The man who the world would come to know as Joseph Stalin was born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, on December 21, 1879, in the Georgian village of Gori, a small town in the southern reaches of the Russian Empire. He was the third child born to Vissarion Dzhugashvili, a poor shoemaker and his wife Yekaterina, who worked as a house cleaner. The young Iosif was the only one of their children to survive childhood. Stalin's father Vissarion was an abusive hard drinking man who eventually failed as an independent artisan and left his family to work in a factory in Tiflis which was the capital of Georgia when Stalin was five years old. For the rest of Stalin's childhood, Joseph and Yekaterina lived in the home of a priest named Father Charkviani where the hard-working woman attempted to make sure that her only son would be educated enough to escape the drudgery of a lower class life.
Like many other great rulers like the Austrian born German Hitler and the Corsican born French leader Napoleon, Stalin was an outsider in the empire he came to rule. Georgians possessed their own culture and language which was very different from the official Russian language of the empire, and the young Stalin only began learning Russian when he was nine years old. Years later, at the height of his power, he still spoke with a pronounced Georgian accent but boasted that he had forgotten the language. It is reported that in his last years his ability to speak Russian deteriorated and he spoke only Georgian. The one institution that Stalin's birthplace shared with the larger Russian Empire was the Orthodox Church which Georgia actually converted more than 500 years before Russia. The Church played a strong role in his early life: he lived with a priest and his schooling was religious. His mother enrolled him in the Gori Church School in September 1888 when her son was nine and he graduated six years later, despite various interruptions as when Stalin's father took the young boy to Tiflis to work alongs side him in a shoe factory.