Joseph Stalin: Psychopathology of a dictator | Daily News

Joseph Stalin: Psychopathology of a dictator

Joseph Stalin was one of the main architects of creating a collective trauma in the Soviet Union. His actions and policies brought immense suffering to the people. The aftermath of Stalin’s repression still impacts the post Soviet Society. However despite all the negative consequences Stalin is still remembered in Russia as a great hero who saved the Soviet Union from Hitler’s Fascist aggression and transformed the country in to a super power. The Stalinist past still shapes the Russian society today (Gouldner 2009). A survey commissioned by the Carnegie Endowment in 2012, suggested that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin has remained widely admired in Russia and other former Soviet nations (The Moscow Times, 2013).

Some historians and social scientists have considered the Soviet regime under Joseph Stalin during the 1930s to be the embodiment of “totalitarianism,” a term which describes a political system in which power is concentrated at the top and the entire population is mobilized to undertake a sweeping transformation of society (Schmaltz, 2007).

A regime of terror

Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953 ruled the country with an iron fist. According to Professor Harold Shukman of all the dictators the world endured in the twentieth century, Joseph Stalin was unquestionably the mightiest. Nisbet (1986) describes Joseph Stalin as a low-born revolutionist and bandit from early years, successor by sheer ruthlessness to Lenin as absolute ruler of the Soviet Union, liquidator of the Kulak class in the Ukraine, purger of his own party and totalitarian to the core.

Joseph Stalin’s political strategy to construct socialism is known as Stalinism. Stalinist policies in the Soviet Union included: state terror, authoritarianism, rapid industrialization and the theory of socialism in one country, a centralized state and collectivization of agriculture (Bottomore, 1991). According to Gouldner (2009) Stalinism is historically analyzed as a regime of terror in furtherance of a property transfer which utilized a personal dictatorship and a burgeoning bureaucracy.

Many Soviet and the international politicians observed certain abnormal traits in Stalin’s character. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin saw Stalin as a rude unsympathetic person. Leon Trotsky noticed Stalin’s unstable emotions. Nikolai Bukharin identified his insatiable desire for power disregarding moral values. Among the international politicians Winston Churchill become aware of Stalin’s coldness when he laughed and joked about the killing of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Kulaks while dining with him in 1942 at the Yalta conference. The Yugoslav Communist politician Milovan Ðilas perceived inappropriate humour, sycophancy, vulgarity and extreme manipulativeness in Stalin.

Mental capacity of Joseph Stalin was questioned by the Soviet and the foreign experts. Dr. Vladimir Bekhterev detected paranoid symptoms in Stalin in 1927. Stalin’s physician Dr. Alexander Myasnikov who treated him in 1953 believed that atherosclerosis of the cerebral arteries caused abnormal behaviour and impaired judgment in the Soviet dictator. There are a number of theories that intensely discuss Stalin’s terrorizing behaviour and long lasting paranoia. As indicated by Birt (1993) paranoia often begins during childhood in a situation in which the child feels both dependent on and threatened by the father. Birt (1993) further states that severe emotional ambivalence that Stalin experienced in his childhood may have caused lasting impact on him.

Physical and psychological distresses

Stalin was born in 1879 in Gori -Georgia. His real name was Joseph Djugashvili. Stalin had a turbulent childhood. As a young child Stalin underwent severe physical and psychological distresses that affected his adult life in huge capacity. His father Vissarion (Beso) Djugashvili was a cobbler and an alcoholic. His clients paid him partly in wine which was so plentiful in Georgia that many workers received alcohol instead of cash. Furthermore, he did some business in the corner of a friend’s dukhan (tavern), which encouraged him to drink too much (Montefiore, 2007). He was a violent man and was killed in a bar fight.

Stalin feared his alcoholic father who physically and verbally abused him and his mother. Brackman (2003) states that the neighbours long remembered Vissarion’s brutal beatings of the boy and on one occasion out of rage Vissarion threw a hammer at the boy, barely missing him. Stalin frequently witnessed family violence. At the age of nine little Stalin was sent to a workshop to work as a child labourer by his father. When he refused to work he was severely punished by Vissarion. Since his childhood he had unresolved psychological conflicts with his father. Stalin's violent tendencies developed in part due to his father's behaviour (Stal, 2013).

Stalin never received the love that he expected from his mother. His mother Yekaterina Geladze was an illiterate woman. She wanted Stalin to become a priest. He was sent to a Seminary in Tbilisi. But young Stalin was expelled from the Seminary due to his poor performance and for reading Marxist books.

The Seminary life made a huge impact on his life in the later years. He frequently underwent physical beatings by the priests. He saw their double standards and found nothing sacred in life itself. Progressively he was captivated by reading Charles Darwin and Karl Marx.

Toward the end of 1898, Stalin’s relations with seminary officials became increasingly hostile. He refused to bow to the inspector, who complained to the Board of Supervisors. An entry in the Seminary’s records states that in the course of a search of the fifth-grade dormitories, ‘Iosif Dzhugashvili tried several times to enter into an argument with seminary officials, expressing dissatisfaction with the repeated searches of students, and declaring that such searches were never made in other seminaries. What the record book fails to mention is that Koba’s (Stalin’s) actions were directly responsible for the search. Koba tried to induce some of his fellow students to drop out of the Seminary and join the revolutionary underground (Brackman, 2003).

Stalin’s mother Yekaterina Geladze

Stalin grew up alone and he had no siblings. His mother gave birth to three children who either died in early infancy or were stillborn. In later years she once mentioned that she had two sons and another time she spoke of three babies, which suggests that one of them was a girl. The causes of their deaths and even their names remain unknown (Brackman, 2003).

Stalin had attachment problems with his mother. (According to some sources Stalin’s mother had an affair with his God father Yakov Egnatashvili and Stalin’s real father was not Vissarion Djugashvili the cobbler). Stalin’s mother used to work in David Pismamedov’s house. Pismamedov was a Jewish businessman in Gori and some residents suspected an illicit affair between David Pismamedov and Stalin’s mother Yekaterina Geladze. 

Add new comment