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Sex in the USSR

On the excesses of the Red Tsar.

JV Stalin/Wikimedia Commons
Source: JV Stalin/Wikimedia Commons

In many ways, Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili had the cards stacked against him. He was short (5’5” at full height), pigeon-toed and web-footed (his second and third left toes stuck together), pock-marked (he caught smallpox at 6), and his left arm was hurt (he was run over by a phaeton at 12). His mother, Keke, took in laundry, and got small favors from her lovers; his father Boso, a cobbler, died a drunk. He was a born Marxist.

Djugashvili, aka Soso, Soselo, Beso, Koba, Petrov, Ivanovich, Koba Ivanovich, Besoshvili, Ivan Ivanovich Vissarionovich, Galiashvili, Simon Yvelaya, K. Kato, Gaios Besovich Nizheradze, Organez Totomiants, Zakhar Melikiants, Peter Chizhihov, Vasily, Vasiliev, Vasya, Vaska, Oddvall Osip, Osip Koba, Ivanov, Pockmarked Oska, the Caucasian, the Milkman, the Pockmarked One, Geza, Kunkula, Chopura, David, the Priest, Father Koba, Giorgi Berdzenoshvili, and K. Solin became, in his 34th year, J. V. Stalin: the Man of Steel.

Two passions turned Josef into Stalin. The first was his blood lust. The other was lust.

The blood lust was obvious early. There was the piracy of the Tsarevich Giorgi, that netted 16,000 rubles in 1906; there was the bank robbery in Tiflis a year later, that netted 241,000 rubles and left 40 Georgians massacred; there were protection rackets in Baku, where petroleum magnates paid cash to prevent accidents; oligarchs' children were kidnapped: the Bolsheviks were funded on ransoms.

Orgies followed the heists. Stalin had an early flirtation with the daughter of Father Charkviani, his seminary priest; he went out with Lisa Akopova, another Georgian from Gori; the mother of Pasha Mikhailovskaya, his probable illegitimate daughter, sent a letter; he consorted with Natasha Kirtava, a Social Democrat abandoned by her husband; he got extortion tips from Marie Arensberg, the wife of a German merchant; he married a Bolshevik's sister, Kato Svanidze—who died abandoned of typhus a year later, and left their son Yakov to be raised by her own sisters; he hung out with 18-year-old Alvasi Talakvadze, after the Tiflis bank robbery; he had an on-and-off relationship with Ludmilla Stal, an activist from the Ukraine; he had a relationship with Tatiana Sukhova, as an exile in Solvychegodsk; he proposed to Stefania Petrovskaya, the noblewoman from Odessa; he cohabited with Serafima Khoroshenina, who got registered as a civil partner; he abandoned his pregnant landlady in Vologda, Maria Kurzakova; he had a ménage à trois with the 16-year-old “Glamourpuss,” a high school student; he bedded another landlady, the divorced Maria Bogoslovskaya, and with Sophia Kryukova, her 16-year-old maid; he dated "darling" Tatiana Slavatinskaya, as he got to work on Pravda; he got smuggled out of Petersburg by Valentina Lobova, the wife of another comrade; he seduced 13-year-old Lidia Pereprygin, the Arctic Circle orphan who bore him two children but was left to herself; he moved in with Vera Shveitzer, who went to Petrograd with him; he took a shot at Vyacheslav Molotov’s girlfriend, Marusya; he seduced Olga Fedotenko, the wife of his comrade Sergei Alliluyev; and Zhenya Alliluyeva, one of Olga’s daughters; and 16-year-old Nadya Alliluyeva, another of Olga’s daughters and Stalin’s last wife—who on the anniversary of the Revolution, in November of 1932, shot herself in the chest.

After the Revolution, the tragedies of individual deaths turned into drier, more anonymous statistics. Thousands of enemies of the workers were deported or executed. Poets and paleontologists, pianists, and botanists were cleansed. Party officials, Red Army leadership, and ethnicities were eradicated. To finance the industrialization of Russia, there were general famines. In all, 20,000,000 people died.

The Revolution was followed by more romantic affairs, but those were anonymous too. Stalin flirted with comrades, and comrades’ wives. Fan mail fills the archives: “I enclose my photograph,” groupies from everywhere wrote to him; “I saw you in my dreams.” Whether or not he wanted them, officers in the Kremlin procured women. Even his bodyguard, Vlasik, admitted Stalin couldn’t resist all those girls. “He was a man after all.”

For centuries, Julius Caesar and his successors ruled over a Mediterranean Empire. Caesar’s successor Augustus, who was the first Roman Emperor, had women procured for him too. Marc Antony remembered in a letter how his friends helped him out: “They would strip mothers of families, or grown girls, of their clothes, and inspect them as though they were for sale.” Even Livia Drusilla, the emperor’s third wife, turned a blind eye to his affairs for 52 years. “The charge of being a womanizer stuck, and as an elderly man he is said to have still harbored a passion for initiating girls, who were collected for him from every quarter, even by his wife.”

For centuries after that, Charles the Great and his successors became Kaisers, and ruled over empires across Europe. They had their way with their nobles’ wives and daughters. They collected gadalibus, or trollops, and meretricibus, or whores. “They plunged into the hog wallows of filth,” suspicious abbots wrote; “Wanton ones were assembled, scoundrels were introduced.” Monks at the Reichenau imagined them in hell, with wild animals tearing at their genitals.

Then in Russia, the Caesars became Czars. Then Stalin became the Red Czar.

“A true Bolshevik shouldn’t have a family because he should give himself wholly to the Party.”

Like so many other socialists, he offered deoxyribonucleic acid. And let the collective do the rest.


Betzig, L. 1992. Roman polygyny. In Laura Betzig, ed., Darwinian History, special issue of Ethology and Sociobiology, 13: 309-49.

Montefiore, S. S. 2007. Young Stalin. New York: Knopf.

Montefiore, S. S. 2004. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Penguin Ranom House.