Josif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (1878-1953), also known as Soselo, Vozhd, Ivanov, Koba, Batyushka and finally as Stalin (Man of Steel) in the USSR and around the world, and as Uncle Joe in the Western media, was one of the worst mass murderers in the history of mankind. Stalin's regime is blamed for the deaths of over 20 million people from deliberate famine campaigns in 1932-33 and 1946-47, mass deportations, brutal repression, executions, gulags, torture and harsh incarcerations. This excludes the estimated 13.8 to 26.4 million Soviet soldiers who died during WW ll (the Soviet records of the time are not complete or reliable).
Within a few years after the end of the war, the erstwhile allies became opponents and fell into the Cold War. Stalin reneged on his promise to the Allies not to interfere with his neighboring countries and annexed the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and East Germany, while blockading Berlin; effectively separating them from Western Europe by an Iron Curtain (as described by Winston Churchill). Initially the world opinion vilified Stalin and the USSR for initiating the Cold War but by 1960 the leftist socialist intellectuals in the West went on a campaign to absolve Stalin and blame the West for the Cold War. This continued until a few years after Perestroika and the fall of the USSR when access to previously classified documents became available to international scholars, journalists and historians.
Robert Gellately, demonstrates in this book, based on most recent available documents, that Stalin was play acting the role of a trustworthy ally and statesman in his dealings with Roosevelt and Churchill during their meeting in Yalta, where they planned their offensive against Hitler and the Axis, and the future of the world; Stalin had no intention of abiding by these agreements, he was simply biding his time and would eventually establish Communist governments in Eastern Europe and Asia. The muddled response and confused policy from the West only encouraged him in his pursuit of hegemony and emboldened his aggression, effectively triggering the Cold War <he did not care what the Americans theorized about his motives, so long as they did not stop him getting what he wanted>. By the time the Western powers realized what Stalin's goal was, it was too late to stop him or force him to withdraw from the annexed lands. He had nine million soldiers stationed in these areas and only a nuclear attack would end his regime but the Americans had no stomach for it by then. In 1949, that option was no longer valid, Stalin's spies had obtained the plans for the Atomic Bomb from American communist sympathizers and Western traitors.
The book is divided into three parts and 21 chapters organized chronologically. The Introduction depicts Stalin's early life as a Marxist labor activist who was frequently in trouble with the Tsarist police and was exiled to Siberia from 1913 until 1917. He joined the Bolcheviks and became a Commissar in Lenin's government. Gellately then goes on to explain his views on the Soviet regimes and their pursuit of universal spread of communism in the guise of saviors and educators, but not as colonialists. The reader will appreciate the irony.
Part l lays the foundation of Stalinist regime, its purges, consolidation of power, building the Red army, the war and its aftermath on USSR.
Part ll: Shadows of the Cold War describes the tenuous relationship of Truman and Stalin, the Atomic bomb, the post-war brutal repression and retribution, pogroms and the imposition of communism on satellite states.
Part 111: Stalin's Cold war details, in eight chapters, the various communist regimes, their tribulations and nuances complying with Stalin's vision.
The Epilogue wraps it all up.... <Stalin's ideology asserted that the country was full of covert enemies posing as loyal citizens..> This resulted in 18 million people exiled to the Gulag. Only 612,000 citizens were granted certificates of rehabilitation between 1953-57, and then none were given until 1987-89 when 840,000 certificates were issued. Since then 4 million applications were submitted and only 1.5 million were allotted.
This is a very well researched book written by a master of the genre. The prose is crisp and the syntax is almost flawless. It unveils previously unknown documents and historical facts about an important era in the history of the world and gives an unprecedented insight into a secretive, oppressive regime that perpetrated a half-a- century reign of terror on its own citizens. The author succeeds in unmasking the psyche and ideology of Stalin; his paranoia, unfathomable cruelty and unmitigated lust for killing <he liked killing>, and that was Stalin's Curse.
on April 11, 2013
This book is incredibly detailed. I cannot imagine the time and effort Gellately must have invested in research let alone in various languages. I must admit that in bits and pieces, I was familiar with this period and events from other sources, but this book brings all together and puts them in context for the first time for me. For a reader who seriously wants to understand this sad period of time in eastern Europe, I strongly recommend this book. I am reluctant to describe a book of such events as a "page turner", but I find myself looking forward each day to continuing this lesson in history.
on June 8, 2013
Despite disclaimers in the introduction, this is essentially just another Stalin biography. Stalin's Curse refers to the repressive, murderous, antidemocratic regimes that Stalin bestowed on much of Eastern and Central Europe, and was at least partly responsible for in China, N Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere, but this angle seems to have been an afterthought, referred to only in the Introduction and in the very last sentence of the Epilogue. Granted, there is more information on the institution and development of communism in those countries than might be expected in a standard Stalin biography, but it is nevertheless just a quick skip over the territory, coming nowhere close, for instance, to the detail of Anne Applebaum's recent Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, which dealt with just three countries and the limited period specified in Applebaum's sub-title.
