Useful Notes / Josef Stalin
Long live Stalin, he loves you; sing these words, or you know what he'll do!note 

"What exactly is your job anyway, Josef?"
"I'm... do you remember the Tsar? I'm like the Tsar."
"You would have done better to have become a priest."
Stalin and his mother

Josef Stalin (born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili) was a Georgian who ruled the Soviet Union from 1925 until his death in 1953. He was born on 18th of December 1878 (Old Russian Calender —December 6th) but he changed his date in 1925 (to the 21st of December 1879, Old Russian — December 9th)note . He was fluent in Georgian, Russian and Greek, proficient in German and French, and knew a smattering of English. He never bought a pair of shoes in his life, making and repairing his own from a young age. He could speed-read at an incredible pace, had an excellent memory, never forgot anyone's name, and had an early photograph in which he appeared to be reading with his finger suppressed. He liked to sing tenor, loved Tolstoy, and would frequently write to his favourite contemporary authors to complain about spelling or grammatical errors. Also, he killed 10-12 million people note  because he believed that - as Lenin put it - "that which is good for the Revolution is good" and he had an undue fondness for simple and direct solutions even when the situation called for complexity or subtlety. We're going to refrain from moral commentary upon him or his methods, given that they speak for themselves.

He was born into a lower-middle-class family in Georgia, a mountainous little province of the Russian Empire known for breeding tough macho-mennote . In his early years his family fell on hard times, his father turning to drink and eventually deserting them to become a vagrant (later dying totally estranged from them). Iosef's mother, a right battleaxe, then raised Iosef on her own with a brutal brand of doting.Upon graduating from school his mother pushed him into attending an Orthodox seminary, which he eventually dropped out of. Like many impoverished people of learning, he fell in with revolutionary socialists (and eventually came to help the Bolsheviks by robbing banks, for which he did time in jail) and wrote poetry. At this time he went by the more pronounceable name and alias 'Koba' (Bear). Koba's role in Red October was very minor - famously, post-Glasnost digging unveiled a 1915 communique wherein Lenin forgets Iosef's name and resorted to calling him 'that Georgian guy'. His fast reading speed and excellent recall made him a natural bureaucrat, so he eventually came to organise the Bolshevik Party's newspaper and various Party administrative matters. Important stuff, to be sure, but mind-numblingly dull. It was at this time that he insisted on going by 'Stalin' (Man of Steel) instead, possibly just because lots of top Bolsheviks had awesome codenames and nicknames, e.g. 'Iron Felix' (Felix Dhzerzhinsky, chief of the Secret Police). His big break came in 1921, when Lenin recognised his incredible bureaucratic skills and promoted him to the newly-created post of General Secretary of the Communist Party.

While this post was not supposed to hold any real power, in practice Iosef (now going by the name/alias 'Stalin') was able to use it to gradually alter the composition of the various Party committees which had to approve the decisions of the leadership. Stalin skewed the membership towards centrists and people upon whom he could apply leverage (usually given various types of dirt, e.g. closeted homosexuality), or simply bribe by offering patronage, protection and the promise of social mobility. Upon Lenin's death in 1923 Stalin used the 'grassroots' support he had accrued in the lower-level committees and distrust of the impractically-minded 'leftist' and war-mongering 'rightist' leaders in the Politburo to successfully make a bid for leadership as a moderate, centrist candidate. As a political unknown and 'practical man' who had had little time for 'big ideas', Stalin seemed to be someone who could be easily manipulated by the more powerful and opinionated members of the politburo. Actual notables of The Revolution he had successfully outnmanouevred in securing the leadership included Nikolai Bukharin, Lev Kamenev, and Leon Trotsky. After the fortuitous natural deaths of the most powerful men in the Soviet Union, the Red Army Commander-in-Chief (Mikhail Frunze, surgical malpractice, 1925) and 'Iron Felix' Dzherzhinsky (heart attack, 1926), many thought that Stalin had gone from being a mere figurehead to a formidable political force in his own right. In reality, of course, Stalin had hardly been the powerless pushover that many assumed he had been upon officially taking power. But the deaths of both men in such a short space of time was still an incredible stroke of luck for him. There is some debate as to whether or not someone had had Frunze killed, though, given the manner of his deathnote . After he got all the power he wanted (sometime around 1930), Stalin initiated a huge industrialization and collectivization scheme in the USSR, overseeing an astonishing period of economic growth and initiating programs that would bring mass literacy and a greatly increased life expectancy to what had been an impoverished, rural population — at a horrendous human cost, especially in districts where people had amassed more private property distinct from that of the traditional village Commune system. This hit Ukraine particularly hard, as only 25% of the population there belonged to a Commune as against the national average of about 90%.

