Behind his bland dark eyes, the "man of steel" had a hard mechanical brain that never hesitated at mass murder in its driving ambition to dominate the world.
Millions of Russians- many of them Stalin's one-time friends- went to martyr's graves because they threatened his plans. Tens of millions more were consigned to living death in concentration camps.
Stalin was responsible for two particular waves or horror which will mark his name in blood forever. The first was the great Russian famine he brought about in 1932-33. The second was the series of purges by which he became Russia's uncontested master in the late 1930s.
Stalin decided about 1928 to eliminate private farming in Russia and organize the country's 25,000,000 peasants into Communist collectives. One of his chief aims was to get rid of the kulaks- some 2,000,000 well-to-do farmers who traditionally had owned most of the land.
"We must smash the kulaks, liquidate them as a class," Stalin said in one directive.
The first part of the collectivization campaign went as planned. Masses of Kulaks were deported, slain or simply turned loose in the countryside to struggle for a living. As a class, they disappeared.
Stalin had expected that the great mass of poorer farmers would welcome his collectivization scheme, but, stangely, they balked. Uneducated and accustomed to one way of life, they sullenly resisted the scholarly commissars and army officers who came to tell them how to work the fields.
Stalin was furious.
Secret police and army units poured across the countryside, seized grain stocks, ransacked barns and surrounded rebellious villages with machine guns. Houses, barns, livestock and farm implements were turned over to the collectives.
When the stubborn peasantry continued to resist by burning their fields and destroying their animals, Stalin ordered their leaders shot. To starve the rest into submission, he moved grain and other foodstuffs into cities by the trainload.
How many men, women and children died of "starvation punishment" in the famine years of 1932-33 will never be known accurately, but conservative western historians put the toll at "several millions."
In addition, an estimated 30,000,000 sheep and goats were slaughtered.
By 1935, Stalin felt firmly enough entrenched to carry out the plan he had calculated from the start- the liquidation of every remaining Russian who posed a threat to his supreme power.
In a series of public "trials" that lasted into 1936, political and military adversaries were eliminated lot by lot. The most dangerous of the opposition were sentenced to death before firing squads. Hundreds of thousands of others were exiled or imprisoned.
The victims included most of the men who had been Nicolai Lenin's lieutenants- party organizers, propagandists, diplomats and other high officials. They were accused of treason of collaboration with Nazi Germany and Japan, of capitalist conspiracy, of numberless black plots.
Leon Trotsky, who had fled to Mexico, was tried in absentia as the chief criminal.
Each trial was as pat and carefully rehearsed as a stage script. Prosecutors reeled off lists of deadly indictments. Witnesses recited "testimony" as if by rote. And the accused, one by one, dutifully "confessed" their crimes before movie cameras.
Fantastic double-crosses devised by Stalin came to light as trials and executions progressed. One of the most startling developed after the execution of Marshal Tuchachevsky and a number of his fellow Russian generals who were convicted of treason.
Soon after the trial, Stalin ordered similar charges against most of the panel of military judges who had sentenced Tuchachevsky. The second batch of officers also was executed.
Stalin undoubtedly master-minded the wave of new purges which have swept Soviet satellite countries since 1946- including the execution of former Hungarian Foreign Minister Lazslo Rajk, the imprisonment in Hungary of Josef Cardinal Mindszenty and the recent hanging of 11 Red leaders in Czechoslovakia.