Joseph Stalin was the man who made the Soviet Union into a world superpower at incalculable human cost. Stalin was born into a dysfunctional family in a poor village in Georgia. Permanently scarred from his bout with small pox and having a mildly deformed arm, Stalin always felt that life was unfair. He developed a strong, romanticized desire for greatness and respect, combined with a shrewd streak of calculating cold-heartedness towards those who had tried to undermine him. He always felt a sense of inferiority before educated intellectuals, and never felt he could trust them.
It took years for the Soviet Union to replace Stalin; in 1956, Nikita Khrushchev eventually took over. Khrushchev revealed the secrecy regarding Stalin’s atrocities and led the Soviet Union through “de-Stalinization,” which included beginning to account for the catastrophic deaths under Stalin and acknowledging issues with his many policies.
It wasn’t an easy process for the Soviet people to break through Stalin’s cult of personality to see him for who he really was. The estimated numbers of dead were well into the million. The secrecy regarding those “purged” has left millions of Soviet citizens wondering the exact fate of their loved ones.
Stalin’s willingness to use any means necessary to achieve political aims was well established by the time he took power; nevertheless, the Soviet Union was unprepared for the extreme violence and oppression that Stalin brought forth. This was the first year of Stalin’s Five Year Plan, a radical attempt to bring the Soviet Union into the industrial age. Despite what critics assert, the 5 year plan was a success and achieved the goals it intended to achieve.
Here are ten odd facts about Joseph Stalin and the circumstances surrounding his death that you should know about.
10. Help did not come right away:
Stalin lay for hours before doctors were notified. It has been suggested that Nikita Khrushchev and Lavrentiy Beria, of the NKVD (secret police), were too afraid to notify the doctors without Stalin’s consent. Others say they purposely waited on the prospect that he would die. He was eventually found dying immersed in urine. It was 12 hours before his people would find him in such consciousness.
9.Official Death Announcement:
Stalin’s death was officially announced on March 6, 1953. However, he stroked on March 1, 1953. At his death, the masses of the Soviet Union were traumatized and grief-stricken despite it being known that Joseph Stalin held little regard for life.
8. People Supported Him After Death…to a Degree:
Despite Stalin’s suspicion, war-time fallacies, absolutism, mass penalization, worker exploitation, mass murder, and general disregard for human rights, many still fully embraced the tyrants propaganda of his own greatness- even after his death. That was until Krushchev, his successor, let them know about the purges and repercussions.
7. Lavrentiy Beria Spat on Stalin:
Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his memoir that Lavrentiy Beria would hold Stalin’s hand and kiss his head as he was awake in pain, but spat in disgust as he drifted into unconsciousness.
6. Struggle to find the right doctor:
Once they decided to notify a physician, politburo leaders struggled to find good doctors. The best doctors in the region, being predominantly Jewish, were imprisoned.
To rid of Stalin quietly and softly, “De-Stalinization,” reforms were made within the first week after his death. His successors believed that to publicly decry Stalin’s actions would show state weakness.
4. Millions of People Imprisoned:
At the time of Stalin’s death at least 5.5 million people were in camps, gulags, colonies or prisons. Workers were exploited and the Soviet budget was failing from arms investments, but the Soviet Union was a major military and industrial superpower.
3. He Would Not Pay Ransom to Save His Son:
During World War II, Stalin’s son, Yakov, was held prisoner by the Nazis and Hitler was ready to make as audacious a ransom offer as possible. True to his Man of Steel character, Stalin refused to pay any ransom or to sign any agreement with Hitler. No matter what torture Hitler threatened would befall his son, Stalin did not budge. His son would go on to die in prison. Tough love.
2. He sought to develop the first half human half ape:
With a desire to create a new human that would be resilient to pain beyond normal man and would not care about the quality of food eaten, Stalin ordered his top scientists to create a hybrid ape-man. In the dictator’s eyes, this hybrid man would be the greatest solider, capable of great strength but with an underdeveloped brain so as to be easily controlled. Aside from military purposes, such a man would provide greater manpower to speed up Russia’s industrial development. Unfortunately, the chief scientist for the job, Ilya Ivanov, was unsuccessful. Because of this failure, in typical Stalin-fashion, Ivanov was arrested and exiled to Kazakhstan.
1. He Trained to Become a Priest:
The blame for Stalin’s authoritarian rule can’t be attributed wholly to his seminary training. In fact, he was expelled from the seminary for terrorizing children. The sickly son of an alcoholic bootmaker who died in a brawl, Stalin was initially sent to a church school in his native Georgia by his very religious mother. At age 14 he’d done well enough to earn a scholarship to Tiflis Theological Seminary in what is now Tbilisi. If he’d played his cards right, he’d have wound up a priest in the Georgian Orthodox Church, where he could have spent his career terrorizing the choir boys. Instead, he joined a secret society called Messameh Dassy that advocated Georgian independence from Russia. Some members of the group were socialists who introduced Stalin to radical ideas.