Raised in the Georgian Orthodox faith, Stalin later denounced religion and became an avowed atheist (in his biography is a quote from him; "You know, they are fooling us, there is no God… all this talk about God is sheer nonsense"). His government promoted atheism through special atheistic education in schools, anti-religious propaganda, the anti-religious work of public institutions (Society of the Godless), discriminatory laws, and a terror campaign against religious believers. By the late 1930's, it had become dangerous to be publicly associated with religion. However Stalin's role in the fortunes of the Russian Orthodox Church were complex. Continuous persecution in the 1930s resulted in its near-extinction as a public institution: by 1939, active parishes numbered in the low hundreds (down from 54,000 in 1917), many churches had been leveled, and tens of thousands of priests, monks and nuns were persecuted and killed. Over 100,000 were shot during the purges of 1937–1938. During World War II, the Church was allowed a revival as a patriotic organization, and thousands of parishes were reactivated until a further round of suppression during Khrushchev's rule. The Russian Orthodox Church Synod's recognition of the Soviet government and of Stalin personally led to a schism with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. All other religions in the Soviet Union, including the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, Baptists, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism underwent similar ordeals: thousands of monks were persecuted, and hundreds of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, sacred monuments, monasteries and other religious buildings were razed. Though in later years, Stalin preserved continuity between the Old Russia and the New Soviet Union and revived traditions, such as the Orthodox Churchnote 

As a politician, Stalin had to deal with a series of problems, some of them self-created, some of them endemic and others were long-term. His basic overall goal was consolidation of the Soviet Union. Naturally this implied consolidation of his authority and ability to consolidate the Revolution. This also implied stifling the rise of potential and new threats, which put him in a paranoid mindset. In addition to this there is the nature of Stalin's power-base. His support within the party stemmed from his ability to promote individuals into prominent places, in a system of patronage and friendship that was endemic in the culture of the Russian Empire, which Lenin had failed to fully modernize via his vision of a professional revolutionary organization that would award positions on merit. Since Stalin used his position as Secretary to reward positions and leverage on sympathizers to his side and this in turn made him overall leader, he had to honour that self-created precedent or face opposition in the party in favour of other candidates who can tap that discontent and mobilize an effective opposition against him. These circumstances paved way for the clusterfuck that is the Great Purge.

The purges involved regional party bosses across the Soviet Union denouncing and giving lists of suspected "Fifth Columnists", "traitors", "fascists", usually their bureaucratic rivals so as to create new vacancies for more trustworthy people, namely themselves. The purges targeted the Left Opposition of former Trotsky sympathizersnote  and then the Right Opposition, such as Nikolai Bukharin who had formerly backed Stalin on key points. The purges expanded when NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda who had managed the original trials was demoted and executed, and replaced by Nikolai Yezov. Yezov was especially skilful in tapping into the family network and friendships of various accusednote , and this led to the bloodiest period known as the Yezovschina which eventually led the Purge to claim more than a half-million deaths. Stalin was a willing participant, enforcer and enabler of these purges, and the new vacancies in the army, politburo and various regional divisions became an ad-hoc social mobility drive, albeit one which left them no new base except for the Vozhd (Boss) himself. Yet the Purges would never have reached the scale it did had it not been for considerable "pressure from below" and over time, even Stalin was uncomfortable about the expansion in scale, and he would intervene from time and time to spare a few people from the purge (Boris Pasternak for example). Eventually, Yezov overreached himself and Stalin disposed of him and replaced him with new appointee Lavrentiy Beria, at which point the purges ended with a large number of political opponents imprisoned in The Gulag, and new deportees sent there (and also released from there) periodically, though never in anything matching that scope. These purges weakened the Reds with Rockets, which was part of the plan since Stalin wanted to exercise party control over the army. The new cadre of officers that had taken over the "vacancies" (some imprisoned, others shot) relied on Stalin for their support. By the time the war against Germany began, Stalin had killed every single leader of the original Bolshevik Partynote . The control over the media expanded in this time, the development and promotion of Socialist Realism over the modernism and formalism that came before, the Cult of Personality that now heavily promoted Stalin as Lenin's successor, which was successful as a new generation of young men had grown up in The Soviet Twenties, and since the elder statesmen of the Bolshevik partynote  were missing, save for Stalin, his base was now secure and he merely had to paternalistically indulge the youth, within the party, outside the party and casual visitors, posing as Big Brother Mentor or Parental Substitute.

