Djugashvili, J.V., peasant of the province and district of Tiflis, from the village of Didi-Lilo, orthodox, clerk. By decision of the Ministry of the Interior, exiled under surveillance for two years, dating from the 29th September 1908, to Solvychegodsk, province of Vologda, whence he escaped. Exiled again to the province of Vologda, he again escaped on February 29, 1912. By decision of the Ministry of the Interior, exiled under surveillance for three years dating from June 8, 1912, to Narym district, whence he again escaped on September 1, 1912.
These few lines contained, at the beginning of the Russian Revolution, all that was known of an obscure Bolshevik answering to the surname Stalin; it was found in the archives of the Moscow Police Department, and published in 1918 at Moscow. General A. I. Spiridovich, one of the heads of the Okhrana (secret political police) of the old regime, reproduced it almost verbatim in 1922 in his History of Bolshevism in Russia. But no one at that time paid any attention to it. Stalin's name was still lost in a semi-anonymity, unknown not only to the people of Russia but even in the ranks of the Bolshevik Party and, obviously, still more so abroad.
This police chit may be supplemented by a note of the local gendarmerie relating to the year 1903 and published by close associates of Stalin in Zarya Vostoka of Tiflis, official organ of Bolshevism in Georgia:
According to information recently received from our agents Djugashvili was known in the Organisation under the nicknames of "Sosso" and of "Koba"; he has been working in the Social-Democratic Party since 1902, Menshevik first and then Bolshevik, as propagandist and director of the first section (railways).
The first biographical notice of Stalin by the Communist Party, less obscure but as brief as that of the Okhrana, is to be found in the explanatory or documentary notes added to the Complete Works of Lenin:
J. Stalin, born in 1879, member of the Party since 1898, one of the most notable organisers and leaders of the Bolsheviks. Frequently imprisoned, six times deported; member of the Central Committee uninterruptedly since 1912; editor of Pravda in 1917; after the October Revolution, People's Commissar for Nationalities; in 1921-1923 People's Commissar for Workers' and Peasants' Inspection; member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
During Lenin's lifetime it appears that comparatively little attention was paid to the future master of Russia, although Stalin was already Secretary of the Bolshevik Party. His name did not figure in any authoritative history of socialism, of the workers' movement, or of the Russian Revolution. In the first ten volumes of Lenin's works treating of the events, the ideas and the men of a whole epoch, he is never once mentioned; very rarely in the other ten, and then only as a lay figure. There is no word of him in the innumerable memoirs and recollections published in the course of ten years. In the Great Upheaval, a work in which Lunacharsky sketches a series of Revolutionary Silhouettes, afterwards collected under this name in a small volume, Stalin is not taken into consideration. There is not a trace of him in the publications of the Party and hardly any in the local press. His early career resembles that of hundreds of other revolutionaries of different schools: arrest, deportations and escapes under the old regime; high political and administrative functions under the new. At first sight, it is duller than many others; devoid of any outstanding, of any memorable episode, of any notable event in the revolutionary calendar; it offers no contribution to the body of socialist thought. In another volume of Lenin's Works there are some supplementary details in the appendices, of no particular interest to the outsider:
Stalin, J. V. Djugashvili, revolutionary name "Koba," of peasant origin in the province of Tiflis. Frequently arrested and deported. Participant in a number of congresses and conferences. One of the most notable organisers and leaders of the Bolshevik Party. Co-opted at the beginning of 1912 to the Central Committee of the Russian Workers' Social-Democratic Party; after the general conference at Prague he entered the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee, and was active illegally in Russia, where he was soon arrested, and then deported to Turukhansk. Returned from exile after the February revolution. Close collaborator of Lenin at the time of the preparation and achievement of the October Revolution. Member of the Central Committee uninterruptedly from 1912 onwards and of the Council of People's Commissars since 1917.
Identical notes are to be found in other volumes of Lenin's Works and in the Works of Gregory Zinoviev. Stalin's peasant origin is noted in each case. The article Djugashvili, in the unfinished work of V. Nevsky: Material for a Biographical Dictionary of Social-Democrats, is more complete and detailed but contains inaccuracies. After Lenin's death, a new revised and augmented edition of the Complete Works was undertaken, but the official historians, in spite of their zeal for the new master, could give him little more, after ten years of revolution, than a dozen lines (Vol. XX). Some of the variants may be quoted:
Militant Social-Democrat from 1896 onwards. Organised in 1902, at Baku, various workers' demonstrations, was exiled to Eastern Siberia, escaped in 1904, and began illegal activity....Exiled in 1912 to the Narym district; exiled in 1913, after another escape and return to St. Petersburg, to Turukhansk....
