Rare gallery of Stalin's
private summer home on the Georgian border
by James Mayfield (Chairman, European Heritage Library)
this Article • About
the Author • Bibliography/Sources
Joseph Stalin (lived 1878-1953),
one of the most powerful and brutal heads of state in the
history of the world as the absolute leader of the global
Soviet Union from 1924-1953, lived an infirm life of paranoia
and seclusion. Despite his efforts to appear as an upright
and healthy fatherly figure through propaganda, Stalin was
vulnerable to a variety of health problems and other maladies
that are still debated by historians. Some claims include
alcoholism, jaundice, liver disease, a shriveled arm, frequent
immunity problems that caused him to become sickly ill, and
severe mental infirmities like paranoia, bipolar disorder,
and hysterical depressions. Despite these exaggerated claims,
Stalin remains one of the most controversial, yet influential
persons in history -- still beloved by many Russian despite
the fact that as many as 25,000,000  Soviet citizens may
have died of diverse causes under his reign -- who forged
the largest empire on earth, proliferated the Stalinist-Communist
idea globally, is overwhelmingly responsible for defeating
the Third Reich in the war, and until his death was almost
undeniably the most powerful man on earth. Stalin was recently
classified as the third most popular "Russian,  alongside
Aleksandr Nevskiy and Romanov-era
reformer Pyotr Stolypin.
Although Stalin has been
often criticized as not being a full believer in the Marxist
ideology, Stalin lived an incredibly austere and simple life
that was appropriate for the Marxist mantra of crushing the
thievery of state authorities. Like Adolf Hitler, Stalin did
not have massive palaces for his own private property with
gold and ivory, but private summer resorts for his own health
and contemplation. Stalin had several summer homes intended
for his own recovery. One of his most favorite was built in
a quiet coastal summer village on the border of his home country
of Georgia, today in the city of Sochi of the separate Russian
Federation. This article offers historical background, personal
observations, and rare personal photos from my vacation to
the unique and fascinating historical site. The summer home
is actually in modern Russia (Sochi), but the ethnic background
of the locals and the historical heritage of the area links
it with Greater Georgia (the heritage of Stalin) and the Caucasus
peoples. The warm climate of Georgia, as well as the beautiful
coastal setting, made this the perfect setting for Stalin's
health. It is reported that Stalin went into a completely
dysfunctional state of uncertain collapse for many days when
he first heard that Hitler had violated the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop
Pact of non-aggression between the Soviet Union and the Third
Reich. Some employees claimed that Stalin came here to recover
before preparing the retaliation, although I could not cross-verify
this with scholastic documentation.
Sochi is a clean, beautiful
city with trees, greenery, water, and animals. It has been
selected for the Winter Olympic Games. It is the favorite
summer resort of Vladimir Putin, and was frequented by many
Russian aristocrats during the Imperial Russian period. Stalin's
dacha (estate) rests secluded atop a winding, green hill that
was barred from visitors and citizens during Stalin's stay.
The physical layout of the area was carefully and personally
mapped out by Stalin for his own safety and private. The dacha
was placed and built in such a way that it can only be seen
from one distant hill. A lookout fort was built atop this
hill to house a sniper guard, the only person who could see
inside Stalin's dacha. Here, a sniper could keep watch on
Stalin when on his balcony for smoking or drinking. Stalin
was so afraid of assassination in his vulnerability that he
removed a fountain so that he could hear approaching assassins.
From his balconies adorned in plain green paint, only trees
and woods can be seen; he cannot be targeted from any room.
The rampant Soviet paranoia over assassination, purging, and
spying intruded into Stalin's private life even on his summer
My photo of central Sochi on the Georgian border. Lenin is
still praised in much of Russia.
Stalin's house can only be seen from one angle atop a mountain
to prevent assassination by sniping. The tiny illuminated
structure is the lookout fort in the distance.
Stalin's house is extremely
innocuous, plain, and unimposing. Today the former dictator's
house is a hotel in the portions that are not the museum of
today. The house reveals no fantastic or elaborate architecture
or gold or marble mediums, and is only plain wood, stone,
and brick to offer him shelter. The interiors, too, are quite
plain and unimpressive. This shocking lack of architecture
or radiance that one would seldom expect from a dictator of
the world's most powerful superpower (at the time) implies
that Stalin lived plainly and without elaborate wealth much
like the class-less Communist ideal encouraged.
