Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Soviet revolutionary and politician of Georgian nationality. Leading the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953, he served as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952 and as the nation’s Premier from 1941 to 1953. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fascinating facts about Joseph Stalin.
1. Initially the head of a collective party elite that governed by consensus, he ultimately removed his rivals and accumulated power to become the Soviet Union’s dictator by the late 1930s.
2. Ideologically a Marxist and a Leninist, Stalin helped to formalize their ideas as Marxism-Leninism while his own policies became known as Stalinism.
3. Born to a poor family in Gori, Russian Empire, Stalin began his revolutionary career in his youth by joining the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.
4. While part of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, he edited the party’s newspaper, Pravda, and raised funds for Vladimir Lenin‘s Bolshevik faction via robberies, kidnappings, and protection rackets.
5. After the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia during the 1917 October Revolution, Stalin joined the party’s governing Politburo where he was instrumental in overseeing the Soviet Union’s establishment in 1922.
6. Despite Lenin’s opposition, he assumed leadership over the country shortly after the former’s death in 1924.
7. During Stalin’s rule, “Socialism in One Country” became a central tenet of the party’s dogma, and Lenin’s New Economic Policy was abandoned in favor of a centralized command economy.
8. Under the Five-Year Plan system, the country underwent rapid industrialization but also experienced significant disruptions in food production that contributed to the famine of 1932 and 1933.
9. To eradicate those regarded as “enemies of the working class,” Stalin instituted the “Great Purge” in which over a million people were imprisoned and at least 700,00 were executed from 1934 to 1939.
10. Farmers under Stalin’s rule harvested enough grain to feed the Russian people during widespread famine that killed millions, but Stalin insisted on exporting it to pay for his new factories.
11. Between 1936 and 1938, Stalin instigated “The Great Purge” to purge the Communist Party and to consolidate his own power. Millions of people were sent to forced labor, kidnapped or executed. He purged more than two thirds of his own generals, field commanders and naval admirals in the Red Army.
12. Stalin allegedly appointed chief scientist Ilya Ivanov to create hybrid ape-man of, “immense strength, but with an underdeveloped brain.” When Ivanov was unable to deliver, he was arrested and exiled to Kazakhstan.
13. Stalin was hit by a horse-drawn carriage twice as a child, which led to permanent damage of his left arm. This injury exempted him from fighting in World War I, where he would have likely died.
14. Stalin loved movies, especially westerns. He considered himself a movie producer and director, screenwriter and a supreme censor.
15. His main rival in the Communist Party, Leon Trotsky, nicknamed Stalin “Comrade Index Card.”
16. It’s estimated that the death toll directly attributed to Stalin’s rule is over 20 million lives, on top of the estimated 20 million Soviet troops and civilians who died during World War II.
17. Stalin had no regard for human life. He even said, “Death is the solution to all problems. No man, no problem.”
18. During World War II, Stalin ordered Red Army officers to execute deserters and troops who ran from battle. Between 1941 and 1942 alone, more than 150,000 soldiers were shot.
19. In 1952, Stalin created an imaginary conspiracy called the Doctor’s Plot, in which he arrested hundreds of doctors and medical workers, mostly Jews. Ironically, all the best doctors were in jail when Stalin suffered a stroke and subsequently died.
20. Stalin had two older siblings who died young. He was the only child in his family to survive to adulthood.
21. As a teenager, Stalin was a bully, notorious for acts of violence and vandalism.
22. His father, Besarion, was an alcoholic who often beat his wife and young son. After his business failed, Besarion left his wife and Stalin, visiting them only occasionally to continue the beatings and to drink.
23. His mustache was one of the most iconic “logos” of the 20th century.
24. He had several physical deformities, including a face scarred by small pox, a webbed foot, and a withered arm. He would remain incredibly self-conscious of his appearance throughout his life.
25. During his secret life, Stalin was known by several names, including Soso, Soselo or Koba. The latter was the name of the romantic hero in Alexander Kazbegi’s 1882 novel The Patricide.
26. Stalin was only 5’4”. President Truman’s nickname for Stalin was “the little squirt.”
27. He often killed his closest allies and compatriots. He once said, “I trust no one, not even myself.”
28. Before becoming the leader of the Soviet Union, his one and only legitimate job was that of a weatherman for an observatory. However, he had to leave the job suddenly to escape the Tsar’s secret police.
29. Stalin was an aspiring poet at one point. Under the name Soselo, he authored and published several poems, including odes to violets.
30. He was exiled to Siberia seven times. He managed to escape most of those times, sowing a penchant for dramatic getaways and adopting a wide range of aliases and disguises.