|Born||21 Dec 1879|
|Died||5 Mar 1953|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili was born in Gori, Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire into a poor family. His father was cobbler Besarion Jughashvili, a Georgianized Ossetian; his mother was Ketevan Geladze who worked as a launderer on occasion. The couple's first two children, Mikhail and Georgy, both died in infancy, thus the third child, nicknamed Soso, was especially loved. Besarion Jughashvili was a violent alcoholic, which might have caused his son's birth defect of having two webbed toes; he was also very abusive toward his wife and son. Ketevan Geladze later recalled that his husband once beat Ioseb Jughashvili so violently that the child had traces of blood in his urine for several days. The abusive father along with the rough culture of Gori (where organized brawls were held regularly through history as unofficial military training) were both cited as reasons for his ruthlessness later in life. Ketevan Geladze also regularly beat her son for disciplinary reasons, but, unlike beatings from his father, Ioseb Jughashvili would recall beatings from his mother almost fondly. The Jughashvili moved many times due to financial hardship. Like almost all children in Gori, young Ioseb Jughashvili was a member of his neighborhood gang and often participated in fights. At the age of seven, he contracted with smallpox, which left his face scarred for the remainder of his life. In 1888, he was enrolled in the church school in Gori by his mother, who had hoped that he would one day become a bishop; his father was against the idea, wanting his son to follow his footsteps as a cobbler, and often interfered with the studies especially while drunk. Although Besarion Jughashvili would abandon his family around this time, he would continue to interfere with the religious studies on occasion. At the church school in Gori, he attained excellent grades and was a noted as a gifted choir singer. During his childhood, he was struck by horse drawn carriages twice; the first caused permanent damage to his left arm, and the second took him out of school for several months. In 1894, he enrolled in the Tiflis Theological Seminary in the Georgian capital. He devoted much of his time to academic preparations, a habit that would remain with him for the rest of his life, and a habit that he would impose on his future followers. Around this time, he became writing poetry in Georgian, and some of his works were published. As his literary boundaries grew, so did his thirst for knowledge in other fields, which, against the rules of the seminary, soon included novels by Victor Hugo, works by Charles Darwin, and other such works that quickly converted him Marxist, nationalist, and Marxist. Having caught Jughashvili with these banned books many times (and having suffered in punishment cells many times as a result), the seminary administration, not wanting to expel him outright, raised school fees to a level so that poor Jughashvili could no longer pay for the tuition. He stopped attending classes in early 1899, and in May of that year, after he failed to appear in the examinations as he had stopped attending classes, he was officially expelled from the Tiflis Theological Seminary. In Dec 1899, he began working at the Tiflis Meteorological Observatory. After being employed as a staff writer for the socialist Georgian newspaper Brdzola Khrna Vladmir, he joined the Social Democratic Labor Party in 1901. In 18 Apr 1902, he was exiled to Siberia, Russia after spending 18 months in prison for coordinating a strike at a factory. In Siberia, he joined the Bolsheviks, Vladmir Lenin's faction of the party. In 1904, he escaped and returned to Tiflis to organize more strikes and demonstrations, through which he would come to the attention of Lenin himself, who arranged to meet him in Finland in 1905. In late 1907, his first wife Ekaterina Svanidze passed away from typhus or tuberculosis, possibly coupled with another common ailment such as pneumonia, in Tiflis; it was said to affected Jughashvili greatly, causing him to lay low for several months, but he returned with greater dedication to the revolutionary cause. His father passed away in 1909 in Tiflis. Having moved to Baku on the Caspian Sea, he operated Bolshevik cells and raised funding for Lenin through protection rackets, bank robberies, piracy, kidnapping, and the occasional donation from wealthy Baku businessmen.
