Stalin joined the Bolsheviks in 1903. During the years before the 1917 Russian revolution Stalin was captured and sent to Siberia seven times, but escaped most of these exiles. He was elected to the Bolshevik central committee in April 1917, and became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922. He led the process of building socialism in the Soviet Union during its first decades (when many said it couldn’t be done), transforming it from a largely agrarian society to a major industrial power. Stalin led the Soviet Union in playing the key role in rolling back and defeating the Nazis in World War II. These were two of the most important feats of the 20th century. (Image: Stalin with Lenin in 1919).