Soviet leader Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953 and his official birthday December 21, 1879. However, according to the Uspensky Cathedral records in the city of Gori, which is his place of birth, he was born on 18 (O.S.6) of December 1878 and baptized on December 30 . The reason why his official birthday was a year and three days later is still unknown.
Stalin’s 60th birthday, officially December 21 1939, was celebrated with great joy in the USSR. Many celebration messages came, not only within the country, but from all over the world.
Among those celebrating were Turkish officials. UWIDATA has decided to showcase some of these messages and Stalin’s reply telegraphs.
The first of these messages comes from Sukru Saracoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister at that time. Saracoglu’s original telegraph is still kept at the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI). This telegraph, which you can see an original copy of in French on our page, was published in the Pravda newspaper. We are also sharing Stalin’s reply in Pravda on December 25, 1939.
Another Turkish official who celebrated the Soviet leader’s birthday was the Turkish Ambassador to Moscow, Ali Haydar Aktay. An original copy of the letter with a wet ink signature in Russian language was not published in the Soviet media, however the Turkish Ambassador was cited when the messages from foreign embassies were listed .
While these were the only messages from Turkey we found on Stalin’s birthday, there was also a crypted telegraph from A.V. Terentyev, the Soviet Ambassador in Ankara, that reads “Confidential. Copying is prohibited”, which was sent from Ankara. In this telegraph (dated December 22, 1939) there are messages of celebration from diplomatic representatives sent to the Soviet Embassy in Ankara. These include messages from the German Ambassador Franz von Papen, as well as from Bulgarian, Chinese and Hungarian representatives . We shall note that Stalin had given an order to murder von Papen in 1941, although the assassination attempt failed .
A few months earlier than Stalin’s birthday, on August 23, 1939 the non-aggression pact known as “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” was signed between Germany and the USSR. For this reason, German officials being amongst those celebrating Stalin’s birthday is quite interesting.
On the eve of the Soviet leader’s birthday, September 1, 1939, the invasion of Poland by Germany had commenced, starting World War II. Sukru Saracoglu, who had sent a telegram to Stalin, had come to Moscow on September 25. 1939, and had a meeting with the Soviet leader on October 1, 1939 .
TELEGRAPH OF SUKRU SARACOGLU
To his excellence, Mr. Stalin
On the occasion of the 60 anniversary of your excellence, it is particularly pleasant for me to present him the warmest wishes that I have for his continued happiness.
I.V. STALIN’S REPLY
To the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mr. Saracoglu
Mr. Minister, thank you for your celebrations.
I. Stalin 
LETTER FROM THE TURKISH AMBASSADOR
TURKISH EMBASSY 
Moscow, December 21st 1939
His highness Mr. Stalin
Allow me to present my most sincere regards for you to keep up your excellent work for many years after, and wish you good health and congratulate your 60th birthday, as a representative from the befriended neighbor Turkey.
I am especially glad to have the honor of being in your brilliant capital city, celebrating your birthday with such joy.
His highness Mr. Stalin, I wish you to accept my deepest respects.
Turkish Ambassador Haydar Aktay
1 RGASPI fond 558, op. 4, d. 2, l. 1-2.
2 For the related news from the Pravda newspaper: “Privetsviya Inostranykh Diplomaticheskikh Predstavyteley v Moskve Tovarishi Stalinu”, Pravda, 24th December 1939, No. 354 (8039), page 4.
3 For the original telegraph: RGASPI fond 558, op. 11, d. 1354, l. 139.
4 For the von Papen assassination, that took place in Ankara, and the Soviet intelligence’s involvement in it: “II. Dünya Savaşı Esnasında Türkiye’de İstihbarat Savaşı: von Papen Suikastını Kim Düzenledi? (Espionage War in Turkey during WWII: Who plotted the assassination of von Papen?)” Banu El, Mehmet Perincek, Toplumsal Tarih Magazine, no. 196, April 2010, pages 34-47.
5 For the official records of the Stalin-Saracoglu meeting: Mehmet Perincek Türk-Rus Diplomasisinden Gizli Sayfalar (The Secret Pages from the Turkish-Russian Diplomacy), 3rd Extended Edition, Kaynak Publishing House, Istanbul, 2010, pages 283-299.
6 For the original in French language: RGASPI fond 558, op. 11, d. 1354, l. 98. For the Russian translation: RGASPI fond 558, op. 11, d. 1354, l. 97. The telegraph was also published in the Soviet media: “Yego Prevoskhoditelstvu Gospodinu Stalinu”, Pravda, No. 353 (8038), 23rd December 1939, page 4.
7 “Ministru Inostrannykh Del Turtsii Gospodinu Saracoglu”, Pravda, No. 355 (8040), 25th December 1939, page 4.
8 The letter itself is in Russian, although the letterhead template is in French.
Photo 1: Records of the Uspensky Cathedral in the city of Gory, showing the actual birthday of Stalin. (RGASPI, fond 558, op. 4, d. 2, l. 2)
Photo 2: Saracoglu’s celebratory telegram to Stalin. (RGASPI fond 558, op. 11, d. 1354, l. 98)