Monday, Mar. 28, 2011

Jozef Djugashvili to Stalin

The man whose name would become a byword for totalitarianism, draconian laws, terrifying cults of personality and the needless death of millions of people was born Jozef (or Iosif) Djugashvili in what is now the independent republic of Georgia. Hustled up among the Bolsheviks, he assumed a string of nicknames or noms de guerre, arriving in 1912 upon Stalin, signifying "steel." One imagines that name change would have prompted a moment's pause for some folk around him at the time. But they probably wound up purged.