1878 – 1939
Born into a family with a poor Georgian family, the hardships of Dzhugashvili’s life were further exemplified when his father was knocked down and killed by a horse and cart when Joseph was only three. With only his mother to raise him, Dzhugashvili is noted for being an enthusiastic Orthodox Christian from his early life, his mother’s sole influence telling on the young boy.
When Dzhugashvili was sent to a seminary school at the age of fourteen, he was at risk at falling under the influence of various ideologies that opposed the Tsarist state and Orthodox Church. When a meeting between the students of the seminary in order to discuss socialism was broken up and all students involved were expelled, Dzhugashvili decided against getting involved with such organisations and their ideologies.
Eventually graduating the top of his class in 1899, Dzhugashvili went into the Orthodox Church as a priest in his native Georgia. His first few years in the Church were noted for his rapid ascent up the hierarchy and by 1910, he had become the Bishop over a Georgian Eparchy. He was noted for his somewhat strange mixture of liberal and conservative views. While supporting the family unit, he supported having women in the work place. Dzhugashvili also supported greater autonomy for the regions of Russia, Georgia in particular.
A notable moment in Dzhugashvili’s life was when he refused to support the Russian government during World War One. Rather than go with the official line that the war was for the good of the Mother Land, Dzhugashvili saw it merely as a clash between the Great Powers over their own petty interests. Calling on his congregation to resist the calls to join the army, the Tsarist government leant heavily on the Orthodox to find some way to get Dzhugashvili to shut up.
Unfortunately for the Tsarist regime, they had little idea how much influence Dzhugashvili had in the Church. During the period 1910-1914, Dzhugashvili had been building up a key clique of supporters and allies within the Orthodox Church, using his influence to have some people promoted to Bishoprics who he knew would remember his actions. During this time, Dzhugashvili also gained the nickname ‘Stalin’ because of his actions concerning all those who opposed him. One particular incident is when a friend of Dzhugashvili’s was in serious debt to a money lender. Dzhugashvili used various favours to have the money lender excommunicated, arrested for fraud and all his business assets confiscated. The friend who Dzhugashvili had helped later went on to give him the support needed to clench the Patriarch-ship.
When the war ended with defeat for the Russian Empire, Dzhugashvili’s popular support sky rocketed and soon became popularly known by the Russian people as ‘Uncle Joe’ for his kindly disposition and fondness for children. Privately however, Dzhugashvili became more ruthless than ever as he used every bit of support he had to become the Patriarch of Russia. The period 1920-1924 is noted for being a turbulent time in the Orthodox Church as supporters of Dzhugashvili clashed on the streets with more conservative members of the Orthodox Church.
When a vote was held in 1925 to determine who would be the new Patriarch of Moscow, it was Dzhugashvili who won the vote by a surprisingly large margin. Those who voted against Dzhugashvili soon found themselves transferred to obscure and unimportant posts. Using his new influence, Dzhugashvili began to needle his way into the Tsarist Family. Tsar Nicholas tried his hardest to resist the encroaching influence of the new Patriarch but Prince Alexei was vulnerable to the spinning of Dzhugashvili’s webs. When Nicholas II died in 1929, the weakened Alexei assumed the throne and Dzhugashvili assumed the power behind it.
The early 1930’s saw the rise of Dzhugashvili’s influence over both the Royal Family and the general public. To the public, he was ‘Uncle Joe’, supporter of the common causes of the people, benevolent Patriarch of Moscow and committed Christian. To those who knew him however, he was ‘Stalin’, the puppet master of the Tsar, merciless to his enemies and the most cunning politician in all Mother Russia. But he was not without enemies however; the Aristocracy were soon getting tired of Dzhugashvili’s monopoly in power.
The final straw came in late 1938, when the Duma pushed for reform to gain more power over legislation. Having some nice stooges lined up (Including a former peasant named Khrushchev), Dzhugashvili started to pressure the Tsar into accepting the shift in the balance in power. The Aristocracy finally broke and on New Years Day 1939, a group of top Army generals broke into Dzhugashvili’s apartments and shot him several dozen times. According to legend, Dzhugashvili laughed in their faces before he was shot, calling out “You fools are so blind, can you not see what you are about to do?”
Dzhugashvili’s predictions were proven true when Tsar Alexei, as a tribute to the late Patriarch, passed the bill which gave more power to the Duma. The people of Russia went into mourning over the death of ‘Uncle Joe’ and he was made a Saint of the Orthodox Church. Though the Aristocrats who murdered Dzhugashvili were never brought to justice, one by one, they all died in ‘accidents’ during World War Two. Dzhugashvili was interred in his native Georgia and his grave is still the site of many pilgrimages.