Profile of Joseph Stalin
During the Great Terror, Stalin hunted down anyone who disagreed with him and had them
Hello I'm Milo for About.com and today we're talking about the former leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin. Stalin was born Ioseb Dzhugashvili into a poor family in Georgia in December 1878, only adopting the name Stalin years later. As a child, Stalin's mother recognized his intellect and thus pushed hard for him to get the education needed to become a Russian Orthodox priest. At age 16, Stalin fulfilled her dreams by being accepted into a seminary. However, despite his religious education, Stalin had already gained a reputation as a ruthless, cruel street gang leader. Just shy of graduating from the seminary, Stalin left to join the revolutionary underground.Stalin had became interested in the writings of Karl Marx while he was at the seminary, and soon joined the Bolsheviks, a revolutionary group in Russia that wanted to topple the Russian monarchy and establish a Communist state. Stalin worked hard and soon became a key figure in the organization. His work with the Bolsheviks was dangerous and illegal, which led to him being arrested numerous times. Often, these arrests led to Stalin being exiled to Siberia from where he repeatedly escaped. During this early revolutionary period, Stalin married for the first time in 1904. However, his wife died of tuberculosis just three years later. Their son, Yacov, fought in World War II but was soon captured. He died in a German POW camp. In 1912, Stalin took over the role of editor of the Bolshevik “Pravda” newspaper, a position that afforded him personal contact with Vladimir Lenin, and from which he was elected to the Bolshevik Central Committee. Then, with the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the ensuing Russian Civil War, Stalin emerged as one of the top three leaders of the new Soviet Union.When Vladimir Lenin died in 1924, there was a period of infighting within the Party about who would succeed Lenin. Stalin, who had spent years gaining loyalty within the Party, eventually emerged as the new leader of the Soviet Union. Nearly immediately Stalin set about creating a cult of personality in which he portrayed himself as a hero to his people. And no one was allowed to disagree, upon pain of death. Stalin's dictatorship was also distinctive because of his Five-Year Plans, which began in 1928. These Five-Year Plans forcibly collectivized farms, which in turn created massive famines that starved millions of people to death. Many more people died during Stalin's Great Terror, which began in 1934. During the Great Terror, Stalin hunted down anyone who disagreed with him and then had them tortured and killed. Many top leaders, especially those in the military, were killed during this purge. When World War II started, Stalin signed a deal with Nazi Germany to keep the Soviet Union out of the war. However, in June 1941, Hitler reneged on the deal and invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union's entrance into World War II proved to be a pivotal event in the course of the conflict. When the Allies finally won, Stalin took huge swathes of Eastern Europe and constructed Soviet “puppet” governments, controlled directly from Moscow. These moves were the first in what became called the Cold War. Stalin used his victory in World War II to further consolidate his position of power, establishing himself as a great wartime leader.However, by this time his health was already deteriorating. Stalin lived for almost 8 more years before eventually dying on March 5th 1953. Stalin was survived by his two children from his second marriage -- a son, Vasily, and a daughter, Svetlana who defected to the USA in 1967. For more excellent, insightful, and interesting information on the 20th Century, check us out at About.com.