Gellately sets out to be controversial in some areas. This consists of several times damning 'revisionist' historians (which is really not very controversial) and coming up with a series of surprising, even dubious assertions. Check the end-note indicated as a reference and it seems not to refer to the sentence in the paragraph that was surprising, or is an obscure foreign language publication not readily available to most of us, or, in at least one case, refers to a paper no longer available (if it ever was) on the Website indicated. Even an alleged 1942 British War Cabinet decision regarding post-war transfer of German minority populations is referenced to an out-of-print German language publication, rather than to the relevant Cabinet Minute.
The most intriguing piece of information that was new to me is that when, on 30th June 1941, Beria, Molotov, Voroshilov, Mikoyan and Voznesensky went to Stalin's dacha outside Moscow to propose the formation of a new State Committee of Defense, Stalin assumed they had come to arrest him, or at least to force him out. How do we know this? Surely Stalin did not confide that to any of them, then or later?
And why is it there was never a serious coup or assassination attempt? Gellately unfortunately doesn't address that question.
Even more unfortunately, there are some basic errors in the book, trivial in themselves perhaps, but serious in that they undermine confidence in asserted facts less easily checked. Gellately gives the wrong reason why Victory Day in the Soviet Union was a day later (9th May) than VE Day. That was not because of the surrender treaty signed in Rheims on the 7th (to which Stalin objected), but because the time at which the 8th May treaty was signed in Berlin was already past midnight in Moscow. Then Gellately suggests that 6th August 1945 was the day after Little Boy was exploded over Hiroshima. It wasn't; 8:15am in Japan was the same day in Moscow and throughout Europe. He is also wrong in stating that the Polish Government in exile had been established in London since 1939. It in fact operated first in Paris, then Angers, and moved to London in 1940 on the fall of France.
Those are all basic mistakes, likely to be spotted by any reasonably well-informed reader. That by the time of the Yalta Summit Conference (February 1945) Ivan M Maisky was no longer [Soviet] Ambassador [to London] Maisky but - since 1943 - Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs might be considered a little more obscure. Similarly that by the time of Churchill's Iron Curtain speech in Fulton Missouri (March 1946), he was no longer Prime Minister. And Gellately misunderstands Stalin's 'Dizzy with Success' temporary wind-back of the Farm Collectivization campaign in March 1930.
All that is a great pity, for there is much here that, if we could have full confidence in the author, would be interesting and useful - amusing too at times such as when Stalin adds a paean to his own modesty and genius to the text of a Short Biography of himself, or disapproves on democratic grounds a suggestion from the American and British foreign ministers that he could influence the 'winner' of the 1945 Bulgarian election to include some opposition politicians in his government. (After initially demurring, he did!)
I also enjoyed the story that when he suspected an Anglo-American-German plot to surrender Italy and provide the British and Americans with a fast-track to Berlin (ahead of the Red Army), challenged Roosevelt and was told Soviet intelligence must be at fault, Stalin retorted that his informants were "honest and unassuming people who carry out their duties conscientiously."
The book is well presented, has a good index, three basic maps, numerous references, and an eight page section of black and white photographs.
on March 15, 2013
The theory running through this important book is that it was Stalin who started the Cold War and it was he who took care to perpetuate it.
Robert Gellately gives his readers a very detailed description about the horrors perpetrated by Stalin and his henchmen. He starts his book by claiming that Stalin was the undisputed leader of Russia within five years after Lenin's death. He unleashed a terror campaign against almost everyone and this was just the introduction to what was to follow in Eastern Europe, since Stalin was more than confident that Europe had to become Communist by all means. The tool to be used for the implementation of this theory was the Red Army and, according to comrade Stalin, it would be the army "tipping the scales" in the ideological conflict between the East and the rest.