As a revolutionary and outlaw, Jughashvili used many pseudonyms, particularly during his travels and with his poetic and political writings. Among his earliest names was Koba, after the main character of Alexander Kazbegi's 1883 novel The Patricide; Koba was to be used very often in his later pseudonyms, at times shortened to just the letter "K". A womanizer, many of his pseudonyms were derived from the names of his lovers; some of these examples include Koba Kato (after his first wife Ekaterina Svanidze) and Koba Stefin (after girlfriend Stefania Petrovskaya). In 1910, he signed some letters with the acronym K. St.; in the following two or three years, the names K. Safin and K. Solin were used. The name K. Stalin appeared for the first time with a published article in Mar 1913 that he had written in the previous month. While the name Stalin had a close approximation to "Man of Steel" in the Russian language, it was unlikely the driving reason for the coinage of this name. Given his previous track record of using the name of the women in his life to create pseudonyms, it was likely that the name K. Stalin came from the name of his girlfriend Ludmilla Stal. Later, once in power, he would combine his pseudonym with his original given name and another often-used pseudonym during the revolutionary years to form Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.
Stalin was arrested again in 1913 for his political activities, and once again exiled to Siberia, this time with a life term. He would return, however, as Tsar Nicholas II's Russian Empire was overthrown. In a conflict within the revolutionary party, Stalin once again sided Lenin, and was named the Commissar of Nationalities by Lenin as a reward. With this title, Stalin was in charge to manage all the minority groups in Russian, making up 65 million of the nation's population. Very soon, Lenin would change his philosophy of self-governance, and adopt a policy of a strong authoritative central government. Stalin would continue to back Lenin. In April 1922, Stalin would be named the General Secretary of the state. Very soon afterwards, Lenin's health would deteriorate after a blood vessel rupture in his brain left him paralyzed on the right side of his body. The General Secretary, what was meant to be the party leader's spokesperson, became a position of power. He used this new found power to remove party members who opposed him. In 1922, Stalin disagreed with Lenin in a major manner for the first time, and the bed-found Lenin wrote to Trotsky, a rival of Stalin's, asking for his support against Stalin. Stalin's wife Nadya Alliluyeva, who worked in Lenin's office, found this letter to Trotsky and informed Stalin, which worsened their relationship. Lenin tried to remove Stalin from his position, but died before action was taken. Stalin became the the sole leader of the Soviet Union.
During the next few years, Stalin would scheme within his own government to remove all those who he did not trust or those who opposed him. It was not until 1928 he started to put effort into developing the nation, which did not have an industrial base even at pre-WW1 levels. The Five Year Plan that he signed in 1928 concentrated on the development of various industries, including iron, steel, machine tools, electric power, transportation, and coal production. The plan was backed by terror, as those workers who did not meet production goals would be sent to Siberia or the Baltic Sea as forced labor. The New Economic Policy pushed Soviet Union forward, however in the realm of science the Russians did not advance as much comparatively, as scientific research was under strict ideological control (along with art and literature), although free Soviet education system improved general literacy rate. In June 1937, after purging the party once again of his political opponents, he purged the army as well, charging commanders of conspiracy, and installing his loyal supporters in charge. Finally, he would remove those closest to him who knew too much about his purges. In this period (1930s), Stalin's concept of non-antagonistic classes changed Communist theory. Workers and kolkhoz peasantry were the two different classes under Stalin's communist state. Unlike Lenin's classes, these two classes did not struggle against each other in the same society.
On 28 August 1939, Russia signed a non-aggression treaty with Nazi Germany. Shortly after, Russian troops occupied parts of Poland that the country had lost after WW1. In 1939, Stalin ordered the invasion of Finland. Stalin was now fearful of a German attack on Russia, seeing that Germany had accomplished its conquest of continential Western Europe in such a short time. He sent Molotov to Berlin to commit to long discussions with Hitler, however Hitler made unreasonable demands that quickly dismissed Molotov. While Stalin believed that Germany would not be rash enough to invade Russia in 1941, for the risk of the brutal Russian winter, Hitler's Operation Barbarossa launched in summer 1941, surprising Russia.
