Joseph Stalin was a brutal tyrant. When he took power, he began a totalitarian regime, imprisoned and executed thousands of citizens, and orchestrated a famine. But the man deserves credit for what we now realize is the single most important trait in a leader: he wasn’t old.
I’m just being fair and balanced. Yes, Joseph Stalin committed atrocities. But not one of those atrocities was “being a total geezer.” In fact, President Obama was older when he took office than Stalin was when he became General Secretary of the Communist Party. So it’s only reasonable to weigh Joseph Stalin’s horrific record with the fact that the man was a young stud.
Sure, it’s uncomfortable to talk about. But when we’re dealing with such an important office, it’s fair game to take age and health into account. And the simple truth is nobody had to worry about a robust young hunk like Joseph Stalin living through his term. For one, he assassinated any colleagues he viewed as a potential threat. For another, as an unchallenged autocrat, he had no “term” to finish and ruled unilaterally for thirty years. I’d like to see an eighty-year-old terrorize half a continent for that long.
Stalin struck fear into countless souls, but one thing nobody worried about was that strapping lad’s memory. His recall was legendary. Even if you only met him once, Stalin remembered your name, the last time you met, plus what you talked about, if it was critical of the party, your wife’s name, and your oldest child’s route to school. His memory was so sharp, he could even remember people that technically ceased to exist.
And yes, Joseph Stalin was one of the twentieth century’s greatest monsters. Counterpoint: he was a monster we’ve never seen tripping while walking up a flight of stairs. Why? Because Zaddy Stalin was a nimble adonis, and because any footage of that happening would have been immediately seized by the NKVD, the cameraman shot on sight, and his widow sent a bill for the bullet. Either way: embarrassing senior moment avoided.
Who would you rather have the nuclear codes? Joseph Stalin, or an old? Trick question: Joseph Stalin already got his hands on the atomic bomb in 1949, and for the next half-century, the planet was only on the brink of annihilation.
Let me put it this way: I have relatives who are eighty, and I wouldn’t want them running a country. Relatives like my babushka. I love her, but sometimes she’ll drone on endlessly and tell outrageous stories about the years she spent in a Siberian gulag for crimes against the state. It’s heartbreaking to hear, which is why I usually wheel her onto the porch before she explains who sent her there or whatever nonsense her aging mind is coming up with.
I realize I’ll get some blowback just because I think one of the most evil men who ever lived was a goddamn piece of grade-A man meat in his prime. That’s okay. A healthy debate is what separates the United States from a dictatorship like the Soviet Union—that and a leader who can get it. I welcome all points of view. Unless you are even one day older than me, in which case your political knowledge and experience means less than nothing.
Hold on a second. I just found out Stalin was seventy-four when his reign ended. Ew. I take back everything nice I said about that dinosaur. That’s probably the worst thing Stalin ever did.