Nobody is exactly sure just how tall Stalin was. Contemporary reports of the exact Stalin height vary. At the lower end, people report that he was 5 foot 4 inches (163cm) tall and, at the higher end his height shoots up to around 5 foot 8 inches (173cm). The general consensus among historians seems to be that Stalin was about 5 foot 5 tall (165cm).
Today, we are forced to rely on contemporary reports and analysis of photographs because there are no official records to say how tall Stalin actually was.
There are no official reports about the Joseph Stalin height because Stalin was sensitive about his height, his pockmarked face and his withered left arm. In fact, he went to great lengths to conceal his lack of stature from the Soviet people and the world.
How tall was Stalin – contemporary estimates
Many who met Stalin in their lifetime were said to have been shocked by his diminutive, real-life presence. US President, Harry S Truman once dismissively referred to Stalin as a “little squirt”.
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Truman’s personal physician Wallace H Graham was one man who was surprised at the Soviet leader’s stature.
Before I met him, I had thought he was a large man, Graham is quoted as saying. I thought he would be a great big huge person, but no, he wasn’t at all. He and Hitler were about the same height, approximately five feet, eight. I saw Hitler many, many times, and Goering and Goebbels. Stalin was a broad fellow, with a very heavily pock-marked face
With Graham judging Stalin as at least two inches taller than most estimates, he could have simply been mistaken or he could have been duped by the man himself.
Stalin’s attempts to hide his true height
Stalin knew how important it was to portray himself as a strong and powerful leader, especially in a country as turbulent as the USSR. He went to great lengths to conceal his lack of stature and his disabilities from the Soviet people.
These efforts started with Stalin’s name. Originally named Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, he adopted the name Stalin in the early 20th century, when he was a revolutionary outlaw. Stalin, his chosen name, literally means ‘Man of Steel’.
Stalin was also known to have worn platform heels in public. Stalin’s father and grandfather were both shoemakers, so he would have known how easy it was to use slightly taller heels to boost his apparent height by an inch or two.
Another clue as to how Stalin wished to be portrayed came in the form of the many statues and paintings of Stalin that were made during his lifetime. It is claimed that he wanted to be shown as being the same height as the lofty Tsar Alexander III who was believed to be around 6 foot 4 inches tall.
So, how can we measure Stalin’s height?
Any figures in regard to the exact Joseph Stalin height have therefore been made by using photographs and comparing other people and landmarks in the relevant pictures.
This is one of the best examples we have – a picture of Winston Churchill, Harry Truman and Josef Stalin standing side by side at the Potsdam Conference, which took place shortly after the end of the Second World War.
We know that Truman was 5’9” and that Churchill was 5’6”. We can see in the photo that Stalin appears to be almost exactly the same height as Churchill – but take away Stalin’s big and bouffant hair, which presumably adds an inch or so, and an estimate which puts Stalin’s height at about 5’5” seems about right.