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I read "Stalin: Triumph and tragedy" by Dmitri Volkogonov and (I believe) it said that Stalin didn't kill anyone with his own hands. He signed a lot of "death lists", but those are just pieces of paper.

Did he kill anyone with his own hands or watch any executions?

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Note that Charles Manson never personally killed a person, and he's still generally considered a serial killer. Most people don't find the distinction all that important. – T.E.D. Apr 17 '12 at 21:46
While morally there may be no distinction, there might be a psychological one. – Opt Apr 18 '12 at 0:05
Well this is true. But killing someone or see someone dying, can change a person. So, all this death was just piece of paper for him? – Rodrigo Apr 18 '12 at 0:08
Possibly George Bush also did not kill anybody with his own hands ;-) Seriously the question is not that simple especially given the role of Stalin during the civil war and the defense of Tsaritsin. – Anixx Apr 18 '12 at 2:14
I doubt that Stalin actually killed anybody himself in Tsaritsin, he already had a leadership position by then. Even if you look at the Tiflis bank robbery, it seems that Stalin merely supervised the operation and wasn't involved personally. Still, it is likely that somewhere during his early career he had to kill somebody with his own hands (e.g. when he escaped his Siberian exile). – Wladimir Palant Apr 18 '12 at 10:09
up vote 22 down vote accepted

I thought for sure he had actually killed someone himself, and early on around the Tflis bank robbery period there were times he almost did.

But Simon Sebag Montefiore recently wrote a biography on Stalin's earlier years (Young Stalin, 2007, Vintage Books), and he states a few times that Stalin himself never pulled a trigger during his whole life (that resulted in someone getting killed), he always had someone else do it. There was a military officer assassinated by small grenades (known as "apples") back in the pre-revolution days and he was close enough to get hit with shrapnel pretty seriously, but never threw them himself.

Even when imprisoned, others would beat or threaten for Stalin, he seemed to enjoy being able to ply others to get their fists bloody on his behalf, and seemed to be one of the self-affirmations of his power.

I would expect that he did not purposely witness any executions- his whole persona was that he didn't take responsibility for his ordered actions. He was rarely present during any major power plays during the revolution itself (grabbing money, traveling Europe, or being exiled/imprisoned) and was always known for disappearing when least expected. His biggest enemies were often 'dispatched' while nowhere near him (Trotsky in Mexico, various enemies sent to Siberia and elsewhere).

There isn't (as far as I've seen, fwiw) a single eye-witness claim that he killed anyone himself. People feared him from his childhood up to the day he died, but few ever saw him actually lose his temper, much less actually become physically violent. His normal behavior was to openly brood when 'disappointed', threaten to become violent, and to offer small bits of threats prior to an untimely incident taking place (carried out by a henchman).

His power was cultivated by the company he kept, and it helped keep him from being a solitary target as he moved his way up the political food-chain. If you hated him, you knew you had to deal with a bunch of his supporters, not ever merely himself, and he cultivated that by associating with criminals throughout his life. You had to worry about his friends as much as the man himself.

So it's doubtful that he'd take the time to watch someone die- only if it served a purpose towards the others present at that moment would I surmise that he'd "take the time" to engage in witnessing something like an execution.

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He could have killed his wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva.

After a public spat with Stalin at a party dinner, Nadezhda was found dead in her bedroom, a revolver by her side.[2] Regardless, the official announcement was that Nadezhda died from appendicitis. Two doctors, who refused to sign a certificate stating false conclusions[citation needed] about the cause of her death (Levin and Pletnev), were later convicted during the Trial of the Twenty-One and executed[citation needed]. Some claim the gun was found beside the hand she didn't use, apparently indicating a framed suicide; many in Russia allege that Stalin killed her himself.[3][4]

(I decided to leave all "citation needed" references)

I remember I read a book about Stalin written by some Soviet dissident and he claimed it was true that he killed her. I perfectly remember that it was done so, that he was working by the table, sitting back to a door. He heard something and without facing pulled his gun and shot, fearing of danger. This was his wife who wanted to bring him a tea or something.

Unfortunately, I read this book 20 years ago and I don't remember both the author and the title. I'm 100% sure it was not by Solzhenitsyn nor sources referenced as [3][4]. I put the story here, maybe someone could also have read this and recall it.

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I am of the opinion that, even though he may have been perfectly capable of doing the "heavy work" , he opted not to do this so that he could consistently maintain plausible denial. It is a well-known fact that he considered his henchmen as "blind kittens" and that he could obliterate them with the effort of a puff on his pipe.

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