The first few months of war was costly on Russia. The German forces surrounded Leningrad, and advanced on Moscow. Kiev was under siege, was was later taken by the German troops. However, the time earned at Kiev allowed Moscow to build up its defenses for the inevitable German assault. Seeing the winter was coming, in September Stalin ordered a scorched earth policy where as Russian front backed, anything that could be used by the German troops were destroyed. All German supplies had to come from the heart of German due to this policy. By October 1941, German troops were as close to Moscow as 15 miles. Two million people fled the city within two weeks and headed east, but Stalin stayed in the Kremlin, in a underground bomb shelter. In November, German army attacked Moscow, but the Russian troops stood ground. A Russian counterattack called for by Stalin, which was doubted by military leaders, pushed back the Germans for 200 miles by January. The German troops would never approach so close to Moscow again. Stalin believed in recruiting fresh troops as much as possible, and attack German troops very frequently. It seemed to have worked until the spring thaw, when German troops gathered from the losses in the winter and advanced on Stalingrad. Stalin again used rule by fear policies, denouncing troops that retreated against orders, especially those who left behind equipment that could be used by the Germans. Russian troops deemed "traitors" were executed. In February 1943, at Stalin's namesake city Stalingrad, German troops under the command of Field Marshall Paulus surrendered. At this city, German army lost 1.5 million men, at the cost of an even greater Russian loss, but this would mark as the tide-turning event that put Germany on the downhill on the Russian front. At Tehran in November 1943, Stalin requests that Churchill and Roosevelt created a second front to divert Germany's military from the Russian front. The Invasion of Sicily and later the Normandy landings were a direct result. Stalin was convinced that without a second front, Russia would eventually succumb to Germany's military forces.
Even before the war ended, Churchill began to become concerned of Communist influence in Eastern Europe. At Moscow in October 1944 and Yalta in February 1945, Stalin discussed with Churchill and Roosevelt to draw boundaries of postwar Communist influence, forming what would eventually become the boundaries of the Cold War after WW2. At the Potsdam Conference and beyond, the western powers no longer treated Russia with the same sympathy as it had in the previous meetings, as the United States had developed the atomic bomb, and the end of the war was potentially in sight; Stalin felt he was betrayed by Roosevelt, which further contributes to his untrustfulness of the capitalist west.
After the war, Stalin set up communist governments in Eastern European nations of Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. Russian troops remained in East Germany, and maintained a Communist regime there as well. The 1948 showdown at Berlin, where Stalin established an economic blockade, heightened the seriousness of the Cold War. Stalin also backed Kim Il Sung's invasion from North Korea into the South, but Stalin's miscalculation of US entering the war resulted in Kim almost losing the entire North, until China interfered.
As Stalin's health deteriorated in his seventies, he discovered that several of his doctors were plotting to assassinate him, which further developed into a plot backed by American and British intelligence agencies. This resulted in yet another purge in the Soviet Union to rid of Stalin's political rivals, however the purge was very quickly brought to a halt as Stalin fell into a coma in February 1953. He regained consciousness, but was far from able to return to power. He fell into another coma as a nurse spoonfed him. His last action was raising his left arm and pointed, which Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, interpreted as Stalin placing a curse on the people in the room. He died four days later on 5 March 1953 at the age of 73. Officially, his death was attributed to a cerebral hemorrhage. In 1993, memoirs of Vyacheslav Molotov were published, in which he claimed that Stalin was murdered by being given warfarin, a flavorless rat poison.
Stalin left a legacy of being responsible for the execution of about one million people during his purges in 1935-38, 1942, and 1945-50, along with sending millions of people to labor camps in those periods. However, he was also responsible for transforming Russia from an agricultural society to a superpower that withstood the attack of Germany, and then rose to challenge the United States.
As an aside, although Stalin (as well as state records) insisted his birth date was 21 December 1879, birth records at Uspensky Church in Gori, Georgia showed that Stalin was born on 6 December 1878.
Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin
- "This war is not an ordinary war. It is the war of the entire Russian people. Not only to eliminate the danger hanging over our heads, but to aid all people groaning under the yoke of Fascism."
» On the German invasion, 22 Jun 1941
- "The Red Army and Navy and the whole Soviet people must fight for every inch of Soviet soil, fight to the last drop of blood for our towns and villages...onward, to victory!"
» 1 Jul 1941
- "We secured peace for our country for one and a half years, as well as an opportunity of preparing our forces for defense if fascist Germany risked attacking our country in defiance of the pact. This was a definite gain to our country and a loss for fascist Germany."
