Useful Notes / Josef Stalin

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/media_l_4493868.jpg
"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, rendered as Josef Vissarionovich Dzugashvili in Russian) was a Georgian who ruled the Soviet Union from 1925 until his death in 1953, the second undisputed ruler after Vladimir Lenin. His official title changed from time to time, but he was generally referred to officially as "Comrade Stalin" and unofficially as "Vozhd"—literally translated as "The Boss." He was born on 18th of December 1878 (Old Russian Calender —December 6th) but he changed his birthday in 1925 (to the 21st of December 1879, Old Russian — December 9th, for reasons that are still unknown). 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 over 20,000 books in his personal library (and read all of them, as evidenced by numerous notes on 90% of these books) 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. He could recite Walt Whitman's poetry verbatim in multiple languages, was a huge fan of Charlie Chaplin, and was an avid gardener. He made a number of lifelong friendships, was eminently charismatic when he put his mind to it, and managed to match wits with H. G. Wells himself in a face-to-face interview. Politically and diplomatically, he was marked by a remarkably astute practice of Realpolitik.

He was also an extraordinarily damaged human being, prone to insecurity and low self-esteem because (unlike the other Old Bolsheviks) he had rarely traveled abroad, was not truly fluent in French or German (or English), always spoke with a noticeable Georgian accent and was more self-consciously provincial than cosmopolitans like Lenin and Trotsky. He did not take insults lightly, held grudges for decades until he could act upon them, and delighted in the suffering and the deaths of his enemies and victims. Politically, he was steadfast believer in the paramount importance of Marxist-Leninist ideological purity even when this created enormous practical problems and human suffering. He made gross errors which almost brought about the destruction of the Soviet Union (Collectivisation, Great Purges). Josef Stalin was ultimately responsible for the avoidable deaths of some 10-12 million Soviet civilians because he believed that (as Lenin put it) "that which is good for the Revolution is good", and the avoidable deaths of some 2-3 million Soviet soldiers because he didn't want to believe he'd been Out-Gambitted by Nazi Germany's Operation Barbarossa. He was also a big fan of the Klingon Promotion, as evinced by the chiefs of his State Sec (Lavrenti Beriya's first act as chairman of the NKVD was to personally execute his predecessor, Nikolai "The Bloody Dwarf" Yezhov, who had done the same to his own predecessor, Genrikh Yagoda, who had done the same to his old boss...).

His personal life was as turbulent as his political career. He was by all accounts very much in love with and loyal to his first wife Ekaterine "Kato" Svanidze, and was devastated when she died just two years into their marriage. On the other hand, he was an absolute bastard to his much-younger (he was 39 on their wedding day; she was 16) second wife Nadezhda Sergeyevna Alliluyeva, whom he abused emotionally and physically, and habitually cheated on until she killed herself in 1932. He was a mixed bag with his children as well. His daughter Svetlana was the absolute center of his universenote , he had healthy relationships with his second son Vasily and adopted son Artyomnote . He treated his eldest son Yakov like crapnote . He is known to have sired at least two illegitimate children with his female housekeepers; more are suspected, but can't be conclusively proven. He also stood only 5'4" (to the surprise of Harry Truman) and wore platform shoes to appear taller, and had his speeches read by a voice actor to hide his squeaky voice and Georgian accent. And while he was not averse to personal risk (ironic considering his paranoia), he was terrified of flying, going up in an airplane only twice in his life: to and from the Tehran Conference.

While Stalin was ultimately responsible for the human cost of his rule, as we have documentary evidence that he was fully aware of it, approved of it and conceived or ordered actions that contributed to it, there is considerable room for quibbling over the role played by his subordinates. An entire generation of idealistic and opportunistic bureaucrats, including Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, encouraged Stalin's paranoid and ruthless tendencies out of genuine belief, for personal gain, and/or both. After Stalin's death these men attempted to pin sole responsibility upon Stalin to avoid implicating themselves, with Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" to the 20th Party Congress on the 25th of March 1956 inaugurating this development. Western European scholarship of the time took this assertion and ran with it, but from the late 1990s onward (after the opening of the Soviet Archives) scholars began to appreciate that much of Stalin's policies had a sizable consensus among party elites and even the peoples of the Soviet Union. Here we should distinguish very clearly between the Collectivisation measures of the Second Five-Year Plan of 1928-1933 and the Purges of 1935-38. Stalin pushed the former from above over the objections of experts and Regional governments, but in the latter was met halfway by Local government figures (like Nikita Khrushchev) and even some ordinary citizens trying to remove experts and Regional government figures so they could rise through the ranks and make the regional governments responsive to central control.

