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Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin's Kremlin: The Story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina (Hoover Institution Press Publication) Paperback – April 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Drawing from Hoover Institution archival documents, Paul Gregory sheds light on how the world’s first socialist state went terribly wrong and why it was likely to veer off course through the story of two of Stalin’s most prominent victims: Pravda editor Nikolai Bukharin and his wife, Anna Larina. Their dramatic story begins with the optimism of the socialist revolution and then turns into a dark tale of foreboding and terror as the game changed from political struggle to physical survival. Told for the most part in the words of the participants, it is a tale of courage and cowardice, strength and weakness, misplaced idealism, missed opportunities, bungling, and, above all, love.

From the Inside Flap

Nikolai Bukharin was only one of the millions of Stalin’s victims. Most were ordinary people, unlike Nikolai and his wife, Anna Larina, who were members of the Bolshevik elite. But his and Anna’s tale provides a more enduring understanding of Stalin and Stalinism than the statistics that tally the dictator’s millions of victims. Their story contains all the elements of high drama: love and devotion interspersed with intrigue, betrayal, hope, weakness, friendship, naïveté, endurance, optimism, bitterness, and ultimate tragedy. In this book, Paul Gregory draws from Hoover Institution archival documents to paint a fascinating portrait of their life together, set against the backdrop of the Bolshevik revolution. Through their compelling story—told largely in their own words—Gregory reveals how the revolution ultimately went wrong.


The Bolshevik revolution unexpectedly brought to power a disparate collection of idealists, misfits, fanatics, intellectuals, scoundrels, opportunists, and some outright criminals and thugs. Nikolai Bukharin belonged in the idealist and intellectual category, whereas Stalin began as a thug, an organizer of bank robberies and murders in his native Georgia. Of the possible successors to Lenin, Bukharin most clearly spelled out a vision, which today would be called “socialism with a human face.” His loss, the author shows, suggests that Stalin’s victory was predetermined by factors deeply embedded in the Bolshevik revolution, as Bukharin proved helpless against a competitor who thirsted for absolute power.


Word of Nikolai Bukharin’s execution came to his twenty-four-year-old wife, Anna Larina, in the Tomsk camp for wives of “traitors of the fatherland.” The morning after her husband’s death, the warden confiscated Anna’s only photograph of her eleven-month-old baby, ordered her to pack, and sent her off to the next camp. She would not be released until 1945; even after her release, she remained in exile for another decade


Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin’s Kremlin: The Story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina tells of the tragedy of one death and one ruined life. Stories such as theirs offer more insights than do more-general accounts of Stalin’s purges. As Robert Conquest says in his foreword, “The political infighting stands out as the context of character and feeling—more effectively so than in pure fiction.”


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Product Details

  • Series: Hoover Institution Press Publication
  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Hoover Institution Press; 1st Edition edition (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817910352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817910358
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,992,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Gregory is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He holds an endowed professorship in the Department of Economics at the University of Houston, Texas, is a research professor at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, and is chair of the International Advisory Board of the Kiev School of Economics.

The holder of a PhD in economics from Harvard University, he is the author or coauthor of twelve books and more than one hundred articles on economic history, the Soviet economy, transition economies, comparative economics, and economic demography. His most recent books are Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin's Kremlin: The Story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina (Hoover Institution Press, 2010), Lenin's Brain and Other Tales from the Secret Soviet Archives (Hoover Institution Press, 2008), Terror by Quota (Yale, 2009), and The Political Economy of Stalinism (Cambridge, 2004), which won the Hewett Prize. He edited The Lost Transcripts of the Politburo (Yale, 2008), Behind the Façade of Stalin's Command Economy (Hoover, 2001) and The Economics of Forced Labor: The Soviet Gulag (Hoover, 2003). The work of his Hoover Soviet Archives Research Project team is summarized in "Allocation under Dictatorship: Research in Stalin's Archive" (coauthored with Hoover fellow Mark Harrison), published in the Journal of Economic Literature.

Gregory's forthcoming books include The Global Economy and Its Economic Systems (Cengage) and Women of the Gulag (Hoover). He is also working with Marianna Yarovskaya on a film documentary entitled Women of the Gulag.

