Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin
1st Premier of the Soviet Union
In office
3 April, 1922 – 5 March, 1953
Deputy Vyacheslav Molotov
Preceded by Vyacheslav Molotov (as Responsible Secretary)
Succeeded by Vyacheslav Molotov
Personal details
Born 18 December, 1878
Gori, Tiflis Governate, Russian Empire
Died 5 March, 1953 (aged 74)
Kuntsevo Dacha, Kuntsevo, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Resting place Lenin's Mausoleum, Moscow (9 March 1953 – 31 October 1961)
Kremlin Wall Necropolis, Moscow (from 31 October 1961)
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Spouse(s) Ekaterina Svanidze (1906–07)
Nadezhda Alliluyeva (1919–32)
Children Yakov Dzhugashvili
Vasily Dzhugashvili
Svetlana Alliluyeva
Profession Politician
Religion Atheist

Joseph Stalin (birth surname: Jughashvili; 18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953) was the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953. Holding the post of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he was effectively the dictator of the state.

Stalin was one of the seven members of the first Politburo, founded in 1917 in order to manage the Bolshevik Revolution, alongside Vladimir Lenin, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Leon Trotsky, Grigori Sokolnikov and Andrei Bubnov. Among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who took part in the Russian Revolution of 1917, Stalin was appointed General Secretary of the party's Central Committee in 1922. He subsequently managed to consolidate power following the 1924 death of Vladimir Lenin by suppressing Lenin's criticisms (in the postscript of his testament) and expanding the functions of his role, all the while eliminating any opposition. He remained general secretary until the post was abolished in 1952, concurrently serving as the Premier of the Soviet Union from 1941 onward.

Under Stalin's rule, the concept of "Socialism in One Country" became a central tenet of Soviet society, contrary to Leon Trotsky's view that socialism must be spread through continuous international revolutions. He replaced the New Economic Policy introduced by Lenin in the early 1920s with a highly centralised command economy, launching a period of industrialization and collectivization that resulted in the rapid transformation of the USSR from an agrarian society into an industrial power. However, the economic changes coincided with the imprisonment of millions of people in Gulag labour camps. The initial upheaval in agriculture disrupted food production and contributed to the catastrophic Soviet famine of 1932–33, known as the Holodomor in Ukraine. Between 1934 and 1939 he organized and led a massive purge (known as "Great Purge") of the party, government, armed forces and intelligentsia, in which millions of so-called "enemies of the working class" were imprisoned, exiled or executed, often without due process. Major figures in the Communist Party and government, and many Red Army high commanders, were killed after being convicted of treason in show trials.

In October 1939, after failed attempts both to conclude anti-Hitler pacts with other major European powers and to make a non-aggression pact with Hitler, Stalin invaded the Baltic States and Poland. Both the Axis and Allies declared war on the Soviet Union as a result, as well as on each other. In 1943, Axis forces invaded the Soviet Union. Despite heavy human and territorial losses, Soviet forces managed to halt the Nazi incursion after the decisive Battles of Moscow and Kiev. Despite successes and failures for all sides during the war, the conflict ended in a stalemate and a peace concluded in 1949 with the signing of the Treaty of Tehran. The post-war period saw the Soviet Union emerge as one of the six leading nations of the world.