March 01, 1998

Mother of the Tsar

Even during her lifetime, Stalin’s mother, Yekaterina Dzhugashvili, was little known in the Soviet Union. Hidden away in a small Georgian town, she cleaned houses and washed other people’s laundry, largely ignored by her famous son in Moscow. But now “secret files” containing Stalin’s correspondence with his mother have been opened, providing us a glimpse into her life. For the 45th anniversary of Stalin’s death, Russian Life asked historian Roy Medvedev to tell the story of this self-effacing woman.


The life story of Yekaterina Georgievna Dzhugashvili – better known as Stalin’s mother – is often difficult to decipher. Rumors and stories about her abound, but they are often contradictory, especially when they involve her notorious son. But for such a mysterious figure, Yekaterina Dzhugashvili was surprisingly down-to-earth. A simple woman from the small Georgian town of Gori, she worked as a washer-woman, seamstress and housekeeper for her rich neighbors before being moved to a palace at the insistence of party leaders. She did not speak Russian and could neither read nor write in Georgian.

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