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Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin


Joseph Stalin was Leader of the Soviet Union from 1927 to 1953.


Stalin's speeches, writings and authorized interviews

  • We think that a powerful and vigorous movement is impossible without differences — "true conformity" is possible only in the cemetery.
    • Stalin's article "Our purposes" Pravda #1, (22 January 1912)

  • We disagreed with Zinoviev and Kamenev because we knew that the policy of amputation was fraught with great dangers for the Party, that the method of amputation, the method of blood-letting — and they demanded blood — was dangerous, infectious: today you amputate one limb, tomorrow another, the day after tomorrow a third — what will we have left in the Party?

  • What would happen if capital succeeded in smashing the Republic of Soviets? There would set in an era of the blackest reaction in all the capitalist and colonial countries, the working class and the oppressed peoples would be seized by the throat, the positions of international communism would be lost.

  • Anti-Semitism, as an extreme form of racial chauvinism, is the most dangerous vestige of cannibalism.
    • "Anti-Semitism: Reply to an inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States" (12 January 1931)

  • Anti-Semitism is dangerous for the toilers, for it is a false track which diverts them from the proper road and leads them into the jungle. Hence, Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable and bitter enemies of anti-Semitism. In the U.S.S.R., anti-Semitism is strictly prosecuted as a phenomenon hostile to the Soviet system. According to the laws of the U.S.S.R. active anti-Semites are punished with death.
    • "Anti-Semitism: Reply to an inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States" (12 January 1931)

  • We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they will crush us.

  • Cadres decide everything! (more accurate translation, with respect to the context, would be "Cadres are a key to everything")

  • Life has improved, comrades. Life has become more joyous.

  • Mankind is divided into rich and poor, into property owners and exploited; and to abstract oneself from this fundamental division; and from the antagonism between poor and rich means abstracting oneself from fundamental facts.

  • Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.

Contemporary witnesses

  • "God's not unjust, he doesn't actually exist. We've been deceived. If God existed, he'd have made the world more just... I'll lend you a book and you'll see."
    • A teenaged Stalin after reading The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. Quoted by Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin, page 49.

  • "Before your eyes rises the hero of Gogol's story who, in a fit of aberration, imagined that he was the King of Spain. Such is the fate of all megalomaniacs."
    • Proletariatis Brdzola August 1905. Quoted by Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin, page 376.

  • This creature softened my heart of stone. She died and with her died my last warm feelings for humanity.
    • At the funeral of his first wife, Kato Svanidze, on 25 November 1907. Quoted by Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin, page 193.

  • One of Ivan the Terrible's mistakes was to overlook the five great feudal families. If he had annihilated those five families, there would definately have been no Time of Troubles. But Ivan the Terrible would excecute someone and then spend a long time repenting and praying. God got in his way in this matter. He ought to have been still more decisive!
    • Moskovskie novosti, no. 32, 7 August 1988

  • The writer is the engineer of the human soul.
    • Said by Stalin at a meeting of fifty top Soviet writers at Maxim Gorky's house in Moscow (26 October 1932), as quoted in Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar, p. 85, and Edvard Radzinsky's Stalin, pp. 259-63. Primary source: K. Zelinsky's contemporary record of the event. It was published in English in Stalin and the Literary Intelligentsia,. (1991) by А. Kemp-Welch, Basingstoke and London, pp. 12-31.

  • This war is not as in the past; whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise. If now there is no a communist government in Paris, cause of this is Russia has no an army which can reach to Paris in 1945.
    • Said in April, 1945, as quoted in Conversations with Stalin (1963) by Milovan Djilas

  • I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how.
    • In Russian: Я считаю, что совершенно неважно, кто и как будет в партии голосовать; но вот что чрезвычайно важно, это - кто и как будет считать голоса.
    • Said in 1923, as quoted in The Memoirs of Stalin's Former Secretary (1992) by Boris Bazhanov [Saint Petersburg] (Борис Бажанов. Воспоминания бывшего секретаря Сталина). (Text online in Russian).
    • Variant (loose) translation: The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.

  • Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.
    • As quoted in The Memoirs of former Stalin's secretary (1992) by Boris Bazhanov [Saint Petersburg] (in Russian)

  • The Pope! How many divisions has he got?
    • Said sarcastically to Pierre Laval when urged to tolerate Catholicism in the Soviet Union to appease the Pope (13 May 1935); as quoted in The Second World War (1948) by Winston Churchill vol. 1, ch. 8,

  • So the bastard's dead! Too bad we didn't capture him alive!

  • Does Djilas, who is himself a writer, not know what human suffering and the human heart are? Can't he understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometers through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle?
    • In response to complaints about the rapes and looting commited by the Red Army during the Second World War. Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin, page 95.

