Besarion Jughashvili

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Besarion Jughashvili
ბესარიონ ჯუღაშვილი
Vissarion Jughashvili.jpg
Born Besarion Ivanes dze Jughashvili[1]
c. 1850
Didi Lilo, Tiflis Governorate, Russian Empire
Died 25 August 1909 (aged 59)[2]
Tbilisi, Russian Empire
Occupation Shoemaker
Spouse(s) Ekaterine Geladze
Children Mikheil
Parent(s) Vano Jughashvili

Besarion Ivanes dze Jughashvili[1] (1849 or 1850 – 25 August 1909)[2] was the father of Joseph Stalin. He was commonly known as "Beso". He was a successful shoemaker by trade, but later in life he slid into alcoholism and became a vagrant. His wife and Stalin's mother was Ekaterine Geladze.


Besarion was born into an Orthodox Christian serf family from the village of Didi Lilo in Tiflis Governorate, most likely in 1850. Besarion had a brother named Giorgi who was murdered by bandits.[3]

Besarion was the paternal grandson of Zaza Jughashvili from the village of Geri, north of Gori. In the mid-19th century, Zaza took part in a peasant uprising in Ananuri, a small county seat near Ger on the Aragvi River. The uprising was crushed by Imperial soldiers, and Zaza was captured along with nine other rebels. Zaza escaped and hid in Gori, where he was recaptured and remanded as a serf to Prince Eristavi. He became involved in another uprising on the Eristavi estate. It is unknown who his wife was, or the exact number of children he sired.[4] Vano Jughashvili, Besarion's father, tended the vineyards of Georgian Prince Badur Machabeli in the village of Didi Lilo (დიდი ლილო).

Life in Gori[edit]

According to the Arsoshvili family (Jughashvili's relatives and longtime residents of Didi Lilo), Jughashvili (nicknamed "Beso") couldn't afford paying a three-ruble tax and had to move to Gori in search of employment.[3] There, he found a job working for a shoemaker named Osepa Baramov.[5]

Besarion married Ekaterine Geladze on 29 May 1872 in the evening at the Uspensky Church.[6] Their first child, a boy named Mikheil, was born on 26 February 1875 but died two months later. Their second child, a boy named Giorgi, was born on 5 January 1877 and died of measles on 1 July 1877.[7] Their third child, a boy named Ioseb, was born on 18 December 1878 and survived. Ioseb would later change his surname to Stalin and rule the Soviet Union.

In 1874, Besarion opened up his own workshop.[8] It was successful at first, but Besarion's productivity declined as he succumbed to alcoholism. He had begun drinking after the death of his first child.[5] Some of his customers preferred to pay him with wine in lieu of money, which didn't help.[3][5] Eventually, he stopped working altogether, and his workshop was sustained only by the efforts of his employees. He also became violently abusive to his family, forcing them to move to separate accommodations. Ekaterine was forced to take odd jobs and handouts from friends to make up for their lost income.

Although Besarion wanted his son to become a shoemaker like him, Ekaterine instead had Ioseb enrolled in school to be educated for the Russian Orthodox priesthood. This enraged Besarion. He kidnapped Stalin from the Gori school so often that Stalin's maternal uncles had to smuggle him in. In a drunken rage, he vandalized a local tavern and assaulted the village police chief. The police chief was a family friend, and out of kindness for Ekaterine, he did not arrest Besarion but merely expelled him from Gori.[3]

Later life and death[edit]

Jughashvili's grave in Telavi, Georgia.

Besarion moved to Tiflis, where he found work at the Adelkhanov Shoe Factory, while his wife and son stayed in Gori. When Ioseb was 12, he was struck by a carriage and hospitalized in Tiflis. When he recovered, Besarion took him away to be trained at his shoe factory. Ekaterine recovered her son with the help of friends in the clergy and school system. In retaliation, Besarion cut off all financial support to his family and left them to fend for themselves.

In January 1900, Ioseb was imprisoned for the first time because his father had not paid his taxes for his village. Ioseb's friends paid it for him.[9]

In May 1901, Besarion met his son for the last time. Ioseb was organizing a strike in the Adelkhanov Shoe Factory where Besarion worked. Besarion asked his son, "Why are you coming here?" "To address these fellows," Stalin replied. Beso then said, "Why aren't you learning a trade?"[10]

In May 1902, he encountered his ex-wife on her way to visit Ioseb in Batumi prison. He shouted, "Stop or I'll kill you! He [Stalin] wants to turn the whole world upside down. If you hadn't taken him to school he'd be a craftsman, now he's in prison. I'll kill such a son with my own hands, he's disgraced me." A mob protected her from him. She never saw him again.[11]

Besarion died on 25 August 1909 in Mikhailovsky Hospital in Tiflis, suffering from tuberculosis, colitis and chronic pneumonia. He is buried in Telavi, Georgia, in a pauper's grave. He had made no effort to contact his son.[2]


  1. ^ a b Georgian: ბესარიონ ივანეს ძე ჯუღაშვილი
    This is the name that appears in the birth register entry for his son, Ioseb
    The Russian version of his name was "Vissarion Ivanovich Dzhugashvili" (Виссарио́н Иванович Джугашви́ли)
  2. ^ a b c Montefiore (2007): "Beso, by now a dosshouse drunk, was admitted to Mikhailovsky Hospital. Medical records chart his decline from TB, colitis and chronic pneumonia. He died on 12 August, aged fifty-five. He had made no attempt to find Soso. Without relatives or money, he was buried in a pauper’s grave."

    Montefiore notes Besarion's death in the Julian calendar. The corresponding Gregorian date is 25 August.
  3. ^ a b c d Montefiore (2007)
  4. ^ Smith, Edward Ellis (1968) The Young Stalin: the early years of an elusive revolutionary, Cassell & Company
  5. ^ a b c Keke Jughashvili. My Dear Son: The Memoirs of Stalin's Mother
  6. ^ Montefiore (2007): "On 17 May 1872, a handsome young cobbler, the very model of a chivalrous Georgian man, Vissarion “Beso” Djugashvili, aged twenty-two, married Ekaterina “Keke” Geladze, seventeen, an attractive freckled girl with auburn hair, at the Uspensky Church in the small Georgian town of Gori. [...] The wedding, according to tradition, took place just after sunset"
    Montefiore uses Julian calendar dates in book, which was the calendar used by the Russian Empire until 1918.
  7. ^ Montefiore (2007): "[...] on 14 February 1875, “our happiness was marked by the birth of our son” […] But two months later the little boy, named Mikheil, died. “Our happiness turned to sorrow. Beso started to drink from grief.” Keke fell pregnant again. A second son, Giorgi, was born on 24 December 1876. [...] The baby died of measles on 19 June 1877."

    All these dates presented are in the Julian calendar. They have been converted to the modern calendar.
  8. ^ According to his wife's memoirs, Besarion opened his workshop a year before the birth of their first child, which was in February 1875.
  9. ^ Montefiore (2007), p. 64
  10. ^ Montefiore (2007), p. 66
  11. ^ Montefiore (2007), p. 88


  • Kotkin, Stephen (2014), Stalin, Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928, New York City: Penguin Press, ISBN 978-1-59420-379-4
  • Montefiore, Simon Sebag (2007), Young Stalin, Phoenix, ISBN 978-0-297-85068-7
  • Keke Jughashvili. My Dear Son: The Memoirs of Stalin's Mother (English translation)