The only known photo of Besarion Jughashvili, though it has never been confirmed to be of him
Besarion Ivanes dze Jughashvili
|Died||25 August 1909 (aged 59)|
|Parent(s)||Vano Jughashvili (father)|
Besarion Ivanes dze Jughashvili, commonly known as Beso, (c. 1850 - 25 August 1909) was the father of Joseph Stalin. Born into a peasant family of serfs in Didi Lilo in Georgia, he moved to Tbilisi at a young age to be a shoemaker, working in a factory. He was invited to set up his own shop in Gori, where he met and married Ekaterine Geladze, with whom had three sons; only the youngest, Ioseb, lived. Once known as a "clever and proud" man, Jughashvili's shop failed and he developed a serious drinking problem, wherefore he left his family and moved back to Tbilisi in 1884, working in a factory again. He had little contact with either his wife or son after that point, and little is known of his life from then on, except that he died in 1909 of cirrhosis.
Little is known of the family of Besarion Jughashvili. His grandfather, Zaza Jughashvili (1798-1847), was involved in the 1804 Mtiuleti rebellion against the Russian Empire, which had only annexed eastern Georgia (Kartli-Kakheti) in 1801. Zaza was possibly of Ossetian background, with historian Simon Sebag Montefiore suggesting he came from the village of Geri, near modern South Ossetia, though this claim can not be proven. Zaza escaped the uprising and moved to Didi Lilo, a village about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) away from the capital, Tiflis (now Tbilisi). He worked as a serf for Prince Badur Machabeli, tending to his vineyards. There he had a son, Vano (the Georgian diminutive for Ivane), who in turn had two sons: Giorgi, and Besarion, who was likely born around 1850. Vano died young, likely before he turned 50, while Giorgi worked as an innkeeper until he was killed by bandits.
With no family left Jughashvili moved to Tiflis and worked in the G.G. Adelkhanov shoe factory. Already literate, it is likely in Tiflis that he learned Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Russian, in addition to his native Georgian. Around 1870 he was invited to move to Gori, about 75 kilometres (47 mi) from Tiflis, and make shoes for the Russian soldiers garrisoned there. Gori was a small town at the time, with roughly 7000 residents; the majority were Armenian, with a large number of Georgians, as well as small numbers of Russians, Abkhaz, and Ossetians. It grew in importance in 1871 when a branch of the Transcaucasus Railway connected the town to Tiflis and Poti, a major port for oil export.
Jughashvili set up a shop in the Russian Quarter of Gori, close to the barracks. In 1872 or 1874 he married Ekaterine (Keke) Geladze, a peasant girl who was probably 16. Keke, "an attractive freckled girl with auburn hair," was from the village of Gambareuli near Gori, and had moved to the town at a young age after her father died. They had three children, all boys, though the first two, Mikheil (born 14 February 1875) and Giorgi (born 24 December 1876), died aged two months and six months, respectively. Their third and final son, Ioseb, was born on 6 December 1878. Montefiore writes that after the death of Mikheil, Jughashvili started to drink heavily, and that the marriage began to deteriorate. Kotkin has also suggested that rumours of infidelity by Keke took a toll on him, especially after the birth of Ioseb, with several men suggested as his possible father. However, Kotkin concedes that "whether Keke was flirtatious, let alone promiscuous, is unclear," and that "reliable evidence about the possible liaisons of the future Stalin's mother is lacking," and argues that Jughashvili was probably the father.
Jughashvili's shop was initially quite successful, employing up to ten people as well as apprentices, and the family initially enjoyed a rather high standard of living; a former apprentice would later note that he frequently saw butter in their home, which was an expensive delicacy for most Georgians (however Kotkin writes that the family lived more modestly, eating more traditional foods like lobio, lavash, and badrijani nigvzit). However Jughashvili's drinking, exacerbated by a Georgian custom that business paid in part with wine rather than money, had adverse effects on his business and home life.Isaac Deutscher felt that Jughashvili's inability to lift his status, "to be his own master," likely contributed to his drinking and frustrations. This idea is echoed by Robert Service, who noted that Jughashvili did not adapt to make European-style shoes that were popular at the time, and instead kept producing traditional Georgian styles, and suggests that the rumours about Keke were also a major influence on his drinking. Frequently drunk, Jughashvili became violent and routinely would beat Keke (who often hit back) and Iosef, frequently fought in public, earning the nickname "Crazy Beso."
In 1884 Jughashvili left the family and moved to Tiflis. He returned to his old job at the Adelkhanov factory. He sent some money to Keke, as well as offers to reconcile, but all efforts to do so failed.
Jughashvili was upset when he learned that Keke had enrolled Ioseb in school, instead hoping his son would follow his path and become a cobbler. This led to a major incident in January 1890. Ioseb had been struck by a phaeton, severely injuring him. Jughashvili returned to Gori and brought his son to a Tiflis hospital, and after Ioseb healed he was apprenticed to the Adelkhanov factory. Keke was adamantly opposed to the idea and used her connections with the church to bring Ioseb back to Gori, where he would continue his studies to become a priest. This marked the last real contact Jughasvhili had with his wife or son, as he cut off contact and financial support when Ioseb left Tiflis.
Soon after Ioseb left Tiflis, Jughashvili seems to have left the Adelkhanov factory. He briefly made shoes in a stall at the Armenian bazaar in Tiflis, and his actions after that are uncertain. He did keep in contact with Ioseb, occasionally sending him hand-made shoes. Jughashvili also had one final role in Ioseb's life: in January 1900 Ioseb was arrested for the first time, on account of Jughashvili. When Jughashvili left Didi Lilo he was not removed from the village roles, and still owed taxes as a peasant from the region. It is not clear why Ioseb was arrested instead of his father, who still lived in Tiflis, but Kotkin suggests it was a police tactic to send a message to Ioseb, who had begun his revolutionary activities.
In August 1909 Jughashvili went to the Mikhailovsky Hospital in Tiflis, suffering from tuberculosis, colitis and chronic pneumonia. He died on 12 August 1909, with the cause of death listed as cirrhosis of the liver. Only one person, a fellow cobbler, attended his funeral, and he was buried in an unmarked grave in Telavi. The location of his grave was unknown until 1972, when Kandid Charkviani, the former First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, led efforts to find it and mark it, though it was not confirmed if Jughashvili's remains were still there. Charkviani had previously looked for photos of Jughashvili, at one point bringing several to Stalin to confirm their authenticity; after looking at them Stalin was unable to confirm if any were his father. There is only one photo purportedly of Jughasvhili, though its authenticity has never been confirmed.