Stalin: from choir boy to communist butcher


Trainee priest, revolutionary bank robber, and murderous dictator Joseph Stalin began life as Iosif Vissarionovich Djugashvili (Russian script: Иосиф Виссарионович Джугашвили). He was born in Gori, Georgia, in the Russian Empire of 1878.1,2 His mother’s pet name for him was ‘Soso’, the diminutive of ‘Joseph’. He himself used many names during his later secret life, but in 1913, he adopted the name Stalin (Сталин), meaning ‘man of steel’ (Russian stal’ сталь = steel).

Introduction to violence

His father, Vissiaron, or ‘Beso’, was a violent alcoholic who beat his son for the least or no provocation. Once he threw Soso to the floor so hard that there was blood in the boy’s urine for days. Soso was terrified of the drunken Beso. A friend wrote, ‘Undeserved beatings made the boy as hard and heartless as the father himself’, and it was thus through his father that ‘he learned to hate people’.3 Read More: