Josef Stalin

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    An ungainly dwarf of a man passed through gilded and marbled imperial halls, and a path opened before him; radiant, admiring glances followed him, while the ears of courtiers strained to catch his every word. And he, sure of himself and his works, obviously paid no attention to all this. His country was in ruins, hungry, exhausted. But his armies and marshals, heavy with fat and medals and drunk with vodka and victory, had already trampled half of Europe under foot, and he was convinced they would trample over the other half in the next round. He knew that he was one of the cruelest, most despotic figures in human history. But this did not worry him a bit, for he was convinced that he was carrying out the will of history.
    —Milovan Djilas [1], Conversations With Stalin (1962)

    Popularly considered to be the most evil Georgian (not the US state) in human history, Josef Stalin (born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili) ruled the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953.

    Before Red October, he had an interesting and colorful early life. After dropping out of an Orthodox seminary, he helped the Bolsheviks by robbing banks (for which he did time in jail) and writing poetry. His role in Red October wasn't large at all - at least, according to Trotsky. He was put in charge of the Bolshevik Party's newspaper and organizational matters, which were background but fairly important jobs. He may have been late for the Revolution, but it didn't end in one night.

    After coming to power, Stalin changed his "official" birthday to 21st December 1879 (Old Russian- December 9th). He was actually born on 18th December 1878 (Old Russian- December 6th), and there are extensive records to prove it, including in his own hand. To date, nobody can agree on exactly why he decided to change it, but that was when his birthday was celebrated (at least in public) from then on.

    Lenin was incapacitated by a series of strokes in the early 1920s, and this allowed Stalin to begin a slow and methodical rise to power (the sort of rise to power that makes for a very boring story, which is probably why it has never been depicted in a major work of fiction). First, Stalin managed to get himself elected to the position of General Secretary (in those days, an actual secretarial position, although one with a great deal of power due to its control over the rank-and-file membership; Trotsky referred to him as "Comrade Card-Index"), which made him powerful but not that powerful. Shortly before his death, Lenin wrote a testament which said that Stalin should be removed as G-S, though also recognized both he and Trotsky as the two most capable candidates for leadership- Stalin suppressed this in later years, but the testament was discussed in the Central Committee before he secured his power base; ironically, this was probably the first time Lenin or any senior Party member had seriously considered Stalin as having that kind of potential, and it might have backfired on Lenin (who was seriously ill and temperamental at the time- the Party even thought about giving him a phony copy of the Party newspaper so as to calm him down and stop him pestering them) by drawing attention to Stalin's talents, giving him a boost of respect and reputation [2]. Stalin began promoting his supporters to key positions, and he deftly navigated the complex world of Soviet politics, switching sides on the debate between developing Soviet communism or promoting world revolution twice to remove his rivals.

    After he got all the power he wanted (sometime around 1930), Stalin initiated a huge industrialization and collectivization scheme in the USSR, overseeing an astonishing period of economic growth and initiating programs that would bring mass literacy and a greatly increased life expectancy to what had been an impoverished, rural populace -- at massive human cost, especially in Ukraine.

    To say that Stalin was paranoid is to say that the Pacific Ocean is a little wet. The man saw enemies everywhere, and a culture of denunciation developed in the USSR big-time. Stalin built, during his reign, perhaps the most comprehensive and thorough edifice of state terror that has ever existed on earth, personified in the NKVD (ancestor to the KGB). Stalin purged (read: fired, imprisoned or killed, depending on the situation) pretty much every high-ranking communist who didn't bend over backwards to show loyalty to him. These purges considerably weakened the Reds with Rockets before 1941. By the time the war against Germany began, Stalin had killed every single leader of the original Bolshevik Party, and replaced them with his cronies. He also "revised" history to make his role in Red October much bigger and had statues placed of him across the USSR. (Lenin originally had prohibited any statues of communist leaders because in his opinion "A statue is a pigeon's best friend." The one exception was a pair of statues of Marx and Engels in Moscow. This was disregarded after his death and Stalin had statues of Lenin placed throughout the country as well.)

    It has been suggested that when Stalin suffered his fatal stroke in early 1953, it took so long to get him medical attention because no one wanted to check on him and risk waking him up if he was only oversleeping. There is also a theory that he was poisoned by his chief of secret police, Lavrentiy Beria.

    How many died as a result of his rule is a matter of debate (including whether the mass famines are counted). Estimates today range from 1 to 30 million, not counting the war. In fact, there are about as many different estimates as there are authors. This is because of conflicting statistics, but also because of deep controversies about where to draw the line between "killed" and "allowed to die".

    Following the Great Patriotic War, Stalin's cult status was massive and remained so until a few years after he died. His reputation wasn't seriously hit until Khrushchev's seminal "Secret Speech" in 1956, in which Stalin was denounced and accused of numerous crimes -- this speech reportedly caused not only open weeping but heart attacks in the audience.

