Joseph Stalin was dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or more commonly known as the U.S.S.R from 1929 to 1953. He rose from bitter poverty to become ruler of a country that covers about a sixth of the world’s land area.
Joseph Stalin was born on December 21, 1879, in Gori, a town near Tiflis (which is modern day Tbilisi), in Georgia, a mountainous area of southwestern Russia. His real name was Iosif Vissarionovich Djugashvili. In 1913, he adopted the name Stalin from a Russian word meaning man of steel.
Little is known about Stalin’s early life. His father, Vissarion Ivanovich Djugashvili, was an unsuccessful village shoemaker. Stalin’s mother Ekaterina became a washerwoman to help support the family. The Djugashvilis lived in a small shack. He was his mother’s fourth child to be born in less than four years. The first three died shortly after birth, and Stalin grew up as an only child. When Stalin was young, his father left the family and went to nearby Tiflis to work in a shoe factory.
In 1888, Stalin’s mother sent him to a little church school in Gori. He spent five years there and was a bright student. He then received a scholarship at the religious seminary in Tiflis. Stalin entered the school in 1894 at the age of 14. He soon became known among his classmates for reading and debating. Stalin studied for the priesthood in the Georgian Orthodox Church. But he was repeatedly punished at the seminary for reading forbidden books. These books included Victor Hugo’s novels about social conditions in France, and about French revolutionary movements. Stalin also became interested in the ideas of Karl Marx, a German social philosopher. The people of Tiflis knew little of Marx and his theories about revolution. But political exiles from Moscow and St. Petersburg were beginning to bring Marxist pamphlets to Tiflis and other smaller cities.
In 1898, Stalin joined a secret Marxist revolutionary group. Tiflis seminary, like many Russian schools was a...