Stalin's domestic policy was quite consistent: industrialize Russia by any means necessary, consolidate party rule and when necessary, create job openings. His foreign policy however was quite mercurial. On one hand, his promotion of "Socialism in One Country" was meant to cool down global fears of world revolution, and turn inwards. This involved his lack of support for the Chinese Communist Party, and his support for the KMT and encouragement of a coalition between them. He also exercised control over the Comintern to oppose Trotsky's Fourth Internationals and a broad leftist coalition with liberals and social democrats (pace Lenin who suggested this in the early 20s to German and British Communists). On the other hand, he was critical and skeptical of Hitler and Nazism, and attempted to form coalitions with England and France during the Sudeten Crisis and briefly via Comintern, expressed support for the creation of the Popular Front of the mid-30s that eventually took power in France until the end of the Third Republic, and played a key part in the Spanish Civil War. On the other hand, he eventually agreed to forming the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Hitler just before the war, flip-flopped in his relationships with the Spanish Republicans encouraged in-fighting with Trotskyists and at the end of the Spanish Civil War, decided to keep the Spanish Gold Reserves that the Republic gave to Moscow, and via his agents, assassinated Leon Trotsky. On one hand, he supported Israel and Zionism in 1948 at the UN, yet a few years later, despite reviving Lenin's anti-racist programs in the late-20s and early-30s, mounted the only organized anti-semitic campaign in Russia since the end of the Tsardom, euphemistically described as anti-Zionism with Jews labelled "rootless cosmopolitans". This coincided with the the so-called Doctor's Plot note . The circumstances of the production of Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky which was greenlit by Stalin as an anti-German propaganda in 1937, released in 1938 to general success and then shelved in 1939 after the Pact, and revived in 1941 after Operation Barbarossa again to rip-roaring global success is a good example of Stalinism-in-Action.

Following the Great Patriotic War, Stalin's cult status was massive and his international reputation and prestige was at its greatest, even recieving a guilded sword from the King of England. Even in America, Roosevelt who was neutral towards Communismnote  promised aid in the form of a loan to the Soviet Union (which his successors never honoured, which Stalin nursed quite a grudge about) and hopes for continuing the "Grand Alliance" via the UN. The arrival of his successor Harry Truman, nuclear arms race, the Cold War changed that. Stalin always eager to even the odds against "the advanced nations", closed the gap in a mere four yearsnote  and converted the Soviet Union into the second nuclear superpower which made him as unpopular internationally as it made him popular domestically. His reputation in the Soviet Union wasn't seriously hit until Khrushchev's seminal "Secret Speech" in 1956, in which Stalin was denounced and accused of numerous crimes — this speech reportedly caused not only open weeping but heart attacks in the audience. The Khruschev thaw restored the reputations of some of the people denounced in the purges (though not Trotsky) and lessened Stalin's constribution to the Great Patriotic War, and began a period of de-Stalinization that to some extent never really ended until the twilight and passing of the Cold War, where the long-suppressed Katyn Massacre was finally ackowledged and the famine in Ukraine, known as the Holodomor, has taken greater importance in the popular discourse on his legacy.

