Joseph Stalin

Great Soviet statesman, theoretician and activist of the international revolutionary movement, supreme commander of the Soviet armed forces, Generalissimo of the Soviet Union.

Born on 6 (18) December 1878 in Gori, Georgia, as Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, son of a cobbler. His official birthday used to be observed on 21 December.

In the age of 10 he received a scholarship at an Orthodox seminary, first in Gori, and later in Tiflis (Tbilisi). Although as a student he performed outstandingly well, he was not able to keep paying tuition, quit the seminary before final exams, and was effectively  expelled in 1899.

In 1898 he joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, and since then made career as professional revolutionary and statesman. During the years of revolutionary activities he changed several pseudonyms, until he came across "Stalin", with allusion to stal, the Russian word for steel.

Since March 1917 he was a member of the bolshevik party's Central Committee. In October 1917 he became a member of the Military Revolutionary Committee preparing the armed uprising in Petrograd (Petersburg). After the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, he became a member of the Soviet government as the People's Commissar for Nationalities' Affairs, and also the People's Commissar for State Inspectorate.

During the Russian civil war in 1918-1921, Stalin was a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, as well as member of the military councils of fronts, most notably during the defence of Tsaritsyn (1918), for which in 1925 the city was renamed Stalingrad, as well as the Southern Front in war with Poland, after which he was blamed for the defeat in the battle of Warsaw (1920), and forced to resign from military posts, including the chairman of the Council for Labour and Defence.

In 1922 he was appointed the Secretary General of the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks), at that time a minor post in the party's bureaucratic apparatus. After the death of the leader of the revolution, Vladimir Lenin, Stalin gradually transformed his post into a tool of political control, which eventually made him the unchallenged leader of the Soviet state and party. While holding that post, Stalin controlled social, political and economical reforms in the USSR, including elimination of political and military opposition, and consolidation of the country for expected war. That period of the Soviet history was characterized with pitched political struggle, reprisals and total ideological mobilization known as Stalin's personal cult.

Since May 1941 Stalin stood in van of the Soviet government as the prime-minister. During the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union with the Nazi Germany (1941-1945) he simultaneously held offices of the Chairman of the State Defence Committee (since 30 June 1941), People's Commissar for Defence (since 19 July 1941), and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (since 8 August 1941). Under his leadership the Soviet armed forces conducted strategic defensive and offensive operations of the decisive importance to the victory over the fascist bloc.

He played a key role in creating of the anti-fascist coalition, and mobilizing peoples of the Soviet Union and occupied countries for the common struggle with the fascism. Along the British prime-minister, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, and the president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, (so-called Big Three), he took part in the Allies' conferences in Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, which shaped the post-war political system of Europe and the world.

Stalin died on 5 March 1953 in out-of-city villa in Kuntsevo, near Moscow, amidst rumours about the nature of his death - one of the numerous hypotheses, rumours, legends and misconceptions that have always been surrounding his person and his life. He achieved a great civilizational transformation of the backwards, agricultural Russia into the modern, industrial Soviet Union, the second economical and military power of the world. Although in 1956, 1961 and 1986 Soviet authorities undertook unprecedented efforts to minimize Stalin's popularity, his legacy still arouses controversies in the political and social life, as well as literature and cinema.