Joseph Stalin was dictator of the Soviet Union from the 1920s to the 1950s. Distrustful and constantly suspicious, he was never happier than when compiling a death list late into the night. His right-hand men ran the secret police rounding up not just opponents of communism but more than not, enemies within the ranks of Stalin’s own party. And if he couldn’t ‘liquidate’ his foes – or perceived foes – at home, then he’d send out assassins to catch up with them. As the veteran Bolshevik Leon Trotsky fatally discovered in Mexico.
And he disliked any organisations within the USSR that were not directly under his control. This seems to have included a bunch who called themselves the Knights Templar. According to the Russian equivalent of PBS, Stalin decided that these latter-day Templars had to go.
All of which contradicts that font of knowledge known as Assassins Creed In that fictional video game-cum-movie series, Stalin is an ally of the Knights Templar. In their quest to crush truth. But it would appear that the real-life dictator wasn’t so keen on the warrior monks.
The Russian TV view of Stalin and the Knights Templar
The Knights Templar had many enemies – popes and kings – but one of the most unusual adversaries of the knights was the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. A Russian documentary detailed Stalin’s attempt to wipe out a group of latter day Templars over 80 years ago. The Moscow News website reported that ‘Kultura’ – the Russian equivalent of PBS – broadcast a round table discussion about a Templar organisation that was terminated by Stalin in 1930 in the era of the great purges.
‘The Knights Templar in Soviet Russia‘ recalled how seventeen of the leading Templars were arrested in that year by the OGPU-NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB. Anybody arrested by Stalin’s secret police could expect horrific treatment and one wonders what happened to these poor individuals.
The programme stated that this was not a fantasy counter-revolutionary organisation dreamt up by the secret police but something a lot more real – or as Moscow News put it, more Umberto Eco than Dan Brown. However, I suspect it was more Franz Kafka than either Brown or Eco. It certainly shows the boundless paranoia that Stalin experienced when he imagined that even the Knights Templar were out to get him!
READ MORE: The Knights Templar, Atlantis and the Nazis
Assassins Creed has Stalin on the side of the Knights Templar
So – in the world of Assassins Creed, there is the Russian Rite of the Templar Order with its own Grand Master. It has existed from the Romanov imperial era in Russia through to the Soviet Union – and I assume beyond. Ivan the Terrible – a bloodthirsty tsar – was obviously a Templar thankfully bumped off by Assassins in 1581.
Fast forward to the 19th century and the tsars are firmly Templar allies. The Assassins become anarchist “Narodniks” and attempt to kill Tsar Alexander III. However, the last Tsar – Nicholas II – is not a Templar. His court is infiltrated though by a Templar called…..Rasputin! And this mad, wily priest replaces the magical Staff of Eden – source of imperial power – with a fake.
Rasputin is later murdered by the Assassins. But not before the Staff of Eden causes The Tunguska Explosion, a still unexplained event that devastated a large area in the Russian forests. Not long after, the Russian Revolution overthrows the Tsars and Lenin – an Assassin ally – takes power with the Bolsheviks. But when he died, his successor Stalin is a secret Templar.
Stalin sends a scientist and party functionary Yuri Petrovich Figatner into the Academy of Sciences to subvert its work to Templar goals. Scientists loyal to the Assassins are either killed or sent into hiding. Templars, at the behest of Abstergo Industries, encourage Stalin to take Russia into World War Two. The idea being to create the chaos Abstergo needs to control the working population.
Stalin is later killed by the Assassins using poison to make it look like he had a stroke. And yes, I know this is all fiction. But you’d be surprised how much Assassins Creed fan material makes its way on to history pages and that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia!
Stalin likens the Bolsheviks to the Knights Templar
However, Stalin may have had a soft spot for the Templars – at least the ones that lived eight centuries before!
The historian Simon Sebag Montefiore quotes Stalin in his book Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar telling the secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria – a vile figure in Soviet history – that the Bolsheviks were “a sort of military religious order”. When the founder of the Cheka – the first Soviet secret police – Felix Dzerzhinsky died in 1926, Stalin eulogised that he was “a devout knight of the proletariat”.
So, Stalin’s language about the Bolsheviks was peppered with Templar phraseology. This isn’t perhaps entirely surprising as Stalin, like many Russians, would have learned about the medieval battles with the Teutonic Knights. That order was depicted in one Soviet movie as an analogy for the Nazis – as they threatened to invade the Soviet Union. Look up my blog post on that.
So – was Stalin a friend or foe of the Knights Templar? For whatever reason, Assassins Creed places him firmly as a friend. But there’s some evidence from real life action that he was certainly a foe of an organisation calling itself Templar.
There’s a possible parallel here with Hitler. The Nazi dictator was depicted as a Teutonic knight on one poster. He liked to invoke the idea of his thugs being medieval holy warriors. After all, his favourite composer Wagner had written an opera based on the Arthurian legend – Parzival. But…at the same time – Hitler closed down the official Teutonic Knights organisation. Because what the Nazis didn’t control – they couldn’t tolerate.
Maybe that was the same with Stalin – Templar ideals were one thing. But any organisation the state didn’t control calling itself Templar would soon come under secret police scrutiny.