Between 10 and 12 million deaths (separate from the losses attributable to the Nazi Invasion) occured on his watch. These numbers, disturbing as they are, are often considerably exaggerated since most books about Stalin were written before the fall of the Soviet Union, and emerging archival research into his regime is done by independent academics still trying to arrive at a consensus about the real numbers and actual impact of his legacy, most of which hasn't reached popular memory. The total of 10-12 million comes from demographic estimates of 6-8 million dead in the 1932-4 famines, a million-plus in the 1946-7 famines, 750k dead in the Purges of 1937-8, and about 1.9 million dying in prison (many from starvation in the months of tightest rationing during World War Two). In the case of the deaths in prison, historians like J. Arch Getty credit the war rather than any policy of deliberate starvation since the ration situations in The Gulag were not disproportionately worse than in other parts of the wartorn nation. There is considerable controversy whether the 1932 famines are creditable as a deliberate policy of starvation (and so a genocide) or a criminally incompetent program of collectivization. The regions suffered from famines periodically over historynote . Interestingly, some of the sillier death-estimates to come out of the Cold War have claimed that more people died in Soviet prisons than were ever imprisoned in the first place (e.g. 50 million, more than a quarter of the population of the Soviet Union). That's how willing people are to believe the man was evil incarnate, rather than a ruthless bastard of a human being.

Popular memory of Stalin revolves around his paranoia note  and his role as a Leader of an Allied country during the War, where he became etched as Hitler's Arch-Enemynote . The supposed circumstances of his death, dying of a preventable stroke because his personal bodyguard were too afraid to disturb him and left him alone for twelve hours, were actually a fabrication. This is the only detail common to all four of the falsified accounts of Stalin's final hours (by Nikita Khruschev, Anasatas Mikoyan, the chief of Stalin's MGB guard detail Colonel Starostin, and Starostin's deputy-chief Lozgachev). The current best guess of Roy and Zhores Medvedev, Stalin's greatest biographers, is that Starostin's left Stalin to die out of a pragmatic desire to benefit from the timing of Stalin's death. Stalin was ultimately, it seems, too amiable and trusting with his staff. note 

Most of what the West knows about Stalin comes from Khruschev and the works of Leon Trotsky, which are still far more reliable than the many other tall tales and legends revolving around the man and his crimes. In either case, while these denunciations are revealing and important about some of his actions, their insights into how he governed and his actual motives are far less illuminating. It's a topic of debate and controversy whether Stalin had an authentic Marxist vision, whether his policies are a reversal of Lenin or merely an extension of the most dubious aspects of his administration, if his regime was the inevitable end-product of the Communist and Revolutionary ideology or the end result of any attempts to bring changes in Russia. Recent scholars, especially since The '80s and The '90s, have questioned if his regime was the Orwellian totalitarian landscape of the famous satirist, since during his regime, communications and infrastructure varied in various districts of the Soviet Union, with no telephone lines in the East until the start of World War II, and in different parts, regional party chiefs ran things their way without much oversight from Vozhd. His Cult of Personality and posthumous elevation of Lenin as a founding figure, legitimated the regime and extended its lifespan to the extent the Soviet Union lasted 37 years after his death. His policies of rapid industrialization played a crucial role in the Soviet Union's victory over the Nazis, in their rise to a superpower and their building of nuclear weapons. Stalin's rule lasted for 30 years, so he was the longest-lasting ruler of the group of Nations comprising the Soviet Union.

Appears in the following works:

