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Joseph Stalin or Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin (18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953), was the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953.
He was one of the most powerful and murderous dictators in history, Stalin was the supreme ruler of the Soviet Union for a quarter of a century. His regime of terror caused the death, torture and suffering of tens of millions, but he also oversaw the war machine that played a key role in the defeat of Nazism.
Stalin (born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili) was born on 18 December 1879 in Gori, Georgia, which was then part of the Russian empire. His father was a cobbler and Stalin grew up in modest circumstances. He studied at a theological seminary where he began to read Marxist literature. He never graduated, instead devoting his time to the revolutionary movement against the Russian monarchy. He spent the next 15 years as an activist and on a number of occasions was arrested and exiled to Siberia.
Stalin was not one of the decisive players in the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917, but he soon rose through the ranks of the party. In 1922, he was made general secretary of the Communist Party, a post not considered particularly significant at the time but which gave him control over appointments and thus allowed him to build up a base of support. After Lenin's death in 1924, Stalin promoted himself as his political heir and gradually outmanoeuvred his rivals. By the late 1920s, Stalin was effectively the dictator of the Soviet Union. His forced collectivisation of agriculture cost millions of lives, while his programme of rapid industrialisation achieved huge increases in Soviet productivity and economic growth but at great cost. Moreover, the population suffered immensely during the Great Terror of the 1930s, during which Stalin purged the party of 'enemies of the people', resulting in the torture and execution of thousands as well as the exile of millions to the gulag system of slave labour camps.
These purges severely depleted the Red Army, and despite repeated warnings, Stalin was ill prepared for Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. His political future, and that of the Soviet Union, hung in the balance, but Stalin recovered to lead his country to victory. The human cost was enormous, but was not a consideration for him.
After World War Two, the Soviet Union entered the nuclear age and ruled over an empire which included most of eastern Europe. Increasingly paranoid, Stalin died of a stroke on 5 March 1953.
Rosa Klebb is a high ranking member of the feared Russian counter-intelligence agency SMERSH, where she serves as the supervisor of Department II (operations and executions). She gained the favour of ranking intelligence officer, Andreas Nin and became his assistant and mistress. She cleverly avoided grouping with any factions within the Red Army and survived all of Stalin's purges. Eventually she took her superior officer's place after he was killed, which the novel suggests may well have been by her hand.
During the Second World War, Alec Trevelyan Cossack parents had fled to Britain to escape the conflict. Following the war, in 1945, the British delivered them and many like them to the Red Army for repatriation to the USSR. Most Cossacks were sent to the gulags in far northern Russia and in Siberia under orders from Joseph Stalin and many died; some, however, escaped and others lived until Nikita Khrushchev's amnesty in 1953. The Trevelyans survived the ordeal and Alec Trevelyan was born. Several years later, however, his father murdered his mother and then committed suicide; "unable to let himself or [Alec's] mother live with the shame of it". As with Bond, Alec was now an orphan. Statues of Stalin and Vladimir Lenin are shown in the intro and in the scene where James meets Alec again.