against religion.


Major Events During Stalin's Reign

The Great Famine of 1932 - 1933.
Also called the Ukrainian Genocide, or Holodomor, the Great Famine of 1932 was Stalin's strategy to terminate all Ukrainian resistance. And it worked out for him. The population was dead by the million and Stalin shipped in Russians to re-populate the area.

Historians estimate the victims of the Great Famine to have been between 5 and 7 million people.

The Great Purges 1937 - 1938.
The Great Purges, also called the Great Purge (singular), the Soviet Purges, or the Great Terror, was Stalin's political spring cleaning and included the elimination of many prominent Bolshevik revolutionaries and elite members of the Red Army. It is estimated that over a million "political criminals" were arrested and more than 75% of them were executed.

Some say, the Great Purges had already started on December 1, 1934, with the assassination of Sergey M. Kirov.


Stalin and World War II

In May 1939, Stalin appointed Vyacheslav Mikhaylovich Molotov, father of the famous cocktail of the same name, for the post of People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs.

Molotov obtained a visit from Nazi Germany's foreign minister Ribbentrop. Together at Moscow and with Stalin looking over their shoulders, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact on August 23, 1939.

This pact is also called the Hitler-Stalin Pact, or the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.


US National Archives

In effect, the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact paved the way for Germany's invasion of Poland and thus the outbreak of World War II.

Hitler was one of the few guys who could still surprise Stalin. He launched Operation Barbarossa and had his troops attack the Soviet Union out of the blue on June 22, 1941.

Stalin met with Roosevelt and Churchill at the Yalta Conference February 4 - 11, 1945, in which he fooled both, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Yalta Conference February 4 - 11, 1945
US National Archives


Here is more about the total number of deaths caused by World War II.


Stalin after World War II

To create a buffer zone between the Soviet Union and the Western European powers, and contrary to the promises made at the Yalta Conference, Stalin saw to it that an Eastern bloc of smaller countries under communist regimes was established, each one with strong ties to the U.S.S.R.


Stalin's Death

Stalin did not appoint a successor prior to his death.


Stalin and Marxism

Stalin's version of Marxism is called Stalinism.

What is the Difference Between Marxism, Leninism, and Stalinism?


See more under Communism


Stalin's Legacy

It took years after Stalin's death and even after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., before archives were opened and their content could be evaluated.

However, as early as 1956 voices of criticism could be heard. See for example  Khrushchev's Secret Speech.



Joseph Stalin - Short Biography

December 21, 1879
(December 9,
old style)


Birth in Gori, Georgia, part of the Russian Empire


1888 - 1894


Church school at Gori


1895 - 1899


Moves to Tiflis, attends Tiflis Theological Seminary, leaves before the end of his term.


December 1899


Works briefly in the Tiflis Observatory




Arrested for the first time




Becomes a Bolshevik




Member of the first Central Committee of the Bolsheviks


July 1913 - March 1917


Exile in Siberia


1917 - 1923


People's Commissar for Nationalities


1919 - 1923


People's Commissar for State Control


1922 - 1953


Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union




End of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and beginning of Stalin's first Five-Year Plan


1941 - 1953


Head of the Soviet State


March 5, 1953


Death in Moscow



More if You Like . . .

Read about a Stalin TV series that divides the Russian audience, article provided by the History News Network.

And here is the Joseph Stalin Timeline

Check Stalin's death in the Timeline of the Korean War.

Go here for more about Human Rights in History.




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