Vladmir Lenin and Josef Stalin in Gorki, 1922

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (April 22, 1870-January 21, 1924) and Josef Dughashvili Stalin (December 18, 1878-March 5, 1953) relax at Lenin's dacha in Gorki. This photo, taken by Lenin's sister Maria Ilyinichna Ulyanova (1878-1937) was used by Stalin after Lenin's death in 1924 to strengthen his claim on control of the Soviet Union. He visited Stalin frequently at his dacha after his stroke in 1922 but the authenticity of this photo is debatable. David King argues the photo is falsified, with Stalin airbrushed into a photo of Lenin; others argue it was taken by Ulyanova but altered on Stalin's orders. Stalin, only five feet four inches (1.6 meters) appears taller and larger than Lenin and his pockmarked skin is clear. His shriveled arm, injured in a carriage accident at age twelve, is robust. While Lenin, the mentor, looks small and submissive, Stalin looks dominant and powerful. Stalin intended it to show his close relationship with Lenin during the period after his death, when several Bolshevik elements, including the Trotskyites, were attempting to vie for control of the government. In actuality, Lenin distrusted Stalin and attempted to remove him from the party before his death in 1924. Stalin had swore at Lenin's wife, Nadezhda "Nadya" Krupskaya (February 26, 1869-February 27, 1939) which may have caused Lenin's final heart attack. Lenin wrote a letter very critical of Stalin's outburst but the Georgian shrugged it off with an apology that claimed he was only acting on behalf of the Party. After Lenin died, Krupskaya published Lenin's "Last Testament" that suggested to the Soviet Politburo that Stalin be removed from power in favor of Trotsky. Lenin wrote on January 4, 1923, "Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may appear to be a negligible detail. But I think that from the standpoint of safeguards against a split and from the standpoint of what I wrote...about the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky it is not a minor detail, but it is a detail which can assume decisive importance." These two incidents left Stalin with a burning hatred for Lenin's surviving family, and both Krupskaya and Ulyanova were made to witness Stalin's final accession to supreme power in 1934 and compelled to vote in his favor. Stalin ordered a statue in 1938 that showed this scene in this photo, with both men on the same bench. In 1949 artists Venyamin Pinchuk and R. Taurit, used this photo and others taken at the same time to build a monumental statue of the Soviet Premier. In that sculpture, Stalin towers over Lenin.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
Library of Congress
Archival Identifier: 
Date Photographed: 
Saturday, September 2, 1922
Moscow Oblast
Soviet Union