Throughout WW2, Stalin gained the upper hand in all the conferences and summits with the Western leaders, and Mr. Gellately demonstrates that the assertion which says that Roosevelt was the winner at Yalta, for instance, does not hold up to scrutiny. Stalin has always been a tough negotiator. He was ruthless and achieved his aims by being calm, "never raising his voice".
The book is divided into three main parts which include 21 chapters. The first part is about the Stalinist revolution, the second is about the shadows of the Cold War and it discusses the way Stalin and his cronies have taken care to gain prepare Eastern Europe for the Communist utopia, and the third and last part is about the manipulations of Stalin after WW2 in Eastern Europe when Communist regimes were established under his guidance.
One of the best chapters in this engrossing book is about the retribution against various ethinic groups which he considered dangerous because they might subvert his plans. Among those were the Baltic states, the Caucasus peoples and those ethnic groups in the Crimea.
This process was very easy, since Stalin had much experience because it was under his orders that millions were sent to Gulags and many were exterminated there. The vast scale of the Soviet retribution was aimed at punishing alleged past and present misbehaviour of individuals or whole nations and cleansing those lands, beacuse Stalin thought that a country as a whole should be readied for the looming struggle with the West, thus it was also necessary to straighten out any ideological wanderings and "false consciousness" that had crept into people's heads during the war. In this way, Stalin took care to implement Lenin's beliefs about Communism and he did not even hesitate to start a new World War in order to execute his will.
This is why Stalin did not care an iota about the terrible famine which was to be found in Eastern Europe in 1946, in which only in the USSR it took more than one million lives.
This is why he rejected the Marshall Plan and Mr. Gellately writes that "it was overwhelmingly Stalin's actions that led to the Cold War". Ordinary people and Russia's satellites paid the price for this. Although in many cases rational, Stalin's behaviour also had an irrational side that latched onto conspiracies, rumours, wild speculations, paranoia and spy manias. All these included a ferocious dose of anti-Semitism, which to some extent he let loose as he solidified his grip on the Easterm European countries. He definitely did not forget to build an adulation campaign or what has been known as the his cult of personality.
The last Party Congress, in which he took part, was in October 1952, where more than 1300 delegates came from all over the world. When Stalin approached the microphone, "he was greeted with thunderous applause, more God than man. He was the Master, the Boss, the fearsome Leader, the terrorist, and the emperor all rolled into one". Echoing Marx, he said that capitalist rivals would have to compete more fiercely among themselves for what was left and would end up making war on one another. This was why the Marshall plan had to be rejected. According to Lieutenant General N.N. Ostroumov, one of the deputy chiefs of the air force staff, Stalin ordered in the spring of 1952 no fewer than 100 new tactical bomber divisions to be ready for another war.
What about the costs of the failed future promised by the Communists? According to Alexander Yakovlev, who looked into the matter, Lenin and Stalin had led a war against their own people that was as destructive as WW2. In other words, the number of lives lost during this horrible experiment in the USS was more than 25 million. The same destructive path was to lead to similar results in Eastern Europe.
This book, again, refutes the claim of the revisionist scholars who want to blame the East and West equally for the onset of the Cold War. By using many untapped sources from many countries, Mr. Gellately has written an outstanding and brilliant history and analysis of one of the most brutal yet fascinating episodes in the annals of humanity.
on April 14, 2013
Since the 1930s an immense number of books - biographies, "psychohistories", and conventional narrative histories of the USSR under Stalin's rule - have looked at Stalin's life and works. A goodly portion of these have been written by British and American academic historians and journalists-as-popular-historians, while the collapse of the USSR brought forth some interesting works by Russian authors (e.g., General Volkogonov's) -- there had been an earlier spate of such works published abroad (Solzhenitsyn's and Roy Medvedev's, for instance). While covering the same events Gellately's book is different from earlier works in its emphasis on the strong role that ideology played in Stalin's life and decisions. What other writers may characterize as old-fashioned power politics, opportunism, or cynicism, Gellately describes as the long-term working out and implementation of Stalin's basic beliefs about Marxism-Leninism and how correctly it described and analyzed the world and should be used as an infallible guide to the future. His commitment to these beliefs was total, and he ignored or twisted evidence that might undermine them.
