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Lenin: A New Biography Hardcover – October 12, 1994

3.6 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a notably revelatory biography, Volkogonov presents the most compelling evidence to date that Lenin, not Stalin, was the true father of Soviet totalitarianism. The author draws heavily on newly declassified KGB archives that he oversees as special assistant to President Boris Yeltsin. Quoting extensively from Lenin's once top-secret communications, Volkogonov shows that Lenin personally created a system of terror that laid the foundations for Stalin's dictatorship. We see how Lenin created the omnipotent Cheka, or political police, and immersed himself in its daily activities; launched an onslaught against religious institutions; initiated systematic extermination of the land-owning peasantry, or kulaks; and ordered the murder of Nicholas II and his family, then commended the executioners. Historian and former Soviet General Volkogonov (Stalin) provides new details on Germany's covert financing of the Bolshevik Party and, on a more personal note, of Lenin's 10-year affair with Inessa Armand, a relationship his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, tolerated. Volkogonov's narrative is indispensable for understanding the Bolshevik coup, their crushing of the democratic opposition and the tragic aftermath. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Director of the Institute of Military History until the 1988 publication of his critical Stalin (LJ 9/15/91) forced his resignation, Volkogonov is now chair of the presidential committee examining formerly classified State and Party archives. As such, he is in an excellent position to provide a revisionist view of Lenin from the inside, and he delivers. From the beginning, Volkogonov challenges the assumption that Lenin's legacy was perverted by Stalin, documenting in detail how "on every point-peace, land, liberty, Constituent Assembly, freedom of the press and all the rest-[the Bolsheviks'] promises rapidly changed into cruelty, limitation, alteration, a different 'reading' or outright denial." Accounts of Lenin's cooperation with Germany during World War I and of the new government's using funds to further revolution abroad even as millions of citizens starved are among the book's most chilling passages. Ocassionally, Volkogonov hammers home a point overmuch, but that is to be expected of a disillusioned man with an important message. A sobering and authoritative book; highly recommended.
Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 529 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (October 12, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029334357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029334355
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,105,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alasdair Brooks on November 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For some reason westerners continue to have something of a blind spot for V.I. Lenin. The conception that Stalin perverted Lenin's idealist vision, that Lenin's communism might have been a more viable utopian ideal had he survived, remains strong. This is one of several books that should help to shatter that illusion once and for all as it comprehensively documents the extent to which Stalinism was firmly rooted in Lenin's murderous totalitarian revolution.

Volkogonov's book is far from perfect in this English translation. The opening chapters are somewhat non-linear and unfocused (it only really picks up once it starts discussing Germany's role in Lenin's return to Russia in 1917, about a third of the way in), for all his supposed access to secret archive documentation the author is occasionally prone to speculation (though he usually admits as much, for example in discussing Lenin and Sverdlov's roles in the murder of the Tsar's family), and the English translator freely admits that he's cut out large sections of deeply Russian philosophical discussions.

But for all that, the book remains a powerful testament to Lenin's flaws. Few details in the book were that new to me. I knew the Germans had helped the Bolsheviks for their own ends in 1917; I knew about Lenin's almost mindless obsession with violence as the sole true path to revolution; I knew about Lenin's cynical willingness to discard almost any principles in the pursuit of power for the Bolsheviks. But seeing all of this documented - and far more of it is documented than some reviewers are suggesting - by the Bolsheviks' own hands makes it all the more powerful.

Nor do I think that the book is that biased.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For years after Nikita Khruschev's famous "secret speech" in 1956 denouncing Stalin and some of his crimes, apologists for the USSR and its Communist system continued to claim that if only Lenin had lived longer, Soviet-style Communism would have evolved in a much more benign direction than it ultimately did under the bloodthirsty Stalin. This book, written by a formerly high-ranking member of the Soviet military establishment who himself believed this, tears this myth to shreds. By getting unprecendented access to secret Soviet archives, Volkogonov clearly shows that the criminal nature of the regime was instituted by Lenin and his associates from the first day they came to power. There never was an "idealistic", clean phase to the Bolshevik Revolution. The corruption and tyranny began at once. Although the author points out that Bolsehvism appeals to universal ideas of social justice, when Lenin called to turn the "imperialist war" (i.e. the First World War) into a "civil war", the writing was on the wall for anyone who wanted to see it that it was the Bolshevik's intention to tear Russian society apart, and not just provide the people "peace, land and bread" as Lenin also claimed in order to get the naive to support his agenda for revolution.

Lenin never had any intention to improve the lives of the Russian people because at a time of mass famine during the "War Communism" repression at the time of the Civil War after the October Revolution, the Bolshevik regime was sending millions of dollars out of the country in order to stir up revolutions in other countries while letting their own people starve. Lenin was only interested in political power leading to what he hoped would be "world revolution" and class struggle.
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Format: Hardcover
Lenin, no matter what is thought of his philosophy, is one of the major figures of 20th century history. The author of this book had access to newly released documents (at the time, ca. 1994) from the archives of the USSR, and has used them in a telling biography of the man.

Some have called the author less than objective, and that probably is true. The times in which the book was written need to be taken into account. But if the author was less than objective, this book still reveals much about Lenin and the inner workings of the regime he helped create.

Lenin had but one thing that he used as a criterion for deciding what must be done: Does it help the revolution? That he was capable of ordering the execution of 'undesirables', letting people starve, all because he thought it was good for the revolution tells the truth about the man. He was ruthless, he was cruel, and evidently had no problem with his conscience over anything he ordered done.

What I got from this book is that Lenin was the architect for what came after him. Stalin took full advantage of this, and evolved the brutality to new heights. But Lenin was the beginning. Stalin was but the continuation.

A book that does get bogged down at times in detail, and has to be 'waded' through. Hence only 4 stars. But there is plenty to read and learn, and the 'wade' was worth it. Despite that caveat, still recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Simply put, the others below who write of Volkogonov as some mere right wing pedant are far from any truth in the matter. Volkogonov was brought up and schooled in the marxian tradition and lost it honestly, through discovery.
Having been intersted historically in Lenin for over fifteen years, I find any conclusion other than Volkogonov's conclusions about Lenin to be simple exercises in propoganda. Let there be no doubt- the two others who wrote about Volkogonov are either amateurs on the subject and bluntly do not know what they are speaking about, or they are hacks in some form or another and are seeking to conceal truth by means of the process that Orwell made so plain in his "Politics and the English Language".
The only people who would disagree with as reasonable a conclusion as Volkogonov's fascinating bio of Lenin are either fools or liers.
This book is excellent. Add it to your collection.
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