Josef Stalin was the Adolf Hitler of bloodthirsty dictators. For over 30 years, he wrote pages of Russian history in blood, and when he died he left a huge smoking crater in the middle of the century that, in many ways, has yet to fully close.
It might never be known just how many people died under Stalin, but it certainly isn’t less than tens of millions. In his day, Stalin ruled the largest land empire of the modern age, built up a state that went from a feudal monarchy to a Space Age superpower, and tried to breed an army of half-human/half-ape slaves.
Oh, you weren’t expecting that last one, were you? Well, there’s a lot about Stalin you might not know. For example:
Joseph Stalin Facts: He Was A Short Weirdo
In 1902, a short, swarthy little firecracker of a man was arrested by Russian authorities for his part in a prison break. Before fingerprints were in common use, police had to write detailed notes about every suspect they took into custody. Here’s how they described the renegade Georgian in their holding tank:
Height 2 archins, 4 1/2 vershoks. Body medium. Age 23. Special features: Second and third toes of the left foot attached. Appearance: Ordinary. Hair dark brown. Beard and moustaches: Brown. Nose straight and long. Forehead straight but low. Face long, swarthy and pockmarked.
The man they had just arrested was Iosif Vissarionovich Djugashvili, later known as Stalin. Nobody at the time would have picked out this “ordinary” 23-year-old tough with webbed toes as future dictator material. Indeed, according to everybody who knew him at the time, at least those who lived long enough to talk about it, young Josef was notable mainly for the total lack of an impression he made on the people around him.
He wasn’t an adroit politician like Lenin, and he certainly wasn’t a nimble intellectual firebrand like Trotsky, but he had something those two charismatic leaders lacked—the guts to tough it out in Russia after the abortive 1905 attempt at revolution. While the more charismatic leaders of the revolt fled the country to escape the mass roundups that followed, Stalin remained in-country, secret police be damned.
Still, 2 archins, 4.5 vershoks is like, 5 feet, 4 inches tall.