The historiography of Stalin has changed over time, shifting from him being an all-knowing sadist, an "Oriental despot", or a neo-Tsar who embodied the recidivism of a backward people (Pre-Cold War view and one that was shared by Stalin's enemies inside the USSR, and also partly by Stalin himself); a largely oblivious puppet of the Soviet bureaucracy (Dissident and Trotskyist view, which was aimed to separate Stalin from "real" Marxism and "real" Communism); a mad ideologue who was Socialism and Marxism taken to the logical extreme (Cold War view which meant that all Communists in every nation past, present, and future were future Stalins). The fact that USSR was an isolated closed society, and that the government maintained controls on information and education, means that a full picture untethered by political and ideological biases had to wait for the end of the USSR to really form itself. A lot of the documents from the Stalin era are still under wraps. Today the best living biographers of Stalin, Stephen Kotkin and the brothers Roy & Zhores Medvedev, among others, put the number of 'avoidable' deaths under Stalin's leadership at about 10-12 million. This can be broken down into some 6-8 million dead in the 1932-4 famines resulting from the forcible collectivisation of agriculture note and lack of national-level provision of food aid, about 2 million from disease and overwork as state prisoners during WWII (as the Soviet State prioritized the importation of rare materials necessary for war production over the high-calorie-content food products necessary to keep prisoners alive), about 1 million dead in the 1946-7 famines which resulted from the wartime overuse of poor soils and poor provision of food-aid, 750k dead in the Purges of 1935-38, and several tens of thousands more dead in prison or from execution by the NKVD/NKGB during Stalin's tenure.

Popular memory of Stalin revolves around his post-1928 paranoia note , his stance on religion 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 most accepted guess of Roy and Zhores Medvedev is that Starostin left Stalin untreated out of a pragmatic desire to benefit from the timing of Stalin's crippling or death. Stalin was ultimately, it seems, too amiable and trusting with his staff. note 

It's a topic of debate and controversy whether whether his policies are a reversal of Lenin or merely an extension of the most dubious aspects of his administration, if his regime was evidence of a backward country asserting itself over a revolutionary and modernizing project, or a symptom and extension of the same drive towards modernization. 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, and in addition to that, he remains for the present moment, the longest-lasting ruler of Russia since Catherine the Great who reigned for 34 yearsnote 

There's a growing cottage industry of books on Stalin. The most famous books written during the Cold War is by the poet-historian Robert Conquest whose The Great Terror while considered Dated History today in some parts, nonetheless brought attention to the much larger scope of Stalin's purge, which formerly had focused on the highly publicized show trials of the "Old Bolsheviks". More authoritative works were written by the Soviet dissident brothers, Roy and Zhores Medvedev, who published archival material on Stalin. Recently, the American historian, Stephen Kotkin has won acclaim for the first of his projected three-part biography Stalin: Paradoxes of Power which focuses on the geopolitical context of Stalin's origins, background and impact. In America and Western Europe, Stalin is the embodiment of evil, one step below Hitler, and the two are often paired or compared to each other. Internationally, in different parts of the world, Stalin's reputation is more mixed and neutral, with condemnation for his crimes balanced with respect for his role as a war leader. Modern Russia has fully made public and acknowledged his crimes and involvement in the purges, The Gulag and collectivization, but this is balanced with, especially under the Putin administration, appreciation for his role as a populist reforming autocrat in the vein of Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible, who ruthlessly modernized a nation to better defend it against foreign invasion, first against the Nazis and then the West during the Cold War.


Appears in the following works:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Fan Fiction 
  • 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.

    Film 
  • 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.
  • 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 (2009).
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • George Orwell:
    • 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 to not be too alienating to the rather pro-Soviet audiencenote .
    • And Nineteen Eighty-Four, where "Big Brother" is essentially the Cult of Personality of 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.
  • 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.
  • Makes several appearances in Alternate History stories by Harry Turtledove:
    • In 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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...

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 
  • 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.
  • 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."

    Video Games 
  • The instigator of WWII in the Alternate History game Command & Conquer: Red Alert. Stalin is the leader of the Soviet side and is one of the evilest and most psychotic portrayals of the man and, frighteningly, this portrayal was pretty accurate of the man himself, from paranoia leading to execution of officers to mass murder on civilians. However, he's woefully lacking in the Magnificent Bastard department. This seals his fate: he ultimately dies, differently depending on which side you're on.
  • Also in the game Stalin vs. Martians.
  • 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 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.
  • The leader of the USSR in the Hearts of Iron, classed as "Ruthless Powermonger" and "Backroom Backstabber".
  • Commander Stalin, a freeware RTS game.
  • Calm Down Stalin puts us in the shoes of the man himself, whose day-today activities boil down to rule the Soviet Union and not die of a stress-induced heart attack... While being pestered by phone calls from the US, western spies/corrupt Party members and a malfuctioning office lamp.

    Webcomics 
  • 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.
  • And of course, Stalin Vs. Hitler.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Joseph Stalin

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/JosefStalin?from=Main.JosefStalin