    Most of what we know about Stalin originates from the works of exiled political rival Leon Trotsky (who was eventually assassinated by Stalin's agents) and, later, from Khrushchev-era revelations - though these ended with his successors and were strictly controlled regardless. Trotsky portrays Stalin as a virtual non-entity before his rise to power, and a man of average intelligence, limited vision, and a false Marxist. Other historians, however, suggest that this was politically motivated smear, and that the real Stalin was highly intelligent and extremely charismatic, and fanatically devoted to his cause. Whether Stalin did or did not follow Marxism is a topic of huge controversy (with 3 or 4 different sides, and debates that can go on forever). What is clear is that Trotsky and Stalin really, really hated each other, and the USSR would have been a different place with Trotsky in charge. Trotsky's supporters argue that it would have been a much more democratic place, closer to the communist ideal. Stalin's supporters argue that it would have quickly turned into a German-speaking place, due to Trotsky not being ruthless enough to win the war with Germany. Many modern historians think it would not have been much different at all, as Trotsky was almost as ruthless, violent and fanatical as his rival.

    Likewise, some historians also argue that Stalin was more important to the pre-Revolution Bolshevik party than Trotsky gave him. He single-handedly designed Bolshevik policies concerning ethnic minorities who'd been living under the Russian Empire (being a member of such a minority himself), and likely had a hand in other official policy. Lenin did have a falling out with Stalin and recommended Stalin's removal from the General Secretary position in his last testament, but Stalin would have retained his seat in the Politburo and would have been quite influential even were he not the G-S. The fall out, as it happens, was that Stalin had insulted Lenin's wife, which is not exactly the same as fearing he'd end up a despot.

    In other words, History Marches On, perhaps subverting many of the tropes listed below - specifically Almighty Janitor, Foreshadowing, From Nobody to Nightmare, and Kicked Upstairs (subversions are noted).