» On the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, 3 Jul 1941
Joseph Stalin Timeline
|21 Dec 1879||Ioseb Jughashvili was born in Gori, Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire.|
|1 Sep 1888||Ioseb Jughashvili entered the church school in Gori, Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire.|
|1 Jul 1894||During the month of Jul 1894, Ioseb Jughashvili graduated from the church school in Gori, Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire with excellent grades.|
|1 Sep 1894||Ioseb Jughashvili entered the Tiflis Theological Seminary in Tiflis, Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire.|
|21 May 1899||Ioseb Jughashvili, already disenchanted with religion and rebellious, was removed from the Tiflis Theological Seminary in Tiflis, Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire.|
|28 Dec 1899||Ioseb Jughashvili began working at the Tiflis Meteorological Observatory in Tiflis, Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire.|
|21 Mar 1901||Ioseb Jughashvili stopped working at the Tiflis Meteorological Observatory in Tiflis, Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire.|
|18 Apr 1902||Ioseb Jughashvili was exiled to Siberia, Russia after spending 18 months in prison for coordinating a strike at a factory.|
|26 Jun 1907||Ioseb Jughashvili led a daring heist of a state bank caravan in Tiflis, Georgia Governorate, Russia, successfully robbing the government a very large sum of money to fund revolutionary activities. 40 people, including many bystanders, were killed in the attempt due to the use of explosives.|
|5 Dec 1907||Ioseb Jughashvili's first wife Ekaterina Svanidze passed away in Tiflis, Georgia Governorate, Russia from typhus or tuberculosis, possibly combined with another more common ailment such as pneumonia, with Jughashvili at her side. In Russian Old Style calendar, the date of her passing was recorded as 22 Nov 1907.|
|25 Aug 1909||Besarion Jughashvili, father of Ioseb Jughashvili, passed away in the Mikhailovsky Hospital in Tiflis, Georgia Governorate, Russian Empire.|
|8 Nov 1917||Vladimir Lenin and his Council of People's Commissars proclaimed a Government of Workers and Peasants. Leon Trotsky was installed as Commissar for Foreign Affairs and Josef Stalin, at that time a minor figure in the Bolshevik Party, as Commissar for the Nationalities.|
|3 Apr 1922||Joseph Stalin was appointed the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party.|
|21 Jan 1924||Vladimir Lenin passed away in Gorki near Moscow, Russia. Joseph Stalin would soon begin to purge his political rivals.|
|23 Oct 1927||Leon Trotsky, already expelled from the Politburo, denounced Joseph Stalin on the floor of the Plenum, publicly accusing Stalin as being the real danger to the Leninist party. He received little support from the other Soviet delegates.|
|27 Dec 1929||Stalin called for the liquidation of the Kulaks (peasant speculators) as a class.|
|10 Jul 1935||Stalin and Molotov signed the Central Committee resolution "On the master plan for the reconstruction of Moscow". The ten-year programme, it was proposed, would more than double the area of the capital.|
|8 May 1937||Stalin authorized the reintroduction of political officers in all military units above the size of a division.|
|26 Jun 1937||Moscow City Party Committee secretary Semyon Korytny was arrested for having family ties to Joseph Stalin's perceived political enemy Iona Yakir.|
|5 Mar 1938||Joseph Stalin and the Politburo ordered the Military Collegium to sentence former VCheKa member Valentin Trifonov to death per the recommendation of the GUGB of the Soviet NKVD.|
|18 Mar 1939||At the 18th Party Congress, Joseph Stalin declared that the western aggressor states of United Kingdom and France were pushing Germany toward Eastern Europe, thus provoking an eventual war between Germany and the Soviet Union, a venture that he did not wish to embark the Soviet Union upon.|
|1 Sep 1939||Moscow City Party Committee secretary Semyon Korytny was executed for the crime of having married the sister of military leader Iona Yakir, a perceived enemy of Joseph Stalin.|
|21 Dec 1939||Russia celebrated Joseph Stalin's 60th official birthday. His actual birthday is 18 Dec 1878, but was changed to 21 Dec 1879 after he came to power in 1922.|
