Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili
Zakhar Gregoryan Melikyants
Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (1878–1953), the Soviet Communist leader, did not adopt his pseudonym – basically meaning ‘steel’ – all at once, it took some evolving. He was contributing to Bolshevik magazines such as ‘Zvezda’ [The Star] under the name K.S. and K. Salin, two or three years before he first used his familiar pseudonym of Stalin (1913). Opinions seemed divided as to the symbolic intention of the meaning of the name. Undoubtedly it is derived from the Russian ‘stal’ [steel], and certainly, after repeated arrest, banishment and imprisonment in czarist days Dzhugashvili’s spirit was unbroken, but it is unlikely that the name was given him by Lenin, as legend has it, because of his seeming ‘steel-like’ nature.
Another early favourite pseudonym of the Bolshevik activist was Koba – said to be Turkish [fearless] – and at one time he used the name Kato, perhaps with reference to the forthrightness of Cato the Elder. And these were not all. Among other names favoured by the revolutionary were David Bars, Gayoz Nizheradze, I. Besoshvili, Zakhar Gregoryan Melikyants, Ogoness Vartanovich, Totomyants, K. Soli (perhaps suggesting Russian ‘sol’ [salt]), and K. Stefin. Some of these names are reminiscent of his own real Georgian name.
See also Vladimir Illyich Lenin.
Room, A. (1981), ‘Name Stories, Naming Names, p.144
previous A–Z next