On December 18, 1879, in the Russian peasant village of Gori, Georgia, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili was born. He would become Joesph Stalin, one of the most influential leaders of human history, controlling a vast Communist Empire. As the son of Besarion Jughashvili, a heavy drinking and abusive cobbler, and Ketevan Geladze, a washerwoman, Joseph was a frail child. At age 7, two years after his father left to work in a factory in the capital of Georgia, he contracted smallpox, leaving his face permanently scarred. His left arm was left shorter than his right after a case of blood poisoning. The other village children treated him cruelly, instilling in him a sense of inferiority, which was exacerbated by his height; even when an adult, Stalin grew only to 5 foot 4 inches . Because of this, Stalin embarked upon a quest for greatness and respect. He also developed a cruel streak for those who crossed him.
Stalin's mother, a devout Russian Orthodox Christian, wanted him to become a priest. In 1888, she managed to enroll him in church school in Gori. Stalin excelled at school, despite gaining a reputation for being callous towards his classmates, and his efforts gained him a scholarship to Tiflis Theological Seminary in 1894, from where his mother hoped he would go on to become a Priest. A year later, Stain came in contact with Messame Dassy, a secret organization that supported Georgian independence from Russia. Some of the members were socialists who introduced him to the writings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
Though he excelled in seminary school, Stalin was expelled in 1899. Accounts differ as to the reason; official school records state he was unable to pay the tuition and withdrew. It's also speculated he was asked to leave due to his political views challenging the harsh Tsarist regime of Nicholas II. Stalin did not to return home, but stayed in Tiflis, devoting his time to the revolutionary movement. For a time, he found work as a tutor and later as a clerk at the Tiflis Observatory. In 1901, he joined the Social Democratic Labor Party and worked full-time for the revolutionary movement, seeking to achieve a Communist Revolution in Russia. In 1902, he was arrested for coordinating a labor strike and exiled to Siberia, the first of his many arrests and exiles in the fledgling years of the Russian Revolution. It was during this time that he adopted the name "Stalin," meaning steel in Russian. In 1903, in London the Social Democrats split into the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, meaning minority mean and majority men respectively. Stalin played no part in the split, but naturally gravitated toward the more radical Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin.
Though never a powerful speaker like Vladimir Lenin or an intellectual like Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin excelled in the mundane operations of the revolution, calling meetings, publishing leaflets and organizing strikes and demonstrations. After escaping from exile, as many did in the under the Tsarist regime, he was marked by the Tsar's secret police as an outlaw and continued his work in hiding, raising money through robberies, kidnappings and extortion. Stalin gained infamy being associated with the 1907 Tiflis bank robbery, which resulted in several people dying and 250,000 rubles being stolen (approximately £2 million). Despite being a good administrator, a loyal supporter and an excellent bank robber, Stalin was not regarded very highly by the Bolshevik elite, he was seen as simply a common thug.
In February 1917, the Russian Revolution began after the population grew tired of the First World War and the severe grain shortages it caused. This revolution was entirely spontaneous and was not all planned by any political group. By March, the Tsar had abdicated the throne and was placed under house arrest. For a time, the revolutionaries supported a provisional Government, believing a smooth transition of power was possible. In April 1917, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin denounced the provisional Government upon his return to the Finland Station in St. Petersburg, arguing that the people should rise up and take control by seizing land from the rich and factories from the industrialists. In November of that year, a small Bolshevik force seized control of key areas in the capital, such as train stations and communication centres, before going on to storm the Winter Palace, home to the provisional Government. In truth, the provisional Government was exceptionally weak, and any group set on taking power from them would have been able to do so. Although this revolution was meticulously planned by the Bolsheviks, Stalin played no part in the seizure of power or the planning of the revolution, which was done mainly by Leon Trotsky.
After a public outcry, the Bolsheviks were forced to hold open, democratic elections the following year, after pulling Russia out of the First World War. These elections remain the most democratic elections to ever take place in Russia. The Bolsheviks did not emerge victorious, but forcibly closed down the first assembly of the elected delegates, seizing all power themselves. A Civil War ensued, with the Bolsheviks facing many different opposition groups, including troops from Britain, France and the US, sent to stop the spread of Communism before it was able to take a foothold in the world.
The Communists, after three years of bitter fighting, during which the Tsar and his entire family were executed, were able to defeat the assembled opposition, largely thanks to Leon Trotsky, who became the dynamo of the Communist Party at this time, his reputation eclipsing that of even Lenin for a time. Stalin's stock within the Party also rose during this time, but he was still seen as merely an administrator, whilst he was now amongst the Communist elite on the Politburo, the ruling body of the Party, he was not expected to progress much further and did not hold major posts within the Government. However, after an oversight by those around him, this was all set to change...