Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union since 1924, dies in Moscow.
Stalin, the son of a poor cobbler, joined Vladimir Lenin’s revolutionary Bolshevik party in 1903. After 1917, Stalin held important posts in the revolutionary government and in 1924 seized power following Lenin’s death.
As Soviet leader, Stalin enacted a brutal economic program that killed millions of peasants. In 1934, he purged Soviet society of suspected political opponents, killing thousands.
In 1939, the USSR signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, but it was only honoured by Adolf Hitler for two years.
In 1941, Germany invaded, and 22 million Soviets died before the Nazis were finally defeated. After the war, Stalin isolated the USSR and Eastern Europe from the rest of the world. Three years after his death, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin at the 20th Party Congress.