In today's selection -- from his youngest years, Josef Stalin, later to become the tyrant dictator of Russia and the USSR responsible for more deaths than Hitler, was beaten by both his alcoholic father Beso and his mother Keke. Josef was known by the nickname "Soso." Yet this was far from the only violence he experienced growing up in Georgia -- he had almost daily fights at school and as a very young member of a gang. Even holidays were filled with violence -- town holidays were punctuated by brawls in which almost all the men and boys participated:
"Soso suffered bitterly, terrified of the drunk Beso. 'My Soso was a very sensitive child,' reports Keke. 'As soon as he heard the sound of his father's singing balaam-balaam from the street, he'd immediately run to me asking if he could go and wait at our neighbours until his father fell asleep.'
"Crazy Beso now spent so much on drink that he even had to sell his belt -- and, explained Stalin later, 'a Georgian has to be in desperate straits to sell his belt.' The more she despised [her husband] Beso, the more Keke spoiled Soso: 'I always wrapped him up warmly with his woollen scarf. He for his part loved me very much too. When he saw the drunken father, his eyes filled with tears, his lips turned blue and he cuddled me and begged me to hide him.'
"Beso was violent to both Keke and Soso. A son was the pride of a Georgian man, but perhaps Soso had come to represent a husband's greatest humiliation if the evil tongues were right after all [about Josef being the biological son of another man]. Once Beso threw Stalin so hard to the floor that there was blood in the child's urine for days. 'Undeserved beatings made the boy as hard and heartless as the father himself,' believed his schoolmate Josef Iremashvili, who published his memoirs. It was through his father 'that he learned to hate people.' Young Davrichewy recalls how Keke 'surrounded him with maternal love and defended him against all comers,' while Beso treated him 'like a dog, beating him for nothing.'
"When Soso hid, Beso searched the house screaming, 'Where is Keke's little bastard? Hiding under the bed?' Keke fought back. Once, Soso arrived at Davrichewy's house with his face covered in blood, crying: 'Help! Come quickly! He's killing my mother!' The officer ran round to the Djugashvilis to find Beso strangling Keke.
"This took a toll on the four-year-old. His mother remembered how Soso would take stubborn offence at his father. He first learned violence at home: he once threw a knife at Beso to defend Keke. He grew up pugnacious and truculent, so hard to control that Keke herself, who adored him, needed physical discipline to govern her unruly treasure.
" 'The fist which had subdued the father was applied to the upbringing of the son,' said a Jewish lady who knew the family. 'She used to thrash him,' says Stalin's daughter, Svetlana. When Stalin visited Keke for the last time, in the 1930s, he asked her why she had beaten him so much. 'It didn't do you any harm,' she replied."
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No comment, none at all. Just that I think that last paragraph says everything that needs to be said.
text to speech
One thing that seems to contribute to people who were abused becoming abusive, is if they have someone or something else around that they can hurt. For example if a child has an abusive parent, but they are actually more favored by the abusive parent, so the child learns to cope with it and cope with their anger by being abusive to the less-favored child. And because of being favored by the abusive parent, they identify with the abuser.
I don't see that in the story of Stalin's childhood. It seems that being violent helped him cope with being extensively brutalized.
I've seen people comment on such stories "Well, I was treated brutally as a child and I didn't become abusive, I'm a good parent. A person has a choice, and (that person who was abused and became violent) chose to become violent ".
This seems like cheap self-congratulation to me. First, people vary greatly in their inherited disposition. They vary a lot in how sensitive they are, and in how liable to anger and violence they are.
Also, people's circumstances when they were children, are not neatly encapsulated in "how bad it was". One "very bad" upbringing may be very different from another "very bad" upbringing.
And maybe the person who "went on after a bad childhood to become a good parent" isn't really such a good parent. It's very common for people to imagine they're better people than they are.
The curious thing about Stalin is not so much, why did he do the things he did - but rather, why did he rise to power in the Soviet Union? I've read that the Russian people have an admiration of "strong men" from having been under the autocratic rule of various czars for centuries. So they had a culture that tended to allow dictators, and allowed this former victimized child to cope with his past by murdering millions.
Loren, this touches a tender place in my being. How does a child find safety? Or how does a child protect a mother? What becomes of that child when grown? The evidence is too clear; there are physical, mental and emotional scars that never heal. They become toughened tissue. Some become mean, others become afraid, some depressed. Finding a way to healthy living and loving relationships is possible and with a solid team of people in support, a battered child can become a compassionate adult.
Meanness begins with the degradation of the female, and of men being expected to be in control. Both Stalin father and mother were assaultive to him. She undoubtedly became so when she felt she had to get control over her son to protect him from his father.
I know that feeling. I had to get control of my children trying to protect them from arousing their father's furry. My spankings would hurt them physically but not like the punishment they received from their father. That was a terrible mistake that ended when my children were ten years old. But I tried to maintain the family as best I could ,and I failed utterly. The family should never have been held together. The only decent, loving thing I could do was to break the family.
The good news is, I was able to escape and tell my children I would never hit them again. I never did. And they didn't need to be hit. I learned healthy, effective, efficient parenting skills. Our communication patterns became clear and honest. We learned how to solve problems and conflicts, and how to work together as a team.
My children now have children of their own, and they learned all those wonderful skills. Their children are growing up to be really fine adults and responsible members of society. My great-grandchildren behave beautifully, are all very independent, they participate in the many chores of a farm life, and no violence is involved in their upbringing. The cycle of violence is broken.
I wonder if Stalin ever had such a chance? I wonder if there were people around him who knew anything other than control and domination? Even though he wasn't a religious person, I wonder how much of the nonsense his father and mother believed came from the religious traditions of their day?
May I repost your statement on Tweet?
It's not my work, Joan; it belongs to delanceyplace.com, but do as you see fit.
OK. I went to the site and Twitted from there.
Both Stalin father and mother were assaultive to him. She undoubtedly became so when she felt she had to get control over her son to protect him from his father.
Women may become violent for many different reasons, just as men do.
There seem to be hugely many men who never investigate their emotional being, allow their childhood pain to fester and turn toxic. Part of the male role, men are less likely to seek therapy.
I am so very lucky to have discovered Leadership Institute of Spokane, the master's degree program at Whitworth College when I ran away in 1975. There were so many beliefs I had to shed, and new skills to learn that I could have learned at home or in school if society were so inclined.
Twenty-five years later my daughter found Landmark that taught the same principles. Gratefully, her Landmark experiences and mine weren't as cult-like as others report.
The issue is to find a place to challenge ones own beliefs to see if they are valid or if they are intended to serve someone else's purposes. Then to learn new skills in personal and interpersonal relationships that are healthy, life affirming and promotes flourishing.
I am still stunned at how beautifully my children and their families function, seeing change as an opportunity to learn how to be flexible and adaptable without being a victim, conflict as an occasion to learn how to perform as a team, and anger, fear, sadness, jealousy, guilt and shame are indicators that something needs to be tended. These feelings don't tell what needs to change, but that something needs attention.
A family with these skills and belief systems offer proof that wives and children do not need to be controlled.