    Tropes used in Josef Stalin include:
    • Abusive Father - Had one, and was one.
      • To his biological son? Definitely. To his adopted son (whose father was a friend and a hero of the revolution)? See trope directly below. When said adopted son accidentally shot and nearly killed him, Stalin... simply decided to spend some quality time with him, teaching him how to shoot properly.
      • After his biological son attempted suicide, reportedly his only response was to note with disgust, "He can't even shoot straight".
      • Upon learning that one of his sons had been made a PoW by the Nazis during WWII, he is noted as denouncing him as being any relation. This was in line with Soviet policy that retreat or surrender was cowardly, so the only acceptable outcomes for a Soviet soldier were death or victory - being captured implied he surrendered, and was no longer of any value to the revolution. Still, refusing to rescue or ransom PoWs (or compensate their families) is one thing - ignoring your own son (and severing ties with your daughter-in-law) is another...
      • This is not quite as cold as it seems. The Germans offered to exchange Yakov for Field Marshal von Paulus, but Stalin refused. However, it is difficult to imagine Churchill or Roosevelt not doing the same thing in his shoes, and there is some evidence that Stalin was tormented by his decision afterwards, especially after Yakov was shot for trying to escape.
      • Also Freudian Excuse - Have you ever said "If I were President..."? That was pretty much the reason for every crazy project Stalin initiated, at least according to this memoir by a famous Stalin biographer. And it's all because of a retreat into fantasy caused by, you guessed it, an abusive childhood.
    • A Father to His Men - Even though Stalin is widely known today as an evil mass murderer, he was loved by the common peoples of Russia up until the 80's (when Gorbachev released a whole bunch of secret documents on him). Simply put, everyone thought Stalin was the savior against Adolf Hitler and protector of the people. Any other trouble (like people vanishing without a trace) was supposed to be due to lower-level officers, not Stalin. In addition, for all his villainy, the fact that he fought Adolf Hitler in World War II, who openly declared that the Russian Campaign was to be a war of annihilation, makes him tolerable enough to most people during that specific period.
      • This is subverted by the rural portion of his population, who hated him with a vengeance at least until WWII.
      • Like Hitler, also, most of his Inner Circle consisted of men at least 10 years younger than him, which likely helped create this image even at the highest levels. Almost all of his contemporaries had been purged. He probably was planning to purge that lot too and make way for the next generation to keep everyone on their toes, and he may have done this earlier had not the war got in the way of things.
    • Affably Evil - Possibly more so to foreign leaders and ministers such as Churchill and Joachim von Ribbentrop than his henchmen. Then again, diplomacy usually works that way, and it would be used to his advantage on what side it was better to wage war with. On the other hand, he was usually crude, cruel and sadistic with his lesser minions.
    • Almighty Janitor - He actually held the position of General Secretary, and was even nicknamed "Comrade Card-Index". However, Stalin, being the Genre Savvy Chessmaster that he is, worked his way up to be the most powerful position...and then became Premier of the Soviet Union. Who's Laughing Now?, indeed.
      • After Stalin, the General Secretary office became the office with real power, not the Premier. Everyone you may possibly know as a "Premier" was in fact a General Secretary and may or may not be also a Premier.
      • The short Alternate History story "The Wheels of If" by L Sprague De Camp (written in 1940) mentions Stalin's brilliance at realising 'the man who writes the minutes of the meeting determines the reality of what happened there', and the main character is able to use the same tactic when plunged into another world - as no-one there had thought of it yet.
        • Not only did he control what was discussed at meeting; as the paper-pusher of the Politburo, he also had to perform the tedious task of sending out letters asking for Politburo members to update their memberships, or not... He who controls the membership, controls the votes. He who controls the votes, controls the Party.
      • Subverted. Whatever the power of the General Secretary, Stalin was on the Politburo from 1917 virtually until his death. From the beginning he was one of the 7 most powerful men in the Party, and therefore in the entire USSR.
        • Still, you can always get outvoted 6-1 in the Politburo, if the other guys are not your cronies...
    • Arch Enemy: Leon Trotsky, who was Stalin's main rival for control of the USSR after Lenin's death.
    • Awesome McCoolname/Names to Run Away From Really Fast - His name can be translated as "Man of Steel".
      • Following in Lenin's footsteps, there. Lenin took a pseudonym when he entered revolutionary activism and Stalin ("Man of Steel") was directly made to liken himself to the father of the USSR. Contrary to popular belief, however, Lenin doesn't mean "Man of Iron" but "Man from (the river) Lena". This was because Lenin's opponent was nicknamed "Volgin", "The man From the Volga" (The Lena river is larger and flows to the opposite direction from the Volga. i.e. "I'm better than you, Volgin").
      • This was actually the premise of an alternate history work by Harriet Turtledove in which "Joe Steele" becomes the president of America during the Depression instead of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
    • Ax Crazy: Anyone who doesn't view Stalin as In It For The Money typically views him as being this instead.
    • Badass Bookworm: According to one biographer, he was the best read Russian leader since Catherine the Great, including Lenin. He was far more learned than he is often remembered.
    • Badass Bureaucrat|Obstructive Bureaucrat - Whatever else you might think of him, he was a bank robber and a revolutionary, and a far more charismatic and intelligent one than his most famous sources portray him as. He used bureaucracy as a springboard to establishing a personal dictatorship and in turn to annexing most of Eastern Europe and turned Russia from the least of the Great Powers into one of Earth's only two superpowers.
    • Badass Mustache - One of history's greatest.
    • Bad Boss - Take one guess why.
    • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: It is rumored when the Soviet Union was invaded by Nazi Germany, leading to Stalin's retreat, several of his generals discussed whether to eliminate him due to foreground knowledge of the invasion anyway, and Stalin responsible for many of their best to be purged on little more than a whim, leading to obvious problems during the war. The rumor ends with them ultimately deciding against this because: 1) Stalin was also responsible for turning the USSR into a glorious nation powerful enough to rival the U.S.A., and 2) They'd much rather keep him and probably win, then remove him and likely lose due to a weaker leader, and them being conquered by the Germans. Basically, Stalin was a ruthless dictator, but he was their ruthless dictator.