|26 Mar 1940||Stalin refused to meet Hitler to discuss an issue regarding a border dispute in occupied Poland.|
|22 Oct 1940||Joseph Stalin accepted Joachim von Ribbentrop's invitation for Vyacheslav Molotov to visit Berlin, Germany.|
|4 May 1941||The Politburo appointed Joseph Stalin the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, thus taking over as the actual head of the Soviet government, which position was previously held by Vyacheslav Molotov.|
|5 May 1941||Stalin announced at a passing-out ceremony for military cadets that there did exist a threat from Germany for which the Red Army had to prepare itself rapidly.|
|27 Jun 1941||Joseph Stalin gave permission to military tribunals to give out death sentences to members of the Red Army without his personal approval.|
|29 Jun 1941||A haggard and tense Stalin set up a Soviet Defence Committee consisted of Molotov, Voroshilov, Malenkov, Beria, and himself, and then retired to his dacha on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, staying there until the following day writing a speech to the Soviet people and drafting two important directives on the Soviet war effort.|
|30 Jun 1941||The Soviet Union formed the State Defense Committee (GKO) to coordinate defense efforts; it was consisted of Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Kliment Voroshilov, Georgy Malenkov, and Lavrentiy Beria.|
|1 Jul 1941||Stalin returned to the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia as Chairman of the new State Defence Committee, set up by law the day before.|
|3 Jul 1941||In a radio address, Joseph Stalin called the Soviet people "brothers and sisters" for the first time.|
|19 Jul 1941||Joseph Stalin declared himself the Soviet Defense Commissar (NKO).|
|7 Aug 1941||Stalin promoted himself to Generalissimo of the Soviet Army.|
|13 Aug 1941||Stalin released the Polish prisoners of war taken in Sep 1939, ostensibly to form a Polish Army in Russia.|
|16 Aug 1941||Joseph Stalin issued Order No. 270, ordering all deserters executed and deserters' families arrested.|
|21 Sep 1941||Joseph Stalin sent a message to Georgy Zhukov, Andrei Zhdanov, Nikolai Kuznetsov, and Vsevolod Merkulov, noting that if the Germans used Russian civilians as messengers to request Soviet troops at Leningrad, Russia to surrender, those civilians must be all killed for that they were "more dangerous than the fascists".|
|7 Oct 1941||In an effort to boost morale in the Soviet Union, Stalin lifted the ban on religion.|
|5 Jan 1942||Soviet forces launched general offensives on the Leningrad, Moscow, Ukraine, and Crimea fronts. Joseph Stalin, who had taken command, refused to heed his generals who warned against a broad 1,000-mile long front.|
|5 Apr 1942||Joseph Stalin ordered the arrest of Moscow Air Defense Corps (PVO) Brigadier Commissar Kurganov for drunkenness, 745th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment commander Zakharov for drunkenness and failure to report to post during an air raid, and 175th Artillery Regiment political officer Andreev and mechanic Military Technician 2nd Rank Kukin for drunkenness and accidental shooting of Lieutenant Kazanovsky. In the same order, he also fired and demoted PVO Main Directorate Chief Major General of Artillery Aleksei Osipov for drunkenness.|
|18 May 1942||Nikita Khrushchev phoned Joseph Stalin at Moscow, Russia, requesting Stalin to pause the Kharkov offensive in Ukraine in order to focus on other more important campaigns; Stalin rejected the request.|
|24 Jun 1942||Joseph Stalin signed the order that widened the range of crimes which would also result in the arrest of family members of the convicted.|
|28 Jul 1942||Joseph Stalin issued Order No. 227, ordering "Ni Shagu Nazad!" ("Not a step back!"). Unit commanders were told to form special units to enforce this order by detaining or executing violators. In parallel, penal battalions (shtrafnye batal'ony) were established for officers detained for violating this order; officers running these battalions would soon gain the authority to execute members for any reason.|
|6 Nov 1942||Joseph Stalin spoke to the Congress of Soviet Deputies, warning the US and UK that a failure to open a second front might well end badly for all freedom-loving countries.|
