Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin was born in 1879. He became a Bolshevik at the age of 24 and grew close to Communist leader, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. After Lenin's death, Stalin proceeded to ruthlessly eliminate all opposition. By 1927, Stalin had become the sole leader of the Soviet Union. His policies of forced collectivization of farmers resulted in the deaths of millions. Millions more were killed in his purges of the Communist Party and the military.
Stalin stunned the world when he entered into a non-agression pact with Hitler in 1939, dividing Eastern Europe. In 1941, however, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union and, despite the rapid advance of German forces, Stalin was able to rally his people to the defense of Russia, which was ultimately victorious over the Germans. Stalin's policies in Eastern Europe, however, played a large part in the development of the Cold War.