    • Beam Me Up, Scotty: Could well be the world champion in wrongly attributed quotes. You've probably heard at least one aphorism worthy of a James Bond villain (most likely "A Million Is a Statistic"). It almost always turns out that it had been invented by a not-entirely-unbiased historical fiction writer as something Stalin "must have", "could have", "would have" or "should have" said.
    • Better the Devil You Know: Many people in the Soviet Union were willing to fight for Stalin despite everything; he may have been a ruthless tyrant, but he was their ruthless tyrant.
    • Black and Gray Morality: The way the Soviet Union treated its citizens under Stalin was indeed horrible, and most United States citizens were treated far better, but you've got to remember both countries supported cruel dictators in other countries.
    • Boomerang Bigot: A Georgian who committed huge-scale violence against Georgia, though he was (slightly) less harsh on Georgia than he was on most of the other Soviet republics.
    • The Chessmaster - Stalin engineered his coming to power by abusing a previously-obscure position of Secretary General. His job was to recruit new Party members, and, in just a few years, he formed a majority out of newcomers, personally loyal to him, and ousted the Communist old guard from power.
    • Cult of Personality: Is the Trope Codifier for the modern era. His personality cults painted him as a giant of a man who earned all of his many grandiose titles, whom the Soviet citizenry was obligated to love. There's a reason he's the page image for the trope.
    • Defector From Decadence: His daughter Svetlana defected, and surprisingly survived.
    • Deadpan Snarker - Well-known for his sardonic sense of humor
    • Dirty Communists: Without a doubt, the Most Triumphant Example.
    • Disproportionate Retribution - His regime is not only full of this, it's choking on the blood of its victims.
    • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: A rare Evil Smoker example.
    • The Dreaded: Stalin was obeyed without question because his cronies were simply too fucking terrified of his wrath not to do so. It eventually indirectly caused his own death when his guards obeyed his orders not to disturb him after he went to sleep. See Hoist by His Own Petard, below.
    • Egopolis: Tsaritsyn, a strategically important city where Stalin first came to prominence during the Russian Civil War, was renamed "Stalingrad". Several other cities were named after him in the USSR, and Eastern European countries after Soviet influence extended to them.
      • Ironically, by naming that city Stalingrad after himself, he made it an inviting target to the other ego-driven monster Hitler, who threw entire armies at the city the second he found out who Stalingrad was named for. As a result, Hitler ignored the more valuable oil fields to the south that his armies needed while turning Stalingrad into a death trap for German troops.
    • Enemy Civil War: The Great Purge, and his obsessive conflict with Trotsky. Also, Winston Churchill (a noted anti-communist) dreamed of provoking the Nazis and Soviets to fight each other until both were utterly defeated. Ironically, this is almost exactly what Stalin wanted the Western Allies to do.
    • Enemy Mine: His alliance with Churchill and Roosevelt against Hitler. During the war, he also stopped the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church to intensify patriotic support for the war effort.
    • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas and Momma's Boy - Was rather fond of his mother, being that she was the only person he spoke Georgian to (something he hated) after becoming ruler of the Soviet Union, since she couldn't speak Russian. She was even placed in a room inside a palace during Stalin's reign.
      • Other sources claim that Stalin also spoke Georgian with Beria, the Georgian head of the secret police, just to keep the conversations private, no other Georgian-speakers being present in the top clique.
      • Stalin was not only fond of his mother, he was also kind of scared of her too; he supposedly left the Georgian Orthodox Church relatively untouched mostly because he was afraid of the tongue-lashing he'd get from Mom (she was a devout Georgian Orthodox Christian and had, after all, wanted him to be a priest).
    • Even Evil Has Standards: He once chewed out his son Vasily(a Royal Brat if ever there was one) for his behavior. Columnist Jay Norlinger commented,"When you've been rebuked by Stalin, morally, you've been rebuked.
    • Evil Is Petty: Not only was his regime vicious it was unsporting and anytime someone happened to be an opponent he was in for a lot of what can only be described as spite. One of the more murderous examples of that was keeping the Russian artillery firing half an hour after the truce in the Winter War. A tamer example but one that is a clear example of pettiness was objecting to the Polish exile army taking part in the victory parade in London at the end of World War II. British agents during the Russian Civil War were always remembered as personally villainous rather then just as opponents. And of course during the Purge victims were accused not just of criminality but of impossibly repulsive villainy and forced to confess.
    • Evil Overlord - One of the TropeCodifiers, especially for Western audiences.
    • Faux Affably Evil: Part of the secret to his success was his image, and he was good at it.
    • Follow the Leader - He inspired (read: forced) several communist rulers to copy his policies and practices, including Five-Year Plans, pervasive personality cults, and of course, good old-fashioned repression...but didn't gain as much success as he did.
    • Foreshadowing - Many examples, including Lenin's Testament warning the Bolsheviks about Stalin's potential, ambition and what that could do to the party, conveniently been swept under the rug by...Stalin along with Zinoviev and Kamenev. Arguably, the most ominous example is when his first wife died in 1907. Apparently, he said to one of his close friends at her funeral: "With her death, goes any warm feelings for humanity." The latter could explain a hell of a lot about him as a person.
      • "Lenin's method leads to this: the party organization substitutes itself for the party as a whole; then the Central Committee substitutes itself for the organization; and finally a single 'Dictator' substitutes himself for the Central Committee." -Trotsky
      • And then there's 'We are 100 years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this lag in ten years. Either we do it, or they will crush us!'. Date of quote? 1931.
    • From Nobody to Nightmare: Who would've thought a cobbler-in-training/priest-in-training would become one of the world's worst dictators?
    • Gasshole: Inverted. Stalin had no real gastrointestinal problems, yet had a phobia of farting in public. When attending meetings, he would always have two water glasses in front of him, that he would clink together to mask the sound.
