Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili, rendered as Josef Vissarionovich Dzugashvili in Russian, 18 December 1878 5 March 1953) 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 Chief" (Sometimes rendered in English 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 and Russian; proficient in German and French; could read Ancient Greek, 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 flawed (if not 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 Leon 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 a 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". 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 hadn't done the same to his old bossnote ).
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 Vasilynote 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. Additionally, retrospective analysis of Stalin's purges indicates genocidal intent against Ukrainians, Kazakhstanis, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Karachay, Kalmyks, Meskhetian Turks, Volga Germans, Baltics, Crimean Tartars, and especially Poles. Documentation of Stalin's sociopolitical opinions indicates that he held a fierce prejudice against Poles in particular (outright calling them filth) and consciously wished to eradicate them by any means necessary. The full extent and casualties of Stalin's genocidal policies are a considerable source of controversy, especially when compared to Hitler's policies of genocide (with some alt-right groups attempting to use the severity of Stalin's atrocities to downplay Hitler's, particularly via the argument that Stalin killed more peoplenote ), but regardless, the general point of consensus is that both Hitler and Stalin were genocidal megalomaniacs.
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 slowly and painfully of a treatable stroke because his personal bodyguard were too afraid to disturb him and left him alone for twelve hours, before ultimately being found lying dead in a puddle of his stale urine, 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 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 legitimized the regime and extended its lifespan, to the extent that 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 as they overlooked Stalin's war effort against the latter. Internationally, in different parts of the world, Stalin's reputation is more mixed and neutral, with condemnation for his crimes balanced with respect and praise 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.
Compare/contrast with Adolf Hitler, another infamous, genocidal leader who was generally considered Stalin's fascist counterpart (although in most cases, Stalin was viewed as a lesser evil compared to Arch-Enemy Hitler). Both men have also been grouped together with Mao Zedong as the "three great despots of the 20th Century".
Appears in the following works:
- 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.
- The French comic "La Mort de Staline" (The Death of Stalin) recounts the events between Stalin's death and Beria's execution. The film adaptation takes a distinctively comedic turn.
- Stalin is featured in Über, which is set in an alternate timeline where the Nazis were saved in the Battle of Berlin by the titular super-soldiers they created. The Soviets acquire the substance needed to make their own Ubers to fight in the war and Stalin sacrifices hundreds of thousands of soldiers to make a few hundred by forcing them to take it without being tested for compatibility. When the most powerful one turns against the Soviets after they betray her, she kills Stalin by transforming him into a statue made of said substance.
- Appears in his seminarist days in Hellboy where he defeats the Baba Yaga.
- 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.
- 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.
- Orson Welles' spy thriller Mr. Arkadin modeled the title character on Stalin's personality and character.
- Robert Duvall played him in Stalin, an HBO movie.
- 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.
- The Death of Stalin is a comedic adaptation of the French comic of the same name.
- Mr Jones (2019) is set in 1933-1934 and starts when the protagonist (British journalist Gareth Jones, a real person) goes to Soviet Union with the intent of getting an interview of Stalin, to get answers about how the country's economy is so strong while the rest of the world is struggling with the Great Depression.
- Shows up often in Russian Humor, oddly enough.
Stalin: Why was this man arrested?
- A man is arrested by the political police and is brought before Stalin by the arresting officer.
Officer: He was shouting "Death to that mustache-wearing bastard!" in the street, Comrade Premier!
Stalin (to prisoner): And who were you referring to?
Prisoner: I was talking about Hitler, Comrade Premier!
Stalin (to officer): And who were you referring to?
- Stalin is giving a speech in a packed auditorium when someone sneezes in the middle of a dramatic pause. "Who sneezed?" No one answers. "Who sneezed!?" Still no answer. "Tell me who sneezed or I will have the first row shot!" Still no answer, the guards open fire on the first row, but still no one will own up to sneezing. Stalin orders the second, third, and fourth row executed, when finally someone in the fifth row breaks down and says "It was me, Comrade Premier!" To which Stalin responds: "Gesundheit, comrade!"
- "Comrade Stalin! Is it true that you collect political jokes?" "I do, comrade." "And how many do you have so far?" "Three and half gulags."
- After Stalin's death, Khrushchev is giving a speech emphasizing the importance of de-Stalinizing the Soviet Union. Someone in the audience jeeringly asks why Khrushchev didn't do anything about it while Stalin was alive, at which point Khrushchev pounds the lectern and demands "Who said that!?" while throwing a Death Glare around and the police officers unholster their weapons. After thirty seconds of unbroken silence, Khrushchev relaxes and says "Now you understand why I did nothing then."
- 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 1984, 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.
- Stalin has been a subject of Accent Adaptation. In 2017, the BBC is producing and broadcasting a series of plays commemorating the centenary of the Russian Revolution. In a dramatisation of the life of Lenin, it is very noticeable that charaters have been given a range of British regional accents to symbolise when they are from other parts of Russia and not natives of St Petersburg/Moscow note ). Lenin's personal driver, for instance, is broad Welsh. And when a thuggish Georgian bank-robber called J.V. Djugashvili enters the play, ''his' accent is Violent Glaswegian, no doubt to symbolise that Georgia is a different country and separate from Russia...
- 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."
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Stalin is the leader of the Soviet faction and is even more paranoid and devoid of redeeming qualities than in real life. He's also been manipulated by Kane into starting this timeline's equivalent of World War II.
- Stalin vs. Martians, of course.
- 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.
- One of the bosses in Viva Caligula 2, alongside Attila, Nero, and Hitler, where he attacks with Soviet Superscience.
- In The New Order Last Days Of Europe, an Alternate History Nazi Victory mod for Hearts of Iron IV, Joseph Stalin conceded the leadership bid to Nikolai Bukharin and died in the late 20s during an industrial accident, with many people believing that his death was orchestated by Bukharin in order to eliminate his strongest political rival. The Communist hardliner remnant in Tyumen under Lazar Kaganovich still upholds his legacy, while Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Stalina, is an Iron Lady democratic candidate in the Republic of Komi.
- The man himself shows up in Hetalia: Axis Powers 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.
- Long live Stalin, he loves you; sing these words, or you know what he'll do!
- In Twilight Of The Red Tsar, ol'Uncle Joe manages to survive his stroke by being in the presence of a man not on his personal staff. Though senile and crippled, he unleashes a new reign of terror upon the Soviet Union, and later upon China.
- In Epic Rap Battles of History, Stalin is pitted against Rasputin the Mad Monk in the Season 2 Finale.
- Appears as Froggo's big buddy in Histeria!!, and is depicted as the Token Evil Teammate of the "Freedom League" sketch. Also appears in Russian Revolution shorts trying to attack Trotsky whenever he can, and gets his own song that parodies "My Favorite Things", where he lists all the terrible things that make him happy.
- 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.
- Adolf Hitler is scared off by characters disguising themselves as Stalin in the Looney Tunes cartoons Herr Meets Hare and Russian Rhapsody.
- In Gravity Falls, one episode's background had a board game called "Don't Wake Stalin!"; the name may be a reference to his Karmic Death.
- In an episode of The Tick, one of the heroic arachnid's opponents was "Stalingrad" - a graduate student in Russian studies who looked and sounded just like Stalin. No special powers, fortunately.