Hidden treasures

Stalin, the bell-ringer of San Lazzaro degli Armeni

Big Names

Stalin, the bell-ringer of San Lazzaro degli Armeni

There are many great artistic, literary and political figures who have walked the streets of Venice over the centuries ... Among these, we tell you the story of a young boy who came to Venice from cold and distant Russia: Josif Vissarionovic Djugatchsvili, known under the universal pseudonym of Joseph Stalin.

Josif Vissarionovic Djugatchsvili was a young Georgian, an exponent of the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic party, who in 1907 left his country hidden in a cargo ship carrying grain from the port of Odessa to Ancona to escape from the Tsarist police. His aim was to reach Lenin in Switzerland and discuss with him the details of a robbery to self-finance the Bolshevik party. After arriving in Ancona, Josif found hospitality with the local anarchists and worked as a night porter at the ‘Rome and Peace’ Hotel in exchange for food and lodging. However, that place did not suit him and, hidden in the engine room of a steamer, he reached Venice, where he was welcomed by another community of anarchists which dubbed him Bepi del Giasso (‘giasso’ meaning ice in Venetial dialect), to remember his place of origin, certainly not tropical!

Bepi del Giasso, now established in Venice, used his knowledge of the Armenian language and studies at the theological school of Gori and the Christian Orthodox seminary of Teflis to ask Ignazio Ghiurekian, the abbot general of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, for hospitality and work.

Father Ignazio, impressed by Bepi's knowledge, decided to lodge him and asked him to ring the convent bells according to the Latin rite. However, his activity as a bell-ringer was short-lived as he had the tendency to ring the bells with loud strikes as if he was in an Orthodox church! After scolding the young man and endured long enough his inappropriate work, the Father General put him in front of a choice: if he wanted to stay, he had to accept the norms of the Congregation that was lodging him and ask to be admitted to the community as a novice.

After rejecting the proposal, which certainly did not suit him, Bepi returned to Russia just in time for the Revolution. A few years later he was appointed Secretary General of the Communist Party and leader of the Soviet Union with the nickname of "Little Father" ... Yes, the young bell-ringer of San Lazzaro, Bepi del Giasso, is really... Josif Stalin!

Today the Armenian island is open to visitors and can be easily reached by public transport. Discover the most hidden secrets of this beautiful island in the Venetian lagoon: check the departure times and buy the vaporetto ticket that best suits your arrangements!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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