Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin was born Ioseb Jughasvili on December 21, 1879 in Gori, Georgia. As a child he was given the nickname Soso. His father was a cobbler named Vissarion Jughashvili, known as Beso, and his mother Ekaterina Geladze, was born a serf. They had two other children who died young. His father had been a serf, but after obtaining his freedom, he opened his own cobbler shop. He quickly went bankrupt and was forced to work in a shoe factory.
Stalin's grew up in an abusive family. His father was frequently drunk, and when he was, he beat Stalin and his mother. These beatings left Stalin hard and heartless and gave him a hatred of authority. It is said that anyone with power reminded him of his father. His father also instilled in him another cruel feeling - anti-Semitism. In 1888, his father went to live in Tiflis, leaving the family without any means of support.
At the age of eight, Stalin began his education at the Gori Church School. In school, Stalin was forced to speak Russian and he and his Georgian classmates were held up to ridicule by the teachers because of his accent. They also mocked him for his ragged school uniform and his pockmarked face. Young Soso soon learned to outsmart his tormenters by intimidating them and exploiting their weaknesses. He avoided physical confrontation by accusing his attackers of using violence as a substitute for brains. In this way he would assert leadership over his peers.
Stalin excelled in school and graduated first in his class at the age of fourteen. He was awarded a scholarship to the Tiflis Theological Seminary, a Russian Orthodox school which he started attending in 1894. Although his mother wanted him to be a priest, Stalin attended for the educational opportunities, rather than because of any vocation for the Church. This is where Stalin's involvement with the socialist movement began. In 1899 he was expelled from the seminary after failing to appear for an examination.