  • The extraordinarily weird American propaganda film Mission to Moscow (1943) features a Stalin who is an enlightened, wise leader bringing Russia into a freer, more democratic future.
  • In Animal Farm, Napoleon is clearly meant to be Stalin. A scene where all the animals ducked from an explosion was changed to have Napoleon stand firm - Orwell hated Stalin, but acknowledged that his staying in Moscow, when it would be far easier to leave, showed that for all his monstrosity and enormous flaws, he did have some balls.
    • Orwell contacted what sources he could in eastern Europe to find out if Stalin really had stayed in Moscow at the war's low point. Finding out from enough people that he had, Orwell asked his publishers to change that one line. It was not so much out of admiration as out of a wish to be fair on Orwell's part.
    • And 1984, where "Big Brother" is essentially a Stalin with the face of Adolf Hitler. Though it is a little too beholden to the Trotskyist belief that "Big Brother" is merely a cover and shield for the nomenklatura for it to be really any kind of accurate satire on Stalin.
  • The man himself shows up in Axis Powers Hetalia as Russia's leader during the WW2 strips, where he's shown as being an abusive, manipulative prick. Though Ivan does turn the tables on him by the end. Especially since it's implied that Russia himself actually kills him off-screen.
  • Underground Comics artist, Spain Rodriquez wrote a short comic titled simply Stalin for Art Spiegelman and Bill Griffith's Arcade: The Comics Revue. The comic is a favourite of Alan Moore and it features Stalin's weird habits such as his insistence on living in a tiny room in the Kremlin and then having that room recreated to the tiniest detail in every place of residence he stayed or passed by.
    Joseph Stalin, Soviet Man of Steel. How many died unnecessarily in his performance of history's dreadful task? After many years, questions still stir his uneasy grave.
  • Arthur Koestler's novel Darkness at Noon refers to him only as "No. 1," though it's mentioned that he had been called many names.
  • The instigator of WWII in the Alternate History game Command & Conquer: Red Alert. As much as a Jerk Ass as in real life, yet woefully lacking in the Magnificent Bastard department. The latter seals his fate: he ultimately dies, differently depending on which side you're on.
  • Makes several appearances in Alternate History stories by Harry Turtledove:
    • In Literature/Worldwar, he's the same as the historical Stalin, leading the Soviet Union through WW2 after the aliens invade, and eventually being succeeded by Foreign Minister Molotov (who was sidelined and forced out of the Party in real life).
    • In TL-191, he's one of the leaders of the Communist fighters in Tsaritsyn (which became Stalingrad in our timeline - Historical In-Joke), being referred to by the Western media as "The Man of Steel", the literal translation of "Stalin". In the end, the Communists lose and Tsarism is reasserted.
      • Which is a fairly accurate picture of what he was really doing at the time. Stalingrad was in fact named after him BEFORE his rise to power due to his command of the city's defense and his eventual victory over the besieging Whites.
    • In the short story Joe Steele, his family emigrates to America and he becomes a dictatorial politician in the USA.
    • In the Darkness series, which is basically WW2 with Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, Stalin's equivalent is the mad King Swemmel of Unkerlant, who had his twin brother Kyot (analogue of Trotsky) murdered.
  • Appears as Froggo's big buddy in Histeria!!
  • Similarly, he's the title character in Michael Moorcock's The Steel Tsar.
  • The The Adventures of Samurai Cat books have him and Hitler as relatively genial buddies, oddly. World War II was just a bet between them to see who could kill more Russians; the loser ended up working for the winner. And they all became werewolves. Even Hitler. And, oddly, neither Tomokato nor Shiro could kill him. For the series being very loose with reality and history (a samurai who's heard of the Chicago Cubs in 16th century Japan, while discussing their awfulness with Prohibition-era gangsters).
  • In Superman: Red Son, Communist Superman initially reported to Stalin, before taking over leadership of the Soviet Union after Stalin's death ("The Man of Steel is dead!").
  • Appears as part of The Terror's Legion of Doom on The Tick.
    • Or rather, a guy who really looks like Joseph Stalin and has done some research on him. For The Terror, that's close enough for him to make the team.
  • And of course, Stalin Vs. Hitler.
  • In Greg Bear's Vitals, Stalin funded a rogue biologist's research into immortality through the use of specially bred bacteria. And the plan succeeded. Sadly, the successful implementation of the procedure takes a toll on the subject's mind and involves being sealed into in a iron-lung style container half-filled with growth medium and bacteria. The book's protagonist finds him (along with other ex-Soviet leaders) in such a state in a secret chamber underneath downtown Manhattan.
  • Robert Duvall played him in an 1992 television movie on HBO.
  • The 1998 Russian film, Khrustalyov, My Car! by director Aleksei German is set in the final days of Stalinist Russia in the climate of the anti-semitic crackdown of the "Doctor's Plot". We get a glimpse of Stalin's ugly, messy Karmic Death.
