- "There are no fortresses that Bolsheviks cannot storm."
- —Joseph Stalin
- "Death is the solution to all problems. No man... no problem."
- —Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin (born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili; December 18th, 1878 – March 5th, 1953) was the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee from 1922 until his death in 1953. He led the Soviet Union through a period of rapid growth and industrialisation, and led it through World War II in which the Red Army was victorious over Nazi Germany and captured Berlin in 1945, ending the war in Europe.
Stalin was born in Georgia. He became interested in Marxism at a young age after reading some of Lenin's works.
While formally the office of the General Secretary was elective and wasn't initially regarded as the top position in the Soviet state, after Vladimir Lenin's death in 1924, support became consolidated around Stalin. Instead of the ideology of world revolution professed by Leon Trotsky, the Red Army organiser, proponent of world revolution, Stalin's ideology of socialism in one country became the primary line of the Soviet politics. There exists Stalinism, an ideology that centres around Stalin's ideas and policies in the Soviet Union.
World War II
In 1939, Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler, and soon Nazi Germany and subsequently the Soviet Union invaded Poland. Hitler betrayed this pact in 1941 with the invasion of the USSR; the Red Army was soon able to defeat the Nazis, and they captured Berlin in 1945. Stalin, along with Franklin Roosevelt of the United States and Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom were among the "Big Three" in the allied leaders of WW2. Even though the alliance was temporary, he was a very effective allied leader and has respect today for being one of the people who lead the allies to victory. After the war, communist governments gained power in eastern Europe and in other countries like China, thus causing him, as the leader of the most influential socialist state, to be branded a villain by the Western world and sparking the Cold War.
As Leader of the Soviet Union
Lenin was hesitant to the idea that Stalin would succeed him, and wrote sometime before his death "Comrade Stalin is unfit for leadership, he is too rude and undereducated." Lenin preferred Leon Trotsky to succeed him. Stalin's leadership however lead to a much more efficient military service; Stalin said "In the USSR Military it takes more courage to retreat than it does to advance."
Famously, Lenin had ordered for both homosexuality, divorce and abortion to be decriminalised once his grip on power was absolute. Stalin however recriminalised homosexuality in 1933, as well as abortion. This was possibly due to him wanting a larger population of the Soviet Union. However, lesbian activity was still legal throughout his period.
A large number of Stalin's allies throughout his tenure as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were killed. Most notably, many of his opponents were killed during the 'Great Purge' of late 30's. Stalin died in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, then began the capitalistic Soviet policy that continued into the 1980s and led to its collapse.
His health began slowly declining in the 1940s. In 1945, he suffered a heart attack which he put down to his lifelong heavy smoking.
He died from a stroke on March 5, 1953 at the age of 74. Many in the west were sceptical if his death was faked, which lead to his corpse being publicly displayed at his state funeral four days later.
Stalin led the Soviet Union through rapid industrialisation and through victory in World War II. He remains very popular; popular opinion within the Russian Federation is mixed.
Results of a poll taken in 2006 stated that over 35% of Russians would vote for Stalin if he were still alive. Fewer than a third of all Russians regarded Stalin as a "murderous tyrant". In a July 2007 poll, 54% of the Russian youth agreed that Stalin did more good than bad, and 46% (of them) disagreed that Stalin was a "cruel tyrant". Half of the respondents, aged from 16 to 19, agreed Stalin was a wise leader. In 2011, a poll by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found that 45 percent of Russians had a “generally positive” view of Stalin. In his home country of Georgia, that number rises to 68 percent. Only a few years beforehand, a TV poll of 50 million Russians named Stalin the “third-greatest Russian of all time.” Western Ukraine still commissions statues of him on a regular basis.
- Joseph Stalin's mother was Keke Geladze. Stalin had a better relationship with his mother than his father. However, his daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, claims the only person her father had any fear of was his mother. This could be attributed to his strict upbringing, his mother was a pious and raised him devout in the Russian Orthodox Church. At one point in fact, she was hoping for him to train as a priest in the church.
- When his wife, Kato Svanidze, died from typhus, Stalin apparently said at her gravesite "This warm creature could soften my feelings towards humans, now she's gone, and along with her, all my feelings for humanity."
- He would marry again to a woman called Nadezhda Alliluyeva in 1919, his relationship with her was strained however, and she committed suicide in 1932, Stalin never married again.
- In the Tsarist Russian Empire, Stalin, along with other future members of the party, would rob bourgeois banks to donate to the Communist Party prior to the Revolution.
- In his personal life, Stalin was known for having a strained relationship with his eldest son, Yakov, due to their heated relationship Yakov once tried in vain to commit suicide, when Stalin was informed of this he replied "He couldn't even do that right."
- Yakov's son, Galina is an admirer of his Grandfather, a neo-Stalinist and currently resides in his Grandfather's homeland of Georgia.
- Stalin was awarded the title “Man of Steel.” It fit perfectly with his stern image as leader of the industrial-powerhouse of the USSR.
- When being interviewed by HG Wells in 1934, Stalin explained his communist ideologies in detail. In the interview, he explained the faults of capitalism, stating "There is much we Bolsheviks can learn from the capitalist".
Stalin's 1934 interview with HG Wells
While visiting Moscow in 1934, Stalin granted the famed journalist an interview.
Stalin's final speech
Stalin's final speech, October 14th 1952, less than five months prior to his death.