Iosif Dzhugashvili was born in what is now known as the Republic of Georgia in 1879. Soon after the turn of the century, Iosif became involved with anti-Tsarist activities and was arrested and exiled several times.
In 1910, Iosif changed his last name to Stalin, derived from the Russian word for "steel." Stalin was an active member of the Bolsheviks and was co-publisher of the party newspaper, Pravda, with Molotov. He returned to Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) in 1917 and participated in the October Revolution to install the communist government.
1922, Stalin became Secretary General of the Communist Party and accumulated
more power under Lenin. When Lenin died, Stalin became one of the three
primary leaders in a governing troika. But by 1929, he succeeded in forcing
the other two leaders out of office and Stalin emerged as the most powerful
man in the Soviet Union.
Stalin trusted few and regularly ordered the arrest and execution of anyone he believed threatened his power. In the mid-1930's he ordered a purge of leaders in many fields, including industry, science, and the military.
Before Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Stalin had learned of a new bomb being developed by scientists in Britain, Germany, and America. He couldn't comprehend the potential of an atomic bomb (as most people couldn't), but he asked Molotov to organize a group of scientists to study the feasibility of building such a bomb.
After the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Stalin made the Soviets' bomb program a top priority. He instructed Kurchatov to ask for anything, as long as he built a bomb quickly.
Stalin believed the world would experience another world war, and he worked hard to prepare, including controlling countries around the Soviet Union's borders to add a buffer against invaders. He also felt it very important to have atomic bombs to prevent the United States from taking away the territorial additions Stalin had gained after the war.
Before his death, Stalin talked of starting another purge of those he saw as a threat to his power. He believed that many medical doctors, mostly Jewish, were conspiring against him. However, Stalin died before he could start his purge.
Many hold Stalin responsible for the deaths of over ten million Russians during his regime. He built a system of terror, forced collectivization, and gulags. After the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in 1956, Stalin and his ideas were criticized, but many even today consider him a national hero.