Josef Vissarionovič Stalin, born Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, December 18th, 1878, in the Georgian village of Gori, Georgia in the Russian empire, was the third child of Besarion Dzhugashvili and his wife Ekaterine Geladze, being the only one of their children who survived infancy.
The boy that began life as the son of an alcoholic cobbler and a doting mother would later become one of the greatest leaders of the former Soviet Union and a man responsible for the death and suffering of tens of millions.
Stalin’s father was an abusive, hard-drinking man who would often brutishly beat both young Josef and his mother, making Stalin’s childhood a true nightmare. Some sources state that he was not Stalin’s real father and perhaps that is why he often abused young Stalin and his wife.
Besarion Dzhugashvili who was known as “Crazy Beso” worked as a cobbler and eventually opened a workshop. Beso insisted that Josef should become a cobbler like himself, but young Stalin was more interested in reading. His mother Ekaterine saw young Josef’s potential and tried to do everything she could to make sure that Josef would be well-educated, hoping that one day her beloved son would become a priest.
Stalin’s father’s alcohol addiction caused problems not only for his son and wife but also for his work which suffered. It is said that his apprentices struggled to keep his workshop alive since he was more focused on drinking than working.
He was expelled from Gori after he vandalized a local tavern and attacked the village police chief. Stalin and his mother stayed in Gori and Beso went to live in Tbilisi, where he worked at the Adelkhanov Shoe Factory. When Stalin entered an Orthodox seminary in Tbilisi, his father tried to kidnap him from school to train him as a cobbler by force, but his mother was always there to help her son.
When Stalin was 21-years-old, he was imprisoned for the first time because his father had not paid his taxes in Didi Lilo, the village that he had left a few decades ago. However, his friends assembled the money and paid off Beso’s village debt, so Stalin was released.
They met for the last time in May 1901, when Stalin was organizing a strike in the Adelkhanov shoe factory where his father worked. He was furious that his son was organizing strikes instead of learning a trade as he wished.
Next year Beso accidentally met his ex-wife Ekaterine on her way to visit Stalin in Batumi prison. He shouted, “Stop, or I’ll kill you! He [Stalin] wants to turn the whole world upside down. If you hadn’t taken him to school he’d be a craftsman; now he’s in prison. I’ll kill such a son with my hands; he’s disgraced me.”
He never saw his son again. Stalin’s father died on 25th August 1909, suffering from tuberculosis, colitis and chronic pneumonia.