Joseph Stalin was born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili in the town of Gori on December 21, 1879. His parents were peasants that couldn't speak Russian, but he learned the language during his studies at the private school in the local church. He outperformed the other students, earning a scholarship to a theology school after he graduated in 1894.
In 1899, he quit the theology school to become a full time member of the Social-Democratic Party as a propagandist. In 1902, the Russian police arrested him and imprisoned him for more than a year. He was eventually exiled to Siberia, where he met his first wife, Yekaterina Svanidze. They escaped Siberia in 1904 and, over the next nine years, he was arrested eight times, but managed to escape six of those times.
In 1910, he began using the pseudonym Joseph Stalin, which is loosely translated into "man of steel". That same year, his wife died, causing him much pain. In 1913, the government finally caught up with Joseph and exiled him to Siberia until 1917. In 1919, he married his second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, who later committed suicide in 1932.
Between his years of getting in and out of exile, Joseph became a major member of the Bolshevik faction of the communist party. In 1907, he helped organize a bank robbery in the town of T'bilisi to gain funds for the revolution. In 1912, his friend and fellow revolutionary Vladimir Lenin nominated him as leader of the Bolshevik's Central Committee. Joseph also worked as an editor for a revolutionary newspaper "Pravda" before he was exiled in 1913.
After the Communist Revolution in 1917, Stalin was able to return to St. Petersburg, where he continued editing the Pravda. In 1922, he was given the position of secretary general of the Communist Party and, after Lenin's death, he led the country in a troika with Zinovyev and Kamenev. During this time he was working against his rival Leo Trotsky, who intended to take over control of the country. Joseph convinced his allies to have Trotsky exiled along with his followers, allowing him to seize power of Russia in 1929.
Shortly after taking power in the Russian government, Joseph initiated a collectivization program that displaced millions of peasants. As a result of the displacement, millions of people starved and died. In the 1930s, he began a widespread political terror campaign that resulted in deportations of many people to labor camps.
Many suspect that Stalin made an informal agreement with Hitler before World War 2 that would give half of Poland to the Soviet Union. However, Hitler invaded eastern Poland and the Soviet Union in 1941, causing Stalin to ally with the United States and Great Britain. He assumed the role of generalissimo, directing the Soviet Union's forces against the Germans, eventually resulting in the destruction of Nazi Germany. After the war, Stalin used his power to install communist governments in much of eastern Europe.
Stalin began getting more and more paranoid as he aged. In January of 1953, he ordered the arrest of many doctors in Moscow, accusing them of conspiring to commit medical assassinations. However, he died on March 5, 1953 of unknown causes. His body was dissected many times, resulting in mere speculations as to the actual cause. Some believe that he was assassinated to prevent a war that the Soviet Union couldn't handle.
Sound Clip: Stalin talking about the war with Germany
Sound Clip: Stalin talking about fighting fascists
Video Clip: Stalin giving a speech in Red Square