      • Though he did once take a crap in the middle of the road towards the end of WW 2. He and some of his posse drove out to examine operations were proceeding, and while in the country the Vozhd had a call of nature, much to the (silent) embarrassment of his entourage. No toilets in the countryside, and no shame either. Hey, nobody else saw it.
    • Good Scars, Evil Scars: He had scars on his face from contracting smallpox when he was 6 (which he hid by having photos of himself retouched), a malformed arm from a childhood accident which, due to not having money to treat it, caused the arm to become septic and fail to heal correctly (which he hid by always having his arm bent in photos which camouflaged the deformity, or otherwise obscuring it), and webbed toes on his left foot. These no doubt contributed to his aggressive personality (kids called him "Pocky" because of his face, etc) and his efforts to conceal them typified his pride.
    • Historical Villain Downgrade: If you visit the Stalin museum in his hometown of Gori, Georgia, be prepared to hear a lot about how excellent a poet and political leader he was, and check out the supercool train he had shipped from Russia because he refused to fly. There will be no mention of the millions of people who died either directly or indirectly from his "reforms". But hey, his swag from the Chinese delegation to Moscow is sure cool!
    • Hoist by His Own Petard: Whether or not the rumors of his being poisoned are true, the fact remains that the very terror he put in his underlings kept them from going in to check on him after he had a stroke and could have gotten the doctors in time to save his life. There were rumors (and lots of evidence) that he was going to initiate another round of purges in the weeks before his death, and after seeing what he'd done to their predecessors, it's possible that one of his minions decided not to let the same thing happen to them.
      • For that matter, he'd just accused a conspiracy of doctors of plotting to kill him. The life expectancy of any doctor who treated the dying "Koba" would not have been high.
    • I Did What I Had to Do: This was Stalin's justification for his actions. Along with the general claim that he was creating a new socialist utopia, Stalin also specifically said that the USSR had to industrialize, and quickly, or else it would be overwhelmed by the rest of the world.
    • I Have Many Names: Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili (Russian- Iosef Vissavorovich Dzhugashvili); aka Koba, aka Soso, aka Joseph Stalin ("Stalin"= "Man of Steel"). "Koba" is the name of a (much more violent) Robin Hood-esque figure from the Georgian novel The Patricide; "Soso" is a Geogrian diminutive of his first name, Iosef/ Josef. Both were originally childhood nicknames (he insisted on the former). Stalin is also reported to have used at least a dozen other nicknames, pseudonyms and aliases such as "Josef Besoshvili"; "Ivanov"; "A. Ivanovich"; "Soselo" (a youthful nickname), "K. Kato"; "G. Nizheradze"; "Chizhikov" or "Chizhnikov"; "Petrov"; "Vissarionovich"; "Vassilyi". Directly following World War II, as the Soviets were negotiating with the Allies, Stalin often sent directions to Molotov as "Druzhkov". He is only remembered as "Stalin" because that happened to be the name he was using at the time of the October Revolution (the same is true for Lenin and Trotsky).
    • I Have No Son: Doubly Subverted. When the Germans captured his son while serving in the artillery, they offered to trade him for captured Field Marshall Friedrich Paulus. Stalin did not deny he was his son, but said "You have in your hands not only my son Yakov but millions of my sons. Either you free them all or my son will share their fate" and "A Field Marshall is not worth a lieutenant". Cold, but the right thing to do. The Double Subversion is that poor Yakov was in fact The Unfavorite and Stalin just didn't like him. When Yakov tried to commit suicide, Stalin commented that "he can't even shoot straight." Still, some accounts say that the death did seem to genuinely upset him. Come to think of it...
    • I Have Your Wife: He did this even to some of his closest associates, such as Molotov.
    • I Lied: To Churchill and Truman, after he promised that the nations that were to be under Soviet control were to have democracies soon after the war. Turns out that show votes had taken place in those countries and they became satellite states for the USSR. Churchill and Truman realized too late and so the Cold War began.
      • Though it's important to note that Churchill and Truman could do little to stop Stalin from doing all of this. Interestingly, some communist rebels in Yugoslavia foresaw his actions and took control of the country before Stalin could arrive to make sure that they had some level of independence.
        • Perhaps the greatest irony is that communism was generally more popular in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe around 1945. It is rumored that just as the Soviets had to rig elections to make communists win in the East, the Western Allies had to rig the vote in France and Italy to make the communists lose.
        • Disputable in the second. Outright rigging of the elections wasn't really discussed much less used. Unbelievably blatant coercion, use of martial law, and very prominent propaganda campaigns about exactly what the USSR was doing were entirely kosher though.
        • The vote for joining the USSR was of course rigged in most, if not all, countries that "voluntarily" joined the USSR. (Search in linked page: "July 14–15, 1940")
    • I Need a Freaking Drink: His initial reaction to Hitler's totally unexpected betrayal. And by "initial", we mean "week long".
    • I Was Quite a Looker: Apparently so, as a young man.
    • Just the First Citizen: Stalin zig-zags this by playing it straight and averting it at the same time. For all his power, all the control, all the spy networks and the state he built, he was simply the General Secretary of the Communist Party[3]. Someone stated that a title that would reflect his real power would have to be something like "Pope of the Communist church; Czar of Russia; CEO of Soviet inc." In addition he also allowed himself to be called simply "Vozhd" (leader/boss) after his fiftieth birthday celebration in 1929, and was given the title "Generalissimus" (the highest possible military rank), although he never wore the insignia. On the other hand, years before becoming General Secretary he did change his birth name from Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili to the Russian equivalent of Joe Steel. During his personality cult he also accepted an immense number of grandiose titles, including "Coryphaeus of Science", "Father of Nations", "Brilliant Genius of Humanity", "Great Architect of Communism", "Gardener of Human Happiness", and many more.
    • Karmic Death: Stalin had put so much fear into his minions that when he went to bed and ordered them not to disturb him, they didn't dare to do so. Unfortunately, he then had a stroke and was left lying on the ground for a whole day. If his goons hadn't been so scared of his wrath, they might have gone in to check on him when he didn't come out at his usual time, and then gotten the doctors in to save him.
