English Hindi


Politics & War

Politics & War

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin
  • On December 18, 1879, in the Russian peasant village of Gori, Georgia, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (later known as Joseph Stalin) was born. The son of Besarion Jughashvili, a cobbler, and Ketevan Geladze, a  washerwoman, Joseph was a frail child.
  • Childhood was not easy and he faced emotional as well as physical abuse by his father.Once he was beaten so much that his elbow was damaged and could not be repaired throughout his life.
  • He also developed a cruel streak for those who crossed him. Joseph’s mother, a devout Russian Orthodox Christian, wanted him to become a priest. They were ethnically Georgian and Stalin grew up speaking the  Georgian language
  • 1888, she managed to enroll him in church school in Gori. Joseph did well in school, and his efforts gained him a scholarship to Tiflis Theological Seminary in 1894
  • As he grew older, Stalin lost interest in his studies. his grades dropped and he was repeatedly confined to a cell for his rebellious  behaviour.
  • Teachers complained that he declared himself an atheist. For a time, he found work as a tutor and later as a clerk at the Tiflis Observatory.
  • In 1901, he joined the Social Democratic Labor Party and worked full-time for the revolutionary movement.
  • Meanwhile between 1901-05 he was continously involved in revolautionary activity and protests.
  • In November 1905, the Georgian Bolsheviks elected Stalin as one of their delegates to a Bolshevik conference in Saint Petersburg. On arrival, he met Lenin’s wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, who informed him that the venue  had been moved to Finland. At the conference Stalin met Lenin for the first  time.
  • Though never a strong orator like Vladimir Lenin or an intellectual like Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin excelled in the mundane operations of the revolution, calling meetings, publishing leaflets and organizing strikes and  demonstrations.
  • In March 1908, Stalin was arrested and interred in Bailov Prison, where he led the imprisoned Bolsheviks, organised discussion groups, and ordered the killing of suspected informants.
  • In February 1912, Stalin escaped to Saint Petersburg, tasked with converting the Bolshevik weekly newspaper, Zvezda (“Star”) into a daily, Pravda (“Truth”). The new newspaper was launched in April 1912,  although Stalin’s role as editor was kept secret.
  • In February 1917, the Russian Revolution began. By March, the tsar had abdicated the throne and Lenin formed his government.
  • Stalin executed suspected counter- revolutionaries, sometimes without trial. His use of  state  violence  and  terror  was  at  a  greater  scale.
  • In 1922, Stalin  was  appointed  to  the  newly created office of general secretary of the  Communist Party. Though not a significant post at  the time, it gave Stalin control over all party  member appointments, which allowed him to build  his base.
  • After Lenin’s death, in 1924, Stalin set out to destroy the old party leadership and take total control and the reign of terror began.
  • At first, he had people removed from power through bureaucratic shuffling and denunciations.Further paranoia set in and Stalin soon conducted a vast reign of terror, having people arrested in the night and put before  spectacular show trials.
  • Potential rivals were accused of aligning with capitalist nations, convicted of being “enemies of the people” and summarily executed. Stalin saw Trotsky as the main obstacle to his rise to dominance within the  Communist Party.
  • By the latter half of the 1920s, the Soviet Union was still lagging behind the industrial development of Western countries. There had also been a shortfall of grain supplies; 1927 produced only 70% of grain produced in  1926.
  • In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Stalin reversed the Bolshevik agrarian policy by seizing land given earlier to the peasants and organizing collective farms.
  • Stalin believed that collectivism would accelerate food production, but the peasants resented losing their land and working for the state. Millions were killed in forced labor or starved during the ensuing famine.
  • Stalin also set in motion rapid industrialization that initially achieved huge successes, but over time cost millions of lives and vast damage to the environment. Any resistance was met with swift and lethal response; millions of people were  exiled to the labor camps of the Gulag or were executed.
  • Stalin faced problems in his family life. In 1929, his son Yakov unsuccessfully attempted suicide. His relationship with Nadya was also strained amid their arguments and her mental health problems. In November 1932, after a group dinner  in the Kremlin in which Stalin flirted with other women, Nadya shot herself.