  • Played by Aleksey Petrenko in the 2009 HBO wartime biopic of Churchill Into the Storm.
  • An episode of Animaniacs had the Warners visiting the Yalta Conference, and jumping on Winston Churchill's big belly. Uncle Joe decides that looks like fun, and joins them.
  • In the Wild Cards superhero setting, Stalin's death is shrouded in mystery; there's a rumour that he was done in by one of his aides after turning into a vampire.
  • Also in the game Stalin vs. Martians.
  • In Adam Robert's novel Yellow Blue Tibia, in 1946 he commissions a group of young Soviet science fiction writers to devise a fake propaganda story about an invasion of the Soviet Union by radiation aliens in order to unite the Soviet people in opposing them. Forty years later, one of the authors,Konstantin Sckvorecky, believes that the story is becoming reality when the events of Chernobyl and the Challenger disaster mirror the ones in the story. He dreams that Stalin appears to him and informs him that he (Stalin) is an alien himself and knew the invasion would come, although the book is vague as to whether this was a dream or not.
  • Assassin's Creed II lists him as one of four Knights Templar who orchestrated World War II (the other three being FDR, Churchill and Hitler), and who controlled his subjects using an artifact that granted mind control over the populace. He was eventually killed by one of the eponymous assassins.
  • In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, it's implied Stalin is actually a son of Hades. In fact, its Wiki outright states it.
  • In GURPS Technomancer, Stalin did not die in 1953, he was merely put into magical stasis-sleep-type-thing to be awakened when Motherland will be in danger. He awoke in 1996, after Communism fell, and started a civil war to oust democrats and capitalists from his country.
  • In the 1938 musical Leave it to Me!, Stalin appears at the end of the first act to give "Comrade Alonzo" (the American ambassador) a kiss on the cheek.
  • In Civilization I Stalin is the default Russian leader, the Premier of the USSR in the stock WWII scenario of II, a secondary character in III and one of the possible leaders of Russia in IV. As an AI, he's kind of a hardass, and it's hard to stay on his good side for long.
  • Long live Stalin, he loves you; sing these words, or you know what he'll do!
  • The leader of the USSR in the Hearts of Iron, classed as "Ruthless Powermonger" and "Backroom Backstabber".
  • Commander Stalin, a freeware RTS game.
  • Appears in Robert Bolt's 1977 play State of Revolution, unsurprisingly as the villain (with Lenin and Trotsky as protagonists). Stalin's Establishing Character Moment has him confronting the leader of the Georgian Communist Party, coolly telling him "I am here to purge your party."
  • Stalin is the main antagonist of the second half of The Prayer Warriors Threat of Satanic Commonism, in which a group of fundamentalist Christians travel back in time to prevent the Communists from coming to power and killing Christians. There are too many historical inaccuracies to list, but the fact that his predecessor is called "John Lennon" should give some idea of what kind of work this is.
  • Played by Colin Blakeley in the 1983 TV film Red Monarch. Based on Soviet dissident Yuri Krotkov's essays, it satirizes Stalin's paranoid leadership style in the final years of his life.
  • Played by Michael Caine in the TV miniseries When Lions Roared.
  • The 1996 Australian comedy film Children of the Revolution revolves around Joe, the lovechild of a brief affair between Stalin and an Australian woman who meets him while on a study trip to the USSR shortly before his death. Stalin is played by F. Murray Abraham.
  • Shows up as a fresh-faced, gregarious young revolutionary and acolyte of Lenin in Nicholas and Alexandra.
  • The Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series began with Stalin and, historical inaccuracies aside, is considered not only one of the evilest and psychotic portrayals of the man, but one of the most accurate as well.
  • Sent up here by Eric Idle, Henry Woolf and David Batley in Rutland Weekend Television. A genial Stalin played by Eric Idle shows you how to cook Omelette Stalin, in Communist Kitchen. note 
    Whenever you've shot all the people to shoot, and you've shot the firing squad too...
  • Adolf Hitler is scared off by characters disguising themselves as Stalin in the Looney Tunes cartoons Herr Meets Hare and Russian Rhapsody.
  • Nero visited Stalin in The Peace Initiative of Nero to convince him to become a pacifist. He holds a peace elixir under Stalin's nose causing him to suddenly want to make an end to the Cold War. Unfortunately Nero starts argueing which one of them is the greatest peacemaker and thus Stalin throws him into a dungeon, ending Nero's peace initiative.
  • A short story by Anatoli Kudravcev features Stalin and Hitler as progressors of an advanced allien race attempting to save the planet from overpopulation. They discuss the way they can prolong the conflict but ultimately conclude that humanity is doomed despite their best efforts.

Alternative Title(s): Joseph Stalin, Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, Iosif Stalin, Stalin