The old monk on duty at the Tiflis Orthodox Seminary on the night of November 5th, 1896 was keeping a close eye on the second floor of the dormitory building. He suspiciously glanced up at a particular door, under which he swore he kept seeing a little shard of light. It was well after hours and none of the students should have still been up.
The monk had spent most of his life on the grounds and had ushered through many young men on their way to the priesthood. Recently though, he had noticed a certain brazenness, a worldliness altogether unholy, in the students that were appearing.
“Undisciplined little… revolutionaries!” he thought to himself as he made his way up the flight of steps at the dorm.
Inside the cell, a sixteen-year-old boy lay on a musty straw bed. An oil lamp turned as low as could be was smoking by his head. He was quietly reading, lost in a book – “Ninety-Three” by Victor Hugo.
He was not so lost though, not to notice that the rats that kept him company at night had stopped their scurrying and were standing up on their hind legs, sniffing at the air by the door. A few footsteps outside broke the silence.
The rats suddenly bolted and the boy sat up, closed his book, and slid it beneath his little pillow. He reached down and picked up another book from the floor, a primer on Old Church Slavonic. He placed it open on his chest and closed his eyes.
The door opened slowly with a long creak.
“Djugashvili!” the old monk spat as he entered and held up a bright lantern, “I know what you’re doing!”
This wasn’t the last time that the young seminarian, Joseph Stalin, would be caught with banned books.