Gregory also served on the editorial board of the seven-volume Gulag documentary series entitled The History of the Stalin Gulag, published jointly by the Hoover Institution and the Russian Archival Service. He also serves or has served on the editorial boards of Comparative Economic Studies, Slavic Review, Journal of Comparative Economics, Problems of Post-Communism, and Explorations in Economic History.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By ConnieM on July 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This concise gem of a work relates the gradual, tortuously prolonged destruction by Joseph Stalin of Nicolai Bukharin--a humanly fallible but idealistic Russian revolutionary. It fascinates with its vivid, chilling picture of the wily, cunning, serpentine nature of Stalin's modus operandi and his diabolic ability to read his opponents and play patiently and masterfully on their weaknesses or scruples. It is a mesmerizing account of what happens when a creature of pure evil, single-minded in the pursuit of total power, opposes other human beings--not just the hapless Bukharin--who are not so selfishly or malignly focussed.

The book's short, meaty chapters enhance its readability and facilitate understanding of a complex series of events. It is rare that a scholar and authority at Gregory's level is able to present a historical narrative so clearly and compellingly to lay readers.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Phyllis S., NYC VINE VOICE on December 29, 2010
Format: Paperback

I found Paul R. Gregory's book enlightening and deeply moving, and hope it finds a wide readership. It tells the story of a marriage, and of the tragic fall of Nikolai Bukharin, by any standard the most appealing figure in Lenin's inner circle. One has the feeling that this charming and humane man, if he were born in a stable, democratic republic, would have been a generally beloved figure. It's easy to imagine him in another place and time as a popular professor, a crusading newspaper editor, or a left-leaning politician that even conservatives couldn't help liking. Somewhere other than Stalinist Russia, his tragic flaws--difficulty recognizing true evil when he saw it, a shaky grasp of human nature, and impractical idealism--would not have destroyed his life or helped to destroy anyone else's. He seems to have been seduced by the dream of a communist utopia not through lust for power but because of what was best in him--hope for an egalitarian and just world.

Bukharin advocated "socialism with a human face" and opposed Stalin's ruthless exploitation of the peasantry. He wept when he saw the horrors Stalin's manmade famine caused but was unable to do anything to help the victims other than give away his pocket money to starving children. Stalin targeted him for destruction. Still, Bukharin was complicit with the regime. Early on he helped prop it up, and later, under horrific pressure, he seems to have named names and helped to destroy others. He never fully comprehended the dangers inherent in communism, and before his imprisonment asked his wife to raise his infant son as a true Bolshevik. Just the same, in reading about him one has the sense of a fundamentally decent man outmatched by the forces with which he grappled.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Reviewer Formerly Known as Kurt Johnson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
After the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, a power struggle broke out within the Soviet Politburo. At first, Nikolai Bukharin sided with Joseph Stalin against Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, helping to remove them from power. But later, when Bukharin challenged Stalin on his policy of industrialization and collectivization of the peasants, he found himself as Stalin's newest target. This is the story of that power struggle, and Bukharin's fall from power, imprisonment, and execution.

But, along the path that led from the pinnacle of Soviet power to the depths of the Gulag, Nikolai Ivanovich made a surprising discovery - love. The daughter of a comrade, Anna Larina, some 26 years Bukharin's junior, worshiped and adored him, and in 1934 they wed. This is definitely *not* the story of love conquering all. Indeed, within four years of their marriage, Nikolai Bukharin, and Anna was locked in the Gulag, their love unquenched, but their happiness squashed under the iron hand of Communism.

Overall, I found this to be a very interesting book. The author does a great job of presenting the story of the power struggle within the Kremlin in a relatively short, and yet highly informative, manner. It told me who did what, and why, and what it all meant. Plus, I must say that I liked the story of Anna Larina. Yeah, this is a great book on Bukharin and the Power Struggle, and I highly recommend it!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Polly Hardee on March 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating story of personal dimensions within Stalin's highest cadre. It reads like a novel, yet is a well documented account of the brilliant Nikolai Bukharinan, an idealistic and passionate believer in communism--the rising star in the Politburo--deeply loved and admired by the beautiful, intelligent but much younger Anna Larina. She became his wife. Their romance was lasting; but their happiness brought tragically short by the tyrannical leader of Russia's self defeating socialistic system--the system Bukharin so greatly embraced, so eloquently professed. Through Paul Gregory's descriptions, the reader sees how Bukharin's promising future within the highest echelon of State was deceitfully eroded, then brought to death by Stalin's ever present maelstrom of malice; and how the tentacles' of Stalin's evil subterfuge cruelly extended to Anna. The human element gives a face to the Reign of Terror. The reader develops a deeper sense of Stalin's ruthless lust for power--a man stopping at nothing to be the undisputed Master. He was totally devoid of principle, paranoiac in real or perceived threats to his power. To be close to Stalin was deathly dangerous. And this captivating book graphically depicts such through the lives of Bukharin and Anna. For entertainment, edification and a greater appreciation of liberty, I highly recommend this read.
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