    • Kicked Upstairs: Debate rages as to whether he won his job through actual talent and hard work or by being Kicked Upstairs by officials who were just trying to reward a loyal, unintelligent subordinate.
      • As mentioned above he was on the Politburo from the beginning to his death, and outlasted every other member (albeit by his own design). The former is more likely.
    • Kill'Em All: Punished the Old Bolsheviks, the Left Deviation, the Right Deviation, the speculators, the NEP men, the old military officers, the dissidents, the Jews, the ethnic Germans, the seditious, the saboteurs, and anyone speculated of belonging to the above. Over twenty million people went through in the Gulags, a full tenth of the Soviet population. More than a million died.
    • Lack of Empathy
    • Large and In Charge: Actually subverted. He wasn't as tall as paintings, statues or his personality cult in general would have you believe. He was likely around 5'6", making him a sort of Napoleon.
      • Amusingly, Napoleon was around 5'7", making Stalin even more of a Napoleon than Napoleon was.
    • Man Behind the Man: Lots of people across Europe, esp. on the Right, thought that almost every Communist party took directions from Moscow. Turns out this was true, to the point where he was forcefully directing party policy, though not necessarily for the better (like getting his Stalinists to turn on the Troskyists in the Spanish Civil War, despite being on the same side; and telling German Communists that fighting the Nazi Party wasn't a big priority). Advised Mao Zedong against revolution, though probably due to the fear of having a fellow communist rule a country almost as big and powerful as Russia (this time, he was ignored).
      • Stalin supported Mao's great rivals, the Guomingdang, from a mixture of pragmatism and the fact that their political program wasn't all that different from the "socialism in one country" that he favored. He only switched horses after WWII, when Mao's Communists surged in popularity because it was believed they had played the key role in defeating the hated Japanese. However, he did from early on advise the CCP to promote Mao for his ruthless, aggrandizing and backstabbing behavior, actually the very behavior they were complaining to him about.
      • Interestingly enough, he actually had a policy of denouncing socialist parties in Western Europe and didn't commit as much to the Spanish Civil War as he could have (although he did nab most of their gold as payment for his services) to avoid the creation of an organized anti-communist bloc in Europe.
    • Manipulative Bastard: Not only did he masterfully exploit the position of General Secretary to develop his power base, Stalin also proved himself a genius at keeping the rest of the Soviet leaders alternately terrified of and dependent on him. He found all sorts of ways to eavesdrop on his minions, play off their fears, and destroy anyone who he feared would become a threat to his power, whether through carefully arranged executions or brutal mass purges. They didn't call him the Vozhd ("Master") for nothing.
      • There is a theory that his machinations led to the rise of Nazism and the start of Second World War, derailed only by Hitler's last-moment attack on USSR right as it was preparing to attack Hitler. If taken as true, this would be the pinnacle of Stalin's manipulation.
    • The Master: Was often referred to as "Vozhd." Vozhd roughly translates to boss, chief, or Master.
    • A Million Is a Statistic - Trope Namer, though it's a Beam Me Up, Scotty moment.
      • Specifically, his biographer made it up because it, more or less, "sounded like something he could've said".
    • Modern Major-General: Stalin was a hopelessly inept military leader. His bungling played a large part in the Soviets getting their asses kicked in the invasion of Finland, and he completely dropped the ball when Hitler played him for an Unwitting Pawn and invaded. It was only after he turned control of the war over to his generals that the Russians started winning battles.
      • He also surrounded himself with woefully inept military advisors. For example, his Artillery Commissar once angrily asked a subordinate what would they need artillery for. To be fair though, Stalin really did know that Hitler was going to invade sooner or later- his mistake was thinking it was going to be later.
        • However, he also surrounded himself with Russia. Do not invade Russia.
    • Moral Myopia: One of the favorite Communist curse words was "Imperialist". Imagine! Trying to form an empire!
    • Nietzsche Wannabe: If any dictator could be described as this, it was Stalin. Hitler had a vision for what he wanted the world be to like, albeit an evil one. Stalin was largely apathetic to all the millions of people he killed, his goals were gain as much power as he could and make others suffer as he did. He would've never been content, as he became very nihilistic and apathetic after his wife's death. See A Million Is a Statistic.
    • Nice Job Breaking It Villain - Sending so many people to the Gulag camps ultimately worked against the Soviet Union. During WWII he killed off a lot of his experienced military officers, which was part of the reason that Germany was able to get so far.
      • Also, Stalin's divisions of the boundaries in the Caucasus region (like giving the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan) caused several wars after the Soviet Union collapsed, and even today the conflicts haven't been settled.
    • Not So Different: His rule and the tsar's rule. He even lampshaded it when, in a conversation with his mom, he was asked what he was like now. He replied that he was like the tsar.
    • Over and Under the Top - Of the world's leading mustachioed dueling dictators, Adolf Hitler was under with that little toothbrush thing, but Stalin was waaaay over with his.
    • Pet the Dog - Joseph Stalin, in addition to defeating the Nazis, also briefly ended the persecution of Christianity in Soviet Russia.
    • Porn Stache
    • Pyrrhic Victory - And the glorious city of Stalingrad has been successfully defended from the Germans... at the cost of over one million people.
      • Fortunately balanced out by the fact that Hitler himself was obsessed with capturing Stalingrad (and Leningrad) as a propaganda victory, leading to a failed Pyrrhic Villainy on the part of the Germans.
      • Actually, Stalin knew that Hitler was obsessed with capturing Stalingrad, so he had his troops encircle the Germans rather than drive them out with a frontal assault, leading to the annihilation of the German Sixth Army. Of course, Stalin didn't actually do this until many, many of his soldiers were already dead.
    • Recycled in Space - Has been described as Genghis Khan WITH TANKS!
    • Removed From the Picture: Stalin had a tendency to erase his political rivals from photographs taken before he had them killed. The best example is this photograph, which was edited three times until Stalin was the only one left. And if you look closely, his face seems to get a little lonelier each time.
    • The Spock - Played the cold, unbending, calculating card, what with Winston Churchill's downright McCoy-like bouts of gentlemanly fervor and FDR's constant need to find a happy medium.
