Joseph Stalin

(c. 1878 - 1953)

Born to a cobbler and washerwoman in what is now Georgia, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin first got into politics while planning revolutionary protests and strikes while working as a meteorology clerk. After being exiled to Siberia and returning to run the newspaper Pravda during the Russian Revolution, Stalin was appointed general secretary of the Communist Party by Vladimir Lenin, the man he would later supplant. As dictator, he helped defeat Hitler—after previously signing a nonaggression pact with Germany—and orchestrated the deaths of millions of people through his policies and actions. The New York Times obituary for his daughter Svetlana, who died in 2011, quotes her saying, “You can’t regret your fate, although I do regret my mother didn’t marry a carpenter.”

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