Note - Young Stalin

Biographies & Memoirs



Stalin did not start to use his renowned name until 1912: it only became his surname after October 1917. His real name was Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili. His mother, friends and comrades called him “Soso” even after 1917. He published poems as “Soselo.” He increasingly called himself “Koba,” but he used many names in the course of his secret life.

For the sake of clarity, “Stalin” and “Soso” are used throughout the book.


I have followed the same principles as I did in my other books on Russia. Wherever possible, I have tried to use the most recognizable, best - known and most easily transliterated versions of the Georgian and Russian names. Of course, this leads to many inconsistencies—for example, I call the Georgian Menshevik leader Noe Jordania, not Zhordania, and use Jibladze, not Djibladze, yet I feel I must spell Stalin’s real name Djugashvili because it is so well known by that spelling. I use the French spellings of Davrichewy and Chavichvili (instead of Davrishashvili and Shavishvili) because their memoirs are published under these names. I apologize to the many linguists who may be appalled by this.


Dates are given in the Old Style Julian Calendar, used in Russia, which ran thirteen days behind the New Style Gregorian Calendar used in the West. When describing events in the West, both dates are given. The Soviet government switched to the New Style Calendar at midnight on 31 January 1918 with the next day declared 14 February.


In early - twentieth - century rates, 10 roubles = £1. The simplest way to convert this into today’s money is to multiply by five to get pounds sterling and by ten to get U.S. dollars. A couple of examples: as a labourer in the Rothschild refineries in Batumi, young Stalin received 1.70 roubles per day, or 620 per annum ($6,000 or £3,000 per annum today). Tsar Nicholas II paid himself a personal allowance of 250,000 roubles a year while the bodyguard of the Tsarevich Alexei was paid a salary of 120 roubles a year ($1,200 or £600 per annum today). Yet these numbers are meaningless: the figures give little idea of real buying power and value. For example, Nicholas II was probably the richest man in the world, certainly in Russia. Yet his entire personal wealth of land, jewels, palaces, art and mineral deposits were calculated in 1917 as being worth 14 million roubles which, transferred into today’s money, is a mere $140 million or £70 million—clearly an absurdly small figure.


There are not always equivalents of Tsarist titles and ranks but I have tried to use as close an equivalent as possible. For the Russian autocrats, I use “Tsar” and “Emperor” interchangeably. Tsar Peter the Great crowned himself “Emperor” in 1721. The title of the ruler of the Caucasus varied. Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaievich, son and brother of emperors, was the viceroy. His successor, Prince Grigory Golitsyn, in office during Stalin’s seminary days, had the lesser rank of governor - general. His successor Count Illarion Vorontsov - Dashkov would again be viceroy in 1905–16.

10 versts = 6.63 miles
1 pud = 36 lb.

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