    • The Starscream - In a testament written just before his death, Lenin denounced Stalin's ambitions and tried to warn the other Soviet leaders about them. Unfortunately, Stalin managed to blunt the effect of the testament and still seized power after Lenin's death anyway.
      • Also, much of the Politburo--and particularly Beria--during his reign.
      • And Mao Zedong's China tried to oust the Soviet Union as the most powerful Communist country during the Cold War.
    • Token Evil Teammate - To Winston Churchill of Great Britain and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, respectively of the United States in World War II.
      • Which isn't to say that America and Britain didn't do evil things as well, just that they weren't as bad Stalin's Soviet Union.
    • The Unfettered
    • Unperson - the Trope Namer. This is a particularly cruel punishment to give to anyone. Imagine that the Secret Police have arrested you for offending Stalin. Now imagine that not only will you be shot, but all information about you being erased from all records in the nation. As if you never existed, and therefore you will never be remembered...
    • Unwitting Pawn: As noted above, Western luminaries like H.G. Wells and Beatrice Webb gushed about the Soviet Union. Needless to say, Stalin played each and every one of them like a fiddle.
    • Vampire Tropes : There are no mirrors in Stalin's palace. Make of that what you will.
      • Well, paranoid as he was he didn't want to be literally backstabbed, but it isn't as fun as suggesting he was a vampire. Incidently...
    • Vetinari Job Security: More recent analysis by Russian playwright and historian Edvard Radzinski suggests that Stalin did this at the start of Hitler's invasion, to see what his minions would do without him as a means of testing their loyalty. The results were fairly predictable, namely that they all came grovelling to him and asking him to lead them.
    • Villain Ball - The mass purges he ordered made little political or even economical sense, as at that point it had become practically impossible to oppose the government anyway. For the most part, exterminating a large percentage of the country's population merely caused the national economy to break down.
    • Villain with Good Publicity- he still enjoys huge support in the former USSR. In a "Greatest Russian" poll in 2008, he came second. In another, he came third.
      • And there were allegations that that last poll was rigged because lots of people thought he would have come first.
      • He was, understandably perhaps, enormously popular with Western communists and socialists, with everyone from Beatrice Webb to H.G. Wells preaching about the wonders of the Soviet Union. (Some of these fellow travelers even managed to convince themselves that he was nothing more than an impartial chairman of the Soviet government. Given that Stalin had about 70% of the Soviet government murdered, this was quite a case of cognitive dissonance.) And of course, after the Soviet Union allied with the U.S. Stalin was known in popular culture as "Uncle Joe."
        • That's not entirely true... HG Wells, for example, was much more critical of Stalin and The USSR than most people give him credit for.
        • Another thing to keep in mind that the USSR under Stalin was by far the best potential source of funds and support for Western communists. Stalin had factories, tanks, money, materials etc. The exiled Trotsky (just to take an example), could offer them little other than his moral support. So it's pretty much evident why most Western communist parties praised Stalin.
      • According to many memoirs, the mourning for his death in 1953 was widespread and sincere. His pompous funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of grief-stricken citizens with very little state pressure involved.
        • Many of his supporters in his native country of Georgia still display pictures of him.
      • It was a common lament in Soviet Russia that the gulags would be shut down "If only Comrade Stalin knew!"
        • A traditional lament in Russia: "If only the Czar knew!"
    • Villain Song - Eventually a new national anthem was introduced to the USSR with a line of lyrics glorifying Stalin.
    • Villainous BSOD - Went through this after he found out that Hitler betrayed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by invading the Soviet Union. According to Khrushchev, he didn't attend to any leadership activities for four days from the shock that Hitler betrayed the Soviet Union, and that he was taken for a Unwitting Pawn. This is particularly unusual given that Soviet intelligences provided evidence Hitler would invade the Soviet Union. He just ignored it.
    • We Have Reserves - More or less Red Army policy for most of his time in power. During the Great Patriotic War the Soviets took absolutely punishing casualties, the most terrible in military history, but unlike the Western Allies they had no electorate to appease and unlike the Germans they could afford the losses, so the willingness to accept massive casualties continued. Stalin even had a few suitably villainous quotes lampshading this policy.
      • Do bear in mind that Red Army operational art was very different to that of the Western Allies. The Red Army could be and certainly was sloppy and brutal with regards to casualties, but it is a vast Flanderisation to accuse it of simply drowning its opponents in blood.
        • Despite being written by German generals who needed to suck up to the Western Allies to keep from being hanged as war criminals, Fighting in Hell offers an illuminating picture of the Red Army which was notable for ingenious and innovative manipulation of the potential of it's untamed terrain features, rather then virtuoso displays of mechanical dance battling.
      • "The violent death of a large number of people was necessary before the Communist state could be established"
    • "Well Done, Son" Guy - Not with his own father, but with Lenin and Karl Marx. Some historians allege Stalin frequently wondered what Marx and Lenin would think of him and his efforts to live up to their legacy.
    • Wicked Cultured: He styled himself a patron of the arts and, while purging many intellectuals and artists, he elevated others (like Sergei Eisenstein, who was a court filmmaker in all but name). Stalin's rule is the Golden Age of Socialist Realism, particularly in architecture and cinema.
      • He was fond of Mikhail Bulgakov, even though the latter was hardly a Socialist (or any other kind of) Realist. Critics often suspect that the character of Pilate in the Story Within a Story of The Master and Margarita is based on Stalin, particularly the scene where Pilate orders an execution without ever quite admitting that is what he is doing.
      • Also had an acceptable grasp of linguistics to the extent that linguistics developed without much Soviet interference.
      • He was also a poet in his earlier days; and later (or so the word goes) helped one of the academics he had arrested translate a Georgian epic into Russian, among other things. And he was also very fond of White Guard war songs.

