Joseph Stalin’s Wives

Ekaterine “Kato” Svanidze

Joseph Stalin, leader of the U.S.S.R. from 1929 to 1953 and one of the most powerful men in history, married twice. His first wife was Ekaterina Svanidze, and his second wife was Nadezhda Alliluyeva. 

Ekaterina Svanidze

Ekaterina “Kato” Svanidze was born on April 2, 1885 in Georgia. Her brother, Alexander Svanidze, was Stalin’s fellow revolutionary, and he introduced Stalin to her sister. Ekaterina and Stalin fell in love and decided to get married in 1906. The future dictator was an atheist, but out of respect for Ekaterina, he agreed to a wedding in an Orthodox church. 

Ekaterina bore Stalin a son, whom they named Yakov. Stalin was always busy with his revolutionary activities, so his wife and son rarely saw him. In 1907, at the age of 22, Ekaterina died of typhus. Her son, Yakov, was only nine months old. Stalin fell into deep sadness after the death of his wife, stating that Ekaterina was the only woman he had loved, apart from his mother. Stalin allowed her funeral to be held in an Orthodox church, again disregarding his atheistic beliefs. He said that Ekaterina’s death took with it his “last warm feelings for humanity.”

Nadezhda Sergeyevna Alliluyeva

Nadezhda Alliluyeva was Stalin’s second wife. She was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, on September 22, 1901. Her father, Sergei Alliluyev, met Stalin in 1904 while helping transport a printing press from Baku to Tiflis. She had been familiar with Stalin since she was a child, and she married him in 1919 at the age of 18. They had two children: Vasily Stalin and Svetlana Alliluyeva. 

Nadezhda kept herself busy serving as secretary to Bolshevik officials. Afterward, she pursued engineering studies at the Industrial Academy in Moscow. She had constant arguments with Stalin as a result of her suspicions that he was having various affairs with other women. Because of this, she thought about leaving Stalin several times. Her mother did not approve of Nadezhda marrying Stalin because she knew the future dictator was cruel and domineering. Eventually, Nadezhda gave birth to a son named Vasily, followed by a daughter named Svetlana. 

On the evening of November 8, 1932, Nadezhda and Stalin took part in a dinner in a Kremlin apartment. Many Bolshevik officials, along with their wives, attended this dinner. There was plenty of drinking, and soon, Nadezhda and Stalin began having an argument. Stalin was openly flirting with the actress Galina Yegorova, even while Nadezhda was at the same table with him. When Stalin proposed a toast for the defeat of the enemies of the state, Nadezhda did not lift up her glass. Stalin asked her why she was not drinking, but she did not respond. Stalin flicked cigarette butts and orange peels at Nadezhda, which made her fume even more. When Stalin yelled at her, “Hey you, have a drink,” she boiled over. She yelled back at him, “My name isn’t ‘hey’!” and left the room. As she was leaving, Stalin remarked to his colleagues what a fool Nadezhda was.

On the morning of November 9, 1932, while inside her room, Nadezhda shot herself in the chest. She died instantly. The family maid discovered her body on the floor in a puddle of blood, with the gun by her side. The gun, a Walther PP, was a gift from her brother, who spent some time in Berlin. Nadezhda had earlier asked him for a gun because she felt it was dangerous to be in the Kremlin with just one soldier standing guard. 

Stalin and other government officials felt it was not proper to announce that his wife had died by suicide. When Nadezhda’s death was announced the following day, the public was made to believe that she died of appendicitis. Even the children were not informed about the real circumstances surrounding their mother’s death.