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He was born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili on December 21 1879 in Gori Georgia His parents were both Georgian peasants Although neither of them spoke Russian Stalin was forced to learn it because it was the language of instruction at the Gori church school that he attended in 1888-94 He was the best pupil in the school and earned a full scholarship to the Tbilisi Theological Seminary While he studied the priesthood Stalin read forbidden literature including Karl Marxs Das Kapital and soon converted to a new orthodoxy Russian Marxism Before graduation he quit the seminary to become a full-time revolutionary Stalin began his career in the Social-Democratic party in 1899 as a propagandist among Tbilisi railroad workers The police caught up with him in 1902 Arrested in Batum he spent more than a year in prison before being exiled to Siberia from which he escaped in 1904 Between 1902 and 1913 Stalin was arrested eight times he was exiled seven times and escaped six times The government contained him only once his last exile in 1913 lasted until 1917 He adopted the pseudonym Stalin meaning a man of steel during this time On his return from Siberia in 1904 Stalin married His first wife Yekaterina Svanidze died in 1910 A second wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva whom he married in 1919 committed suicide in 1932 In the last years of czarist Russia 1905-17 Stalin was more of an up-and-coming follower than a leader He always supported the Bolshevik faction of the party but his contribution was practical not theoretical Thus in 1907 he helped organize a bank holdup in Tbilisi to expropriate funds Lenin raised him into the upper reaches of the party in 1912 by co-opting him into the Bolsheviks Central Committee The next year he briefly edited the new party newspaper Pravda Truth and at Lenins urging wrote his first major work Marxism and the Nationality Question However before this treatise appeared 1914
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