But in the next volume, published in 1928, the tone changes. The account of Stalin's life is modified and becomes more detailed. It is still documentary in form, but the propagandist element is apparent. Bolshevism was then engaged in merciless intestine struggles, and the personal record of every important figure became a weapon in the struggle. Each of them searched the past of his adversary in the hope of discovering some instance of weakness, some error or mistake. And each accentuates his own title to the confidence of the ruling party and the new dominant class. This time Stalin dictated the notice himself:
Stalin, J.V. (Djugashvili), born in 1879. Son of a boot operative in Tiflis, militant from 1897 onwards, one of the original Bolsheviks; imprisoned in 1901 for having directed strikes at Baku, deported to Eastern Siberia, escaped and returned to the Caucasus to take part in the Party's illegal activities. Was present in 1905 at the Tammersfors Congress; delegate to the Stockholm and London Conferences of the Russian Social-Democrats; in 1907 made the Baku organisation the stronghold of Bolshevism in the Caucasus. Arrested and deported in 1908 and 1910; militant in illegal activity at Petersburg, again arrested, elected to the Central Committee in 1912. Took part in editing the legal Party organs in 1912-13, deported in 1913 to Turulthansk, where he remained until the time of the Revolution. Member of the Political Bureau of the Party from May 1917, directed the central organ of the Party, when Lenin was outlawed after the events of July 1917, with Sverdlov managed the Sixth Congress of the Party, was a member of the Committees of Five and of Seven which organised the October insurrection. People's Commissar for Nationalities, then for Workers' Inspection, served in the Red Army in the Civil War (defence of Tsaritsyn, on the Polish front, in the Wrangel campaign, etc.). From 1920 to 1923, member of the Revolutionary War Council. General Secretary of the Party since 1922. Member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International from 1925 onwards. Author of a series of works on Leninism and the question of nationalities.
Thus the Didi-Lolo peasant had become a boot operative of Tiflis, and his son Sosso, as he was familiarly called in Georgia, later "Koba," and finally Stalin, made known his merits as writer, politician, soldier, statesman, and even as thinker and theorist. This account was to serve as a basis for the article compiled by his secretary for the dictionary and encyclopaedia Granat, and reproduced ad nauseam in Russian brochures and periodicals.
But this is nothing compared with the remarkable demonstration of December 21, 1929, Stalin's fiftieth birthday. The whole Soviet press displayed vast headlines, large portraits and articles of enormous length. The eulogies of the Dictator were not less portentous. According to the incense-burners of his entourage, all human and some superhuman virtues were incarnate in Stalin. His modesty, courage and devotion were paralleled by his knowledge and wisdom. He was the organiser of the Bolshevik Party, the leader of the October Revolution, the head of the Red Army, and victor in the Civil War as well as in foreign war. He was, moreover, the leader of the world proletariat. The man of action proved himself as great as the theorist, and both are infallible; there is no instance of a mistake made by Stalin. One leitmotiv recurs constantly in the dithyrambs: man of iron, steeled soldier, allusions to the name he had adopted, with variations on the invariable theme of steel and iron: "iron Leninist," "granite Bolshevik." The same formula, the same exaggeration, the same extravagant expressions of admiration and submissiveness, in strict conformity with models sent down from Moscow, recur in thousands of addresses, messages and telegrams from all parts of Russia, which fill whole pages of the newspapers, and then several columns daily for weeks. The State publishing-houses issued thousands of copies of collections of these tributes in which panegyrics filled over 250 pages, in addition to innumerable messages simply indicated by the names of the senders. An official portrait bust was manufactured by mass production and distributed officially. The name of Stalin, already given to several towns, was again given to factories, electricity stations, rural undertakings, barracks and schools. ...
Under the title of "Stalin the Enigma," a contributor to Pravda, the Bolshevik official organ in Moscow, set out (December 21, 1929) the terms used outside Russia to describe the man of the day: "Stalin, the mysterious host of the Kremlin"; "Stalin, dictator of a sixth of the world"; "Stalin, victor over all opposition"; "Stalin, Impenetrable Personality"; "Stalin, the Communist Sphinx"; "Stalin, the Enigma." "Insoluble mystery," "indecipherable enigma" were the most frequently used tags, no doubt because Stalin emerged quietly from an obscure past and an apparently banal present, and because none but a few of the initiated could explain his access to unlimited power.
One of Stalin's oldest comrades, of Caucasian origin and resembling him also in his rise to power, Serge Ordjonikidze, wrote naively on the same anniversary: "The whole world is writing to-day about Stalin," as if the orders of the Bolshevik dictatorship had the force of law for the press of all countries, as if the circulars of the Secretariat of his party were propagated and could be imposed beyond the Soviet frontiers like waves of light. He adds, this time with more justification: "Much will also be written in the future," and further, "His enemies will write with hatred and his friends with love," forgetting that it may be possible to write "without hate and without fear," conscientiously and with some degree of critical spirit, in an attempt at impartial investigation and historical truth.
Ten years earlier, on April 23, 1920, Moscow celebrated the jubilee of Lenin, the real initiator of Bolshevism, the actual founder of the Communist Party, the authentic victor of October, the true creator of the Soviet State. It was practically an intimate gathering of the Moscow Committee of the Party. Old friends exchanged their recollections. The record is a modest pamphlet of thirty pages. Between 1920 and 1930 a profound change had come over the Russian Revolution. The Bolshevism of to-day is no longer what it was. It is this which lends a special interest to the personality of Stalin, wielder of a dictatorial power unparalleled in the world of to-day and unprecedented in history.