Joseph Stalin, born December 18, 1878, was a dictator of the Soviet Union from the early 1920s until his death in 1953. He is credited for transforming his poverty-stricken society into a progressive industrial power, thanks to his political powers and skills, but mostly due to his ruthlessness, which resulted in bloodshed and countless rivalries that led to more carnage and destruction over the years of his tenure. He ruled the Soviet Union with an iron fist and he is responsible for the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens. Read on for a piece of Russian history.
Dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Joseph Stalin, born on December 18, 1878, was a feared ruler and skillful politician. Born in Gori, Georgia, Stalin was the only child of a cobbler and laundress. He suffered frequent smacking from his father because of his excessive drinking.
Stalin, born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, attended a seminary to become a priest, but he slowly drifted away when he began secretly reading the work of German philosopher Karl Marx. He was later expelled from school, leading him to join the political underground, where he organized mass demonstrations and strikes. Following the split of the Social Democratic movement into two competing wings, Bolshevik and Menshevik, Stalin sided with the more militant Bolshevik, led by Vladimir Lenin. He was involved in numerous criminal and political activities, resulting in his multiple arrests and, eventually, exile.
He married Ekaterina Svanidze, a seamstress, and the couple had a son. He made a significant climb up the Bolshevik party’s hierarchy and was soon promoted to serve on the party’s first Central Committee, in 1912. Stalin continued to climb up the ranks, and in 1922, he was appointed by Lenin as the secretary general of the Communist Party, where he carefully placed his associates in positions of power for a common goal: the industrialization of the Soviet Union and the collectivization of agriculture. In the late 1920s, Stalin began a series of five-year plans to transform the Soviet Union into an industrial superpower — from a peasantry, or what many refer to as backwardness. His reign brought terror to his community, which suffered greatly when it dared to oppose his orders. Those who failed to cooperate were arrested, tried in court, killed, or taken to his labor camps, working to their death under harsh conditions. Millions of people perished during these years.
In the 1930s, Stalin developed strategies to gain more power over his peers and rivals. The Great Purge was a period of political terror that Stalin initiated against members of the military, the Communist Party, and just about anyone he considered a threat. During World War II, in 1941, Germany invaded the Soviets, and though they were hardly prepared for war, the Soviets emerged victorious. Stalin participated in a number of Allied conferences, including those with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, often referred to as ‘The Big Three.’ Toward the end of his life, Stalin had plans of initiating a purge, called the ‘Doctor Plot,’ against medical professionals, but he died before he could make it happen. It is estimated that Stalin was responsible for over 20 million deaths during his regime. After his death, the Soviets commenced a process to ‘de-Stalinize’ the country.
While Stalin is in exile, Lenin selects him to be part of the Bolshevik party’s first Central Committee.
Stalin becomes the secretary general, and he initiates plans of industrialization and collectivization of agriculture.
Following Lenin’s death, Stalin begins the first stages of his five-year plan to transform the Soviet Union from peasantry to industrial leadership.
Stalin turns on his political associates as he orders the assassination of Sergey Kirov, takes his other rivals to court, and sentences them to death.
Stalin drives the Soviets into a nuclear arms race with the development of their first atomic bomb.
Why We Love Joseph Stalin
He made the Soviet Union an industrial superpower
Joseph Stalin, the dictator, transformed the Soviet Union from poor to prosperous, though he used aggression. Many see him as a savior as well as a savage tyrant.
Stalin was strong-willed and determined. He did a lot to build the Soviet Union into a powerful society.
He kept his pact with Russia
The German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact was an agreement between Stalin and Adolf Hitler to not attack one another during World War II. But Hitler later broke the pact and invaded the U.S.S.R.
5 Surprising Facts
He changed his name and birth date
He changed his birth name from Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili to Joseph Stalin (Russian for ‘steel’ — regarding himself as a man of steel).
He was in and out of jail
Stalin’s underground political activities as well as his association with Bolsheviks led to a life of crime where he was repeatedly jailed and exiled.
His daughter’s international scandal
After her father’s death, Svetlana Alliluyeva defected to the U.S., in 1967, becoming a naturalized citizen.
He created the Gulag slave labor camp
To assert more control over his community, Stalin developed labor camps in which people lived and worked in appalling conditions and ultimately died.
He learned Russian as a teenager
It took him some time to master the language and accent because he spoke Russian with a heavy Georgian accent.
Joseph Stalin FAQs
How many children did Joseph Stalin have?
Stalin is believed to have had six children in and out of wedlock.
What virus did Joseph Stalin have?
As a young boy, Stalin contracted smallpox, which is why he has scars on his face.
How many wives did Joseph Stalin have?
Stalin married twice; his wives Ekaterine Svanidze and Nadezhda Alliluyeva both died during his reign.
Joseph Stalin’s birthday dates