Stalin’s Lovers and Wives

My life was strongly influenced by the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, as described in my autobiography (the link is in the resource box below). That is why I am so interested in his life. As a young man I glorified him; as an old man I condemned him. Stalin, born to poor Georgian parents (in 1879), attended a Russian Orthodox seminary. But instead of becoming a priest he became a revolutionary agitator. He helped to organize strikes in Georgia, and participated in terrorist activities–to raise funds for the Russian communist party created by Lenin. Arrested several times, and sent to Siberia, he managed to escape.

After the second Russian revolution (1917) Stalin became a close associate of Lenin. In 1922, after the civil war ended, Lenin promoted him to the post of the general secretary of the Bolshevik party. That position allowed Stalin to become the supreme ruler of the country after Lenin’s death (1924). Stalin was a brutal fanatical leader responsible for tragic deaths of millions of Soviet people. My own father was one of his victims. That aspect of Stalin’s activities is described in many books. But most of these books focus on Stalinism as a political system, not on the private life of the Soviet leader. A more recent book, “Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar,” by British historian S. S. Montefiore, is an exception. What follows is based on information from that book.

Stalin’s first wife, Ekaterina Svinadze, from a cultured Georgian family, was a sister of his revolutionary friend. They married in 1906. But she died in 1907, at the age of 22, after giving birth to their son Yakov. That child, raised by the Svinadze family in Georgia, was subsequently sent to Moscow. But his relations with Stalin were not good.

Maria Kuzakova was another woman in Stalin’s life. They met in Siberian exile, where he was sent after one of his arrests for revolutionary activities. Their out-of-wedlock child, Konstantin Kuzakov, was born after Stalin’s escape. After returning to Georgia, Stalin met Olga Allilyuev, the wife of his fellow Russian revolutionary, Sergei. Close relations between Stalin and Olga are mentioned by Montefiore. It is interesting that the daughter of Sergei and Olga, Nadia, became Stalin’s second wife, fifteen years later. She was 18 and he was 39. They had two children, Vasily and Svetlana. But that was not an easy marriage; Nadia killed herself in 1932. Some believe that she was actually killed by Stalin, to free himself of his interfering and neurotic wife.

Subsequently, Stalin had casual relations with many young women: actresses, ballerinas, opera singers, etc. But his last love affair, with a simple Russian peasant woman, Valentina Istomina, was long-lasting. Officially she was his housekeeper, beginning in 1934, when she was nineteen. But she became a devoted mistress, and a second mother to Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana. One might say that Valentina, whom he called Valechka, was, in effect if not in fact, Stalin’s third wife.