|25 Jan 1943||In his Order of the Day, Stalin claimed that Soviet troops had routed 102 enemy divisions in two month's fighting.|
|6 Mar 1943||Joseph Stalin was created a Marshal of the Soviet Union.|
|16 Mar 1943||Joseph Stalin demanded the western Allies to open a second front in Europe.|
|19 Apr 1943||Joseph Stalin ordered NKVD's UOO to be split into three separate military counterintelligence directorates and to be placed under the NKO, the Navy Commissariat, and the NKVD.|
|21 Apr 1943||Joseph Stalin officially signed the order to create GUKR SMERSH, the Main Directorate of Counterintelligence "Smert'shpionam" ("Death of Spies") and the naval UKR SMERSH.|
|15 May 1943||Stalin dissolved the Comintern.|
|1 Nov 1943||At a dinner at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Joseph Stalin told Cordell Hull that the Soviet Union would be willing to engage Japan in a war after Germany was defeated.|
|2 Feb 1944||Stalin allowed USAAF aircraft to use Russian bases.|
|22 Feb 1944||Stalin announced that 75% of Soviet territory occupied by the German invaders had now been liberated.|
|12 Apr 1944||Joseph Stalin signed the Soviet Stavka order to reform Western Front into 2nd and 3rd Byelorussian Fronts due to incapable leadership of the Western Front; the top officers of the Western Front were surprisingly not reprimanded seriously and were placed in other important positions.|
|1 May 1944||Joseph Stalin justified taking the war into German borders by noting "[o]ur tasks cannot be restricted by pushing the enemy out of our Motherland.... We must free our brothers from German Europe who have been conquered by Hitler's Germany."|
|26 Sep 1944||Joseph Stalin issued an order stating that all arrests of former top level Bulgarian and Romanian leaders could be done only with authorization of the Soviet Stavka.|
|20 Apr 1945||Joseph Stalin ordered the Soviet Stavka to influence troops to be more humane toward the civilians of conquered German territories in order to ease the future occupation.|
|19 May 1945||Stalin denied that his troops had been arresting Polish leaders for political reasons.|
|20 Sep 1945||Joseph Stalin expressed disapproval of Georgy Zhukov's 9 Sep 1945 order in which Zhukov ordered his troops to stop committing crimes against the German people; Stalin noted that such orders failed to improve discipline.|
|17 Dec 1945||Joseph Stalin returned to Moscow, Russia from an extended vacation in the Caucasus region of southern Russia; it was his first vacation in nine years. Late in the night, he met with Viktor Abakumov, Nikolai Bulganin, Aleksei Antonov, and Sergei Shtemenko regarding the future reorganization of Soviet counterintelligence arms.|
|29 Dec 1945||Joseph Stalin dismissed Aviation Industry Commissar Aleksei Shakhurin due to the incriminating information divulged by Marshal Sergei Khudyako under torture.|
|31 Dec 1945||Joseph Stalin ordered Aleksandr Nobikov to put his son Vasilii Stalin on the promotion list for general rank even though Nobikov thought the younger Stalin was not yet experienced enough for such high rank.|
|9 Feb 1946||At the Bolshoi Theater in central Moscow, Russia, Joseph Stalin made a speech which effectively claimed that the Western Allies played little or no part in the Soviet victory over Germany in WW2.|
|15 Mar 1946||Joseph Stalin renamed all Soviet commissariats to ministries.|
|19 Mar 1946||The Soviet Council of Commissars was renamed the Council of Ministers. Joseph Stalin remained as the chairman of the council.|
|11 Apr 1946||Joseph Stalin informed the Soviet Politburo explaining why former Soviet Aviation Industry Commissar Aleksei Shakhurin and his colleagues were arrested, centering largely on their responsibility for manufacturing faulty aircraft during WW2.|
|24 Apr 1946||Joseph Stalin met with Lavrentiy Beria, Andrei Zhdanov, Georgy Malenkov, Anastas Mikoyan, Viktor Abakumov, Vsevolod Merkulov, and Sergei Ogoltsov over the reorganization of the Soviet Ministry for State Security (MGB).|
|5 Mar 1953||Joseph Stalin passed away.|
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General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944