Joseph Stalin: Biography, Facts & Timeline

Instructor: Chris Almeria

Chris has a Master of Arts in International Relations.

Joseph Stalin is a man who defines the phrase cult of personality. He killed millions of his own people, enslaved millions more in a prison system set up in the middle of nowhere while ruling with an iron fist.

Joseph Stalin in History

Imagine a man whose own actions and directives against his own people could rival - even surpass - an invading army that sought to conquer it? The United States and the United Kingdom did not trust him fully, with General George S. Patton (U.S. Army) comparing him to Genghis Khan for his ravenous appetite for conquest of land and his willingness to easily switch sides.

This is not a product of bad dream - it is the man we know as Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili - who in 1912 adopted the nom de guerre 'Man of Steel' years before Superman went by the same name. The Russian word for 'Man of Steel' doesn't refer to a superhero - it's pronounced 'Stalin'.


Born to a working-class family in the nation of Georgia in December of 1878 or 1879, Joseph Stalin would become more than just a political operative who would sanction the execution of political rivals in a push to gain power for the Communist movement of post-tsarist Russia. He became the cult of personality that would rule the Soviet Union in both war and peace, as well as becoming a household name. The city we know today as Volgograd was called Stalingrad up until 1961. Before Stalin, the city was called Tsaritsyn. In 1918, Stalin was on a mission on behalf of Lenin where he ordered executions of political opponents as a member of the government. His ruthlessness & efficiency was rewarded by having the city renamed after himself. Starting as the Commissar of Nationalities in Lenin's government after the Russian revolution in 1917, he would climb to the very top of the Soviet government using sheer determination and ruthlessness, eliminating his own people he branded as enemies or rivals.

Propelled to the leadership of the Russian Communist party as part of a troika, a group of three leaders, upon Lenin's death on January 24th, 1924, in short order he became an iron-willed dictator until his death on March 5th, 1953.

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