December 21, 1879 at Gori in Georgia, Joseph Stalin is born. Ten years later on April 20, 1889, Adolph Hitler is given birth to at Braunanu on the River Inn. This difference in age grew ever wider until death when Hitler died in 1945 at age 56 and Stalin lived to be 73 till 1953. Separated by 1,500 miles of land between Georgia and Upper Austria., an even greater distance separated their historical and social development. Yet these two men had common features in their backgrounds.
Both were born just outside the borders of the countries they were to some day rule. While Hitler was a German, he was born a subject of the Hadsburg Empire. German's had played the leading role for centuries, but with Bismark's formation of a German Empire based on Prussia, from which the Austrian Germans were excluded in 1860's. They found themselves forced to defend their historic claim against the growing demands for the Czechs equality and the equality of the other "subject peoples." This had an intense impact on Hitler's attitudes and led to his becoming a rabid German nationalist, however unlike most, he gained an anxiety-ridden, pessimistic outlook of a minority group within their own state. Knowing of their great past, he saw their future threatened by the growing numbers and inferior races (Slavs, Polish, Russian Jews).
Stalin's origins were also important, though they worked in different ways. The reappearance of figures from his Georgian past, such as Ordzhonikidze and Beria, his attitude toward whom was affected by the complex relationships and feuds of Georgian politics. Though his key decision was turning down his Georgian inheritance and identifying with the Georgians' Russian conquerors instead of the Russians' Georgian victims. The result was to produce a Great Russian chauvinist, who worked to overthrow the tsarist state but not to break up the Russian Empire.
Around the time of Stalin's birth Georgia was not the best place to be. They were at a miserable level of poverty, there was no industry, they had a 75% illiteracy rate and an increasing crime rate. Stalin, or Josif Djugashvilli as his birth name was, was born to peasants. Both of his parents were illiterate, semiliterate at best, and were born as serfs. They were freed only in 1864. Upon release, his father moved to Gori to practice his trade as a cobbler, where he met and married Stalin's mother.
After two deaths at birth, Stalin was finally born as their third attempt at a child. Upon contraction of smallpox at age five, Stalin almost dies, and his face left pockmarked. His left arm permanently injured as a result of a childhood accident. He lived in a single-roomed brick-built house with a lean-to garret above and a cellar, which was subsequently turned into a shrine and encased in a neoclassical temple with four marble columns. His father was a rough, violent drunk who beat his wife and child, and found it hard to make a living. Stalin's best friend Iremashvilli, whom he knew throughout his educational years, said this about Stalin's father in his memoirs: "Undeserved and severe beatings made the boy as hard and heartless as the father was. Since all people in authority over others seemed to him to be like his father, there soon arose in him a vengeful feeling against all people standing above him. From childhood on, the realization of his thoughts of revenge became the aim to which everything was subordinated."1
Other accounts confirm the beatings and Stalin's reaction to them. He resented his father and his treatment toward him, but never let it break his spirit. Compensation...