In Stalin's mind there was a strong connection between domestic politics (how to develop the USSR as modern industrial economy) and foreign policy, with possibilities for expanding communism depending on two interrelated factors: Soviet military might and diplomatic clout and how to use them effectively in situations that indicated the impending collapse of capitalism in the West. Everything was tied together in a neat little package for which a stilted vocabulary and limited analytical framework were developed (what we might call "Marxspeak"). Stalin wished to be seen as a successful political leader, based on his major programs of intensive heavy industry development and collectivization of agriculture (the constant bleeding wound of the Soviet economy) and successful statesman (based on his roles as the victor of WWII and as the senior and authoritative figure of both "really existing socialism" and of international socialism). He also wished to be seen as a keen and reliable ideologist who furthered Marx and Lenin's thinking, a man who demonstrated the best way to carry out Marxism and fulfill its goals. While his beliefs in this respect may have been incorrect (but who would know after he extinguished all of his ideological opponents within the Party?) or downright delusional, he saw them in religious terms as "the way, the truth, and the life".
In his big two-volume biography of Stalin Robert Tucker captured all of this and carried out a sort of psychiatric analysis of just why and how important it was for Stalin to see himself as an intellectual and ideologist, and equally important to him for the rest of the world to see him this way. Gellately is not that much concerned with this kind of psychological portrait, but goes to great lengths to document how Stalin's ideology manifested itself in a large number of critical decisions that he made from the 1930s up until the moment of his death. He was willing to compromise tactically, because he was confident that his larger strategy was bound to succeed (in 1945-46 he could authorize co-operation and coalitions with "bourgeois" and liberal-democratic elements in the embryonic satellite states, because he reasoned that the Party could overturn them from within, especially with its usual control of judicial and police ministries). Of great interest is how Stalin's deep-seated beliefs influenced specific decisions about the most effective way to establish the USSR's hegemony in Central and Eastern Europe during the years between 1945 and 1948, the year in which his master plan for installing a band of communist buffer states along the USSR's western borders was realized. Stalin produced works (especially "the Short Course") that claim to explain the Russian revolution and to predict inevitable developments in world history; here he thought and wrote in a style that is often described as "catechistic", perhaps reflecting his seminary schooling. For aspiring young communists (some idealists, many opportunists) memorizing this catechism and citing it often was the first step on the path to a successful career as either Party politician, administrator, or bureaucrat. Stalin thought that his general picture of a world understood through a few rigid Marxist-Leninist principles and precepts entitled him to be a successful judge of the merit of works in the arts and sciences as well, and his interference (and "guidance") in these realms of life was pervasive and proved to be culturally destructive and to lead into blind alleys.
The portion of Gellately's book that deals with the post-WWII era is important in supplying evidence that shows just how much of the ensuing Cold War can be attributed to Stalin. The key chapter here is the one devoted to examining why and how the Marshall Plan came about. Suffice it to say that Stalin initially sat on the fence about it (Western economic aid with no political strings attached - why not deplete the resources of our capitalist enemies?). Eventually he came to see it as a conspiratorial Western tool to undermine the position of Communist parties throughout Europe, a "splitting technique" (one that he used often). Once convinced of this it became mandatory for all of the Eastern European leaders to reject participation in the plan, accounting for very sudden public reversals (Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary had been eager to participate in the Marshall Plan, but were overruled by Moscow at the last minute). This decision also moved Stalin in the direction of formulating his final approach to rule in Eastern and Central Europe - the local branches of the communist movement would no longer be allowed to follow separate "national paths" to socialism, but would have both their domestic and foreign policies dictated by the Kremlin, producing a truly solid communist block of nations. This explains the near-hysterical response of Moscow to Tito's emergence as a communist leader who wished to follow his own path to socialism (ironical in that Tito had been an exemplary rigid and doctrinaire Stalinist up until the moment of Moscow's break with him; once he realized the failure and dim prospects of his earlier approach to governing, he was not to be allowed to reverse directions without Moscow's approval, which would not be forthcoming after matters had been settled in Stalin's mind - no "deviations" to the right or left were permissible).