  • Tsar Alexander reached Paris.
    • Said to an American diplomat who remarked how grateful it must be to see Russian troops in Berlin. Quoted in Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger

  • I know that after my death a pile of rubbish will be heaped on my grave, but the wind of History will sooner or later sweep it away without mercy.
    • Said to Molotov in 1943, as quoted in Felix Chuev's 140 Conversations with Molotov Moscow, 1991.

  • Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?
    • As quoted in Quotations for Public Speakers : A Historical, Literary, and Political Anthology (2001) by Robert G. Torricelli, p. 121

  • There are no fortresses that Bolsheviks cannot storm.
    • Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption, London: Quercus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1905204965, p. 131


  • For some people, four walls are three too many.
    • This seems to have originated with the Spanish military leader Juan Domingo de Monteverde, who, in Francisco de Miranda, a Transatlantic Life in the Age of Revolution (2003) by Karen Racine, p. 239, is quoted as having said: "four walls are three too many for a prison — you only need one for an execution."

  • The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.
    • "Mustering Most Memorable Quips" by Julia Solovyova, in The Moscow Times (28 October 1997) states: Russian historians have no record of the lines, "Death of one man is a tragedy. Death of a million is a statistic," commonly attributed by English-language dictionaries to Josef Stalin. Discussing the book by Konstantin Dushenko (Константин Душенко) Dictionary of Modern Quotations (Словарь современных цитат: 4300 ходячих цитат и выражений ХХ века, их источники, авторы, датировка).
    • Variants: One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is just a statistic.
      When one dies, it is a tragedy. When a million die, it is a statistic.
      A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic
    • This quotation probably was originated from the novel "Der schwarze Obelisk" by Erich Maria Remarque (1956): "Aber das ist wohl so, weil ein einzelner immer der Tod ist — und zwei Millionen immer nur eine Statistik."

  • Death solves all problems — no man, no problem.
    • This actually comes from the novel Children of the Arbat (1987) by Anatoly Rybakov. In his later book The Novel of Memories (In Russian) Rybakov has admitted that he made the quotation up.

Quotations about Stalin

  • Comrade Koba told you that we were against you and demanded your sacking from the Committee, but I promise nothing of the sort happened and everything Koba told you was a malicious lie! Yes: a calumny to discredit us! I just wonder at the man's impudence. I know how worthless he is, but I didn't expect such 'courage.' But it turns out that he'll use any means if he thinks the ends justify them. The end in this case - the ambition - is to present himself as a great man before the nation. But... God didn't grant him the right gifts, so he has to resort to intrigues, lies and other 'bagatelles.' Such a filthy person wanted to pollute our sacred mission with sewage!
    • Georgian Menshevik Noe Khomeriki in a 1904 letter to a member of the Social Democratic Central Committee for the Caucausus region. Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin, page 125.

  • The late Leonid Krasin ... was the first, if I am not mistaken, to call Stalin an "Asiatic". In saying that, he had in mind no problematical racial attributes, but rather that blending of grit, shrewdness, craftiness and cruelty which has been considered characteristic of the statesmen of Asia. Bukharin subsequently simplified the appellation, calling Stalin "Genghis Khan", manifestly in order to draw attention to his cruelty, which has developed into brutality. Stalin himself, in conversation with a Japanese journalist, once called himself an "Asiatic", not in the old, but rather in the new sense of the word: with that personal allusion he wished to hint at the existence of common interests between the USSR and Japan as against the imperialistic West.
    • Leon Trotsky, Stalin: An appraisal of the man and his influence, edited and translated from the Russian by Charles Malamuth, London: Hollis and Carter, LTD. 1947

  • Every crime was possible to Stalin, for there was not one he had not comitted. Whatever standards we use to take his measure, in any event -- let us hope for all time to come -- to him will fall the glory of being the greatest criminal in history. For in him were joined the senselessness of a Caligula with the refinement of a Borgia and the brutality of a Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
    • Yugoslavian Communist Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin, page 187.

  • Stalin was a guy like we are, not only that he considered himself a revolutionary and lived like one, but he was a character in the truest sense of the word.

  • Apparently, father was a Georgian when he was younger.
    • Stalin's second son Vasily to his sister Svetlana, showing just how little the general secretary spent with his children.

  • There were those on the right who argued that only a unilateral foreign policy and an immediate invasion of the Soviet Union could disable the emerging communist threat. And although isolationism of the sort that prevailed in the thirties was now thoroughly discredited, there were those on the left who downplayed Soviet aggression, arguing that given Soviet losses and the country's critical role in the Allied victory, Stalin should be accommodated.

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