Joseph Stalin did have a sense of humor, but not a healthy one. While he never forgot or forgave a perceived insult to himself, he took great amusement in the suffering and humiliation of others. One of the Soviet dictator’s favorite pastimes was to stay up until the small hours of the morning drinking with his acolytes. Coming as he did from Georgian peasant stock, Stalin was capable of consuming alcohol in prodigious quantities. Frequently, however, he would drink only water whilst forcing his comrades to knock back enough alcohol to reduce them to stumbling, insensible buffoons.
Nikita Khrushchev, who was a powerful enough individual within the Soviet Union to go on to succeed Stalin following the dictator’s death in 1953, recalled how he was once forced to perform a traditional Cossack dance for Stalin’s amusement. The ungainly and awkward Khrushchev possessed many talents, but complicated, physically challenging dance routines were not amongst them. Nonetheless, as Khrushchev later explained, “When Stalin says dance, a wise man dances.”