Toward the end of his life fissures within this solid block were evident to both foreign observers and many communists within the USSR and its satellite states, but evidence contrary to the "master plan" (which was the Master's plan) was dismissed by Stalin as disinformation, enemy propaganda, or hysterical overreaction to temporary inconveniences. Economies were stalled, especially consumer economies related to production and consumption of housing, food, and basic household items, but to Stalin this only indicated "wrecking", sabotage, or the incompetence of underlings. Economic relations between the member states of the block and the USSR were deemed to work mostly to Russian advantage, and Stalin's requirements meant that immense amounts of national effort throughout the satellite states were spent on questionable heavy industrial plants and military expenses which these societies could ill afford. Agriculture remained a mess throughout the block, and food and housing shortages were inspiring popular dissent and even open unrest. In 1953 Stalin died, yet several waves of Stalinism appeared during the 1953-1989 years whenever communist leaders thought that they had to either tighten their grip on their own people or risk losing their monopoly of power. The Putin government is still ambivalent about Stalin: yes, injustices against individuals were committed; but, on the other hand, Stalin's harshness was needed to rapidly build up the USSR's industrial and military strength because it was encircled by capitalist countries bent on its destruction. This is a very common assessment in today's Russia.
So Stalin was in many ways a man of both ideas and ideals, though with regard to the latter he took the position that the end justified any and all means, no matter how brutal or destructive. With respect to this it is wise to remember the brutality and coarseness of his first forty years of life (an abusive alcoholic brawler of a father, years in a harsh and punitive seminary, a decade or so of life as a street-level agitator and organizer, and his several stretches of exile in Siberia -- a life more or less guaranteed to produce indifference to the suffering of others). When he wanted confessions extracted from the many old Party comrades whom he subjected to the purges of the 1930s and later, his oft-quoted advice to his security service cronies was to "beat, beat, and beat again." At the same time, by the standards of the day he was reasonably well educated, both through formal schooling and reading tackled on his own. Compared to men like Trotsky, Lenin, and Bukharin, all of whom had a superficial cultural sheen due to their family and university experiences, he could not shine as brightly as a member of the "intelligentsia", but he more than made up for this by persistence and single-mindedness. Foreign observers (both Party men and Western diplomats) commented on his "smooth side" (informal joviality, knowledge of politics at home and abroad, terse wit) and also noted that he could switch to domineering brutality of opinion at the flip of some internal switch when he was offended or suspicious of any idea that deviated from his advice or decisions. When it comes to culture, a realm where he assumed the same "commanding heights" as he did in politics, he was a man of traditional taste who admired 19th century Russian writing and music, but was hostile to anything modern or experimental in the arts, dismissing such works as "formalistic", demoralizing, or "anti-Soviet". The problems caused by his belief-system were not due to a lack of ideas, but to the rigidity of the ideas he had, impervious to rational discussion and criticism as they were. He went through life wearing an ideological straight-jacket that he had tailored for himself in a search for invulnerability.
Gellately should be praised for covering both a long stretch of time and a large array of diverse historical materials (e.g., he gives concise mini-histories of the postwar take-over of power by the Party in half a dozen nations) with only a few errors - I note that he mistakenly calls the native Hungarian fascist party the "Iron Guard" (this was the fascist paramilitary organization in Romania) instead of the correct "Arrow Cross", but minor mistakes like this are inevitable in a work of this scope. Not only is the coverage broad, but the work's unifying thesis about Stalin's way of thinking does not do a "Procrustean" shaping of the evidence, but makes plain inferences from the documentary records of this era, and it notes the lingering doubts of historians where the evidence is contradictory. A job well done.
on May 16, 2013
Wearing it's scholarship into Soviet and other archives lightly, this engagingly written account of Soviet machinations and U.S. and British responses before, during and after WWII, is a very useful corrective to Revisionist Cold War history, which was a creature of the 1960s but never left the Academy and has been resurrected most recently in the Oliver Stone series.
In part a political biography of Stalin, the book nonetheless covers all key participants, and shows how fiercely engrained ideology can trump more practical factors.
This weighty historical offering by Mr Robert Gellately draws largely on German and Russian records, plus plentiful amount of first-hand testimony and the author illustrates challenging interpretative skills of the material at hand. Unlike other biographies dealing with this subject, that seemed to have mainly focused on the most dramatic episodes in the dictator's life, this book then sets Stalin firmly in the historical perspective: the rise ,and the eventual fall, of what Ronald Regan the US President called the "The Evil Empire".
Robert Gellately's new work debunks the theory he was an `anomaly of the worsted kind', or simply a behaviour exhibited by a leader who was reacting to mistakes made by the West. It is superficial to say Stalin was simply a twisted maniac who wielded despotic power, carnage and wide spread fear for the sake of it. For Robert Gellately, Stalin was a hardened Leninist to his core. He was driven by his convictions and believed whole heartedly in his rightness in what he was doing