  • Within the Soviet Union, there was widespread civic disgruntlement against Stalin’s government Social unrest, previously restricted largely to the countryside, was increasingly evident in urban areas, prompting Stalin  to ease on some of his economic policies in 1932.
  • As a result, an estimated 7,000,000 persons perished in this farming area, known as the breadbasket of Europe, with the people deprived of the food they had grown with their own hands.
  • By mid 1932, nearly 75 percent of the farms in the Ukraine had been forcibly collectivized. On Stalin’s orders, mandatory quotas of foodstuffs to be shipped out to the Soviet Union were drastically increased in August,  October and again in January 1933, until there was simply no food  remaining to feed the people of the Ukraine.
  • By the end of 1933, nearly 25 percent of the population of the Ukraine, including three million children, had perished. The Kulaks as a class were destroyed and an entire nation of village farmers had been laid low
  • Among those farmers, were a class of people called Kulaks by the Communists. They were formerly wealthy farmers that had owned 24 or more acres, or had employed farm workers.
  • Declared “enemies of the people,” the Kulaks were left homeless and without a single possession as everything was taken from them, even their pots and pans. It was also forbidden by law for anyone to aid  dispossessed Kulak families.
  • Some researchers estimate that ten million persons were thrown out of their homes, put on railroad box cars and deported to “special settlements” in the wilderness of Siberia during this era, with up to a third of them  perishing amid the frigid living conditions.
  • Men and older boys, along with childless women and unmarried girls, also became slave-workers in Soviet-run mines and big industrial projects.
  • Regarding state repressions, Stalin often provided conflicting signals. In May 1933, he ordered the release of many criminals convicted of minor offenses from the overcrowded prisons and ordered the security services  not to enact further mass arrests and deportations.
  • In 1935, the NKVD was ordered to expel suspected counter- revolutionaries, particularly those who had been aristocrats, landlords, or businesspeople before the October Revolution.
  • Stalin orchestrated the arrest of many former opponents in the Communist Party: denounced as Western-backed mercenaries, many were imprisoned or exiled internally.The first Moscow Trial took place in August  1936; Kamenev and Zinoviev were among those accused of plotting  assassinations, found guilty in a show trial, and executed.
  • There were mass expulsions from the party in August 1940, Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico, eliminating the last of Stalin’s opponents among the former Party leadership.
  • As war clouds rose over Europe in 1939, Stalin made a seemingly brilliant move, signing a nonaggression pact with Adolph Hitler and Nazi  Germany.
  • Stalin was convinced of Hitler’s integrity and ignored warnings from his military commanders that Germany was mobilizing armies on its eastern  front.
  • After heroic efforts on the part of the Soviet Army and the Russian people, the Germans were turned back at Stalingrad in 1943. the recent victory in  Stalingrad put Stalin in a solid bargaining position.
  • In April 1945, the Red Army seized Berlin, Hitler committed suicide, and Germany surrendered unconditionally.Stalin was annoyed that Hitler was  dead, having wanted to capture him alive.
  • In April 1949, the Western powers established the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), an international military alliance of capitalist countries. Within Western  countries, Stalin was increasingly portrayed as the “most  evil dictator alive” and compared to Hitler.
  • In his later years, Stalin was in poor health. He took increasingly long holidays. Stalin nevertheless mistrusted his doctors.
  • There, he emphasised what he regarded as leadership qualities necessary in the future and highlighted the weaknesses of various potential successors.
  • In 1952, he also eliminated the Politburo and replaced it with a larger version which he called the Presidium
  • On 1 March 1953, Stalin’s staff found him semi-conscious on the bedroom floor of his Volynskoe dacha, having urinated on himself. He had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.
  • Stalin’s death was announced on 6 March. The body was embalmed for long-term preservation,and then placed on display in Moscow’s House of Unions for three days. Crowds were such that a crush killed around 100  people.
  • The subsequent funeral involved the body being laid to rest in Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square on 9 March. Hundreds of thousands attended.
  • Stalin was eventually denounced by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1956. However, he has found a rekindled popularity among many of Russia’s young people.