Rick: The traditional occupation for exiled Russians in interwar Paris was
as taxi drivers. Remember Mr Taxovich in LOLITA? “A stocky White Russian
ex-colonel with a bushy mustache and a crew-cut; there were thousands of
them plying that fool’s trade in Paris.” Stalin, of course, may have had
trouble driving a cab because of his withered arm (don’t know how much
function he had in it). In any case, the Tsarists might have shut him
out–he was, after all, a Georgian, not a Russian. He had quite a good
singing voice, though, and might have ended up as a low-grade cabaret act.
I think most likely, though, he would have sunk to his natural level, as a
petty criminal. Or perhaps not so petty: it was he, after all, who
engineered the theft of the Spanish Republic’s entire stock of gold bullion.