    In fiction

    • In Animal Farm, Napoleon is clearly meant to be Stalin. A scene where all the animals ducked from an explosion was changed to have Napoleon stand firm - Orwell hated Stalin, but acknowledged that his staying in Moscow when it would be far easier to leave showed that for all his monstrosity and enormous flaws, he did have some balls.
    • And 1984, where "Big Brother" is essentially a Stalin with the face of Adolf Hitler.
    • The man himself shows up in Axis Powers Hetalia as Russia's leader during the WW 2 strips, where he's shown as being an abusive, manipulative prick. Though Ivan does turn the tables on him by the end.
    • In Arthur Koestler's novel Darkness At Noon, he's referred as "Number One".
    • Command and Conquer: Red Alert. As much as a Jerkass as in real life. He dies differently depending on which side you're on.
    • Makes several appearances in Alternate History stories by Harry Turtledove:
      • In Worldwar, he's the same as the historical Stalin, leading the Soviet Union through WW 2 after the aliens invade, and eventually being succeeded by Foreign Minister Molotov (who was sidelined and forced out of the Party in real life).
      • In TL-191, he's one of the leaders of the Communist fighters in Tsaritsyn (which became Stalingrad in our timeline - Historical In-Joke), being referred to by the Western media as "The Man of Steel", the literal translation of "Stalin". In the end, the Communists lose and Tsarism is reasserted.
        • Which is a fairly accurate picture of what he was really doing at the time. Stalingrad was in fact named after him BEFORE his rise to power due to his command of the city's defense and his eventual victory over the besieging Whites.
      • In the short story "Joe Steele", his family emigrates to America and he becomes a dictatorial politician in the USA.
      • In the Darkness series, which is basically WW 2 with Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, Stalin's equivalent is the mad King Swemmel of Unkerlant, who had his twin brother Kyot (analogue of Trotsky) murdered.
    • Appears as Froggo's big buddy in Histeria!
    • Similarly, he's the title character in Michael Moorcock's The Steel Tsar.
    • The Samurai Cat books have him and Hitler as relatively genial buddies, oddly. World War II was just a bet between them to see who could kill more Russians; the loser ended up working for the winner. And they all became werewolves. Even Hitler. And, oddly, neither Tomokato nor Shiro could kill him. For the series being very loose with reality and history (a samurai who's heard of the Chicago Cubs in 16th century Japan, while discussing their awfulness with Prohibition-era gangsters).
    • In Superman: Red Son, Communist Superman initially reported to Stalin, before taking over leadership of the Soviet Union after Stalin's death ("The Man of Steel is dead!").
    • Appears as part of The Terror's Legion of Doom on The Tick (animation).
      • Or rather, a guy who really looks like Joseph Stalin and has done some research on him. For The Terror, that's close enough for him to make the team.
    • And of course, Stalin Vs. Hitler.
    • In Greg Bear's Vitals, Stalin funded a rogue biologist's research into immortality through the use of specially bred bacteria. And the plan succeeded. Sadly, the successful implementation of the procedure takes a toll on the subject's mind and involves being sealed into in a iron-lung style container half-filled with growth medium and bacteria. The book's protagonist finds him (along with other ex-Soviet leaders) in such a state in a secret chamber underneath downtown Manhattan.
    • Robert Duvall played him in an 1992 television movie on HBO.
    • An episode of Animaniacs had the Warners visiting the Yalta Conference, and jumping on Winston Churchill's big belly. Uncle Joe decides that looks like fun, and joins them.
    • In the Wild Cards superhero setting, Stalin's death is shrouded in mystery; there's a rumour that he was done in by one of his aides after turning into a vampire.
    • Also in the game Stalin vs. Martians.
    • In Adam Robert's novel Yellow Blue Tibia, in 1946 he commissions a group of young Soviet science fiction writers to devise a fake propaganda story about an invasion of the Soviet Union by radiation aliens in order to unite the Soviet people in opposing them. Forty years later, one of the authors,Konstantin Sckvorecky, believes that the story is becoming reality when the events of Chernobyl and the Challenger disaster mirror the ones in the story. He dreams that Stalin appears to him and informs him that he (Stalin) is an alien himself and knew the invasion would come, although the book is vague as to whether this was a dream or not.
    • Assassin's Creed II lists him as one of four Knights Templar who orchestrated World War II (the other three being FDR, Churchill and Hitler), and who controlled his subjects using an artifact that granted mind control over the populace. He was eventually killed by one of the eponymous assassins.
    • In the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series, it's implied Stalin is actually a son of Hades. In fact, its Wiki outright states it.
    • In GURPS Technomancer, Stalin did not die in 1953, he was merely put into magical stasis-sleep-type-thing to be awakened when Motherland will be in danger. He awoke in 1996, after Communism fell, and started a civil war to oust democrats and capitalists from his country.
    • In the 1938 musical Leave it to Me!, Stalin appears at the end of the first act to give "Comrade Alonzo" (the American ambassador) a kiss on the cheek.
    • In Civilization IV, Stalin is one of the possible leaders of Russia. As an AI, he's kind of a hardass, and it's hard to stay on his good side for long.
    1. Yugoslav communist theorist who later got exiled from his country
    2. For the record, Lenin evaluated 6 candidates in that testament, including Trostky, and criticized them all; Stalin just came in for it worst
    3. Because of Stalin's use of this trope the de facto leader during the history of the U.S.S.R. was always the person filling this post, regardless of whether or not that person was also the Premier.