My photo of the entrance plaque. This is, of course, new.
(click to enlarge)
My photo of the main gate.
A massive gate encloses the
interior of the house. A cobblestone walkway in the center
courtyard offers a small and pleasant garden. In one of the
buildings on the property, Stalin's desk, main room, and bed
are all in the same room. Stalin's personal desk offers original
documents hand-signed by Stalin from other Communist leaders
like Mao Zedong and internal SSR authorities. The walls offer
huge portraits and paintings of Stalin and Mao. A small and
plain bed next to his desk offers only a place to sleep. Next
to the bed is a massive black bulletproof couch, revealing
Stalin's paranoia to prevent him from being shot through walls.
Against the wall (perhaps placed later), a large flag standard
of the Georgian SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) stands with
pride. In the adjoining room, a huge pool table allows Stalin
to enjoy one of his favorite pastimes. It is said that his
adjutants and servants refused to beat Stalin at the game
out of fear for upsetting him. Multiple balconies compliment
each room in the structure for smoking, enjoyment, the crisp
air, and drinking.
My photo of the main courtyard. (click to enlarge)
My photo of the small and pleasant garden in the center courtyard.
(click to enlarge)
My photo of Stalin's wall portraits in his main office. His
family can be seen. (click to enlarge)
My photo of more wall portraits with Stalin and Mao of China.
(click to enlarge)
My photo of the Georgian SSR flag placed in the corner. Notice
the unique Georgian script. (click to enlarge)
My photo of the pool table room.
The other main building is
much more impressive, with somewhat elaborate (yet overall
plain) red carpets, copper and steel, and finished attractive
wood ceilings and walls. Forward on the ground floor and down
into the earth offers a bizarre swimming pool. As Stalin had
one atrophied and disabled arm (as he had fallen off a horse
during the Red-White civil war), he was unable to swim comfortably
in a traditional large pool filled to the top. Thus instead,
the pool is very rectangular, small, and short, with water
only reaching the chestline of the mighty dictator. This pool
was not only for his enjoyment, but for therapeutic recovery
and treatment of his many hardships (especially the need to
remain calm to alleviate aggression and extreme stress levels).
The sun also shines in from the outside woods for the humid
air to aid in recovery. Upstairs, a conference room can be
seen that is quite impressive by comparison with the remainder
of the property. Tall ceilings made of attractive yet plain
wood designs tower over warm furniture and table arrangements.
Next to the conference room is a large balcony that offers
only woods in the distance for Stalin's personal enjoyment
(and his Soviet, American, and British Allied visitors). Stalin's
indulged in his favorite wine here in the evenings before
(at least as reported) his men engaged in binge drinking of
vodka, smoking, and other spirits. Visitors to the house can
drink his favorite Georgian wine here as well during tours.
Stalin had quite a marginal taste in wine: he took pride in
his heritage as an ethnic Georgian by constantly enjoying
the grapes of Georgian vines, but indeed quite a weak, young,
and poor red wine at that.
My photo of Stalin's pool. Notice the small and short size.
(click to enlarge)
My photo of the main conference room where wine is drunk,
plans discussed. (click to enlarge)
My photo of a view from the balcony. No people can be seen
for obvious reasons. (click to enlarge)
Stalin's house reveals a
fascinating and exclusive look at the fantastic dictator that
goes beyond modern stereotyped or exaggerated historical depiction.
Stalin lived a simple (yet unfathomably powerful) and plain
life with impending stress, paranoia, danger, and health issues.
It appears he was equally afraid of internal betrayal by his
own men via political intrigue than he was of Hitler's Third
Reich that he ultimately obliterated in 1945. Pamphlets
written in very broken English taken from the property retrospectively
describe Stalin as a misunderstood father figure, a hero who
not only defended the Russians from German conquest but was
(rightfully) responsible for the Allied victory during the
James Mayfield is a historian
and the Chairman of the European Heritage Library. I have
a Cum Laude BA in History with a Minor in Germanic Studies
(language and history), am presently working for my Masters
in History, and plan to immediately progress to my PhD Doctorate.
I have a special academic interest in Europe's diverse ethnic
identities, languages, and cultures, and the political struggles
of native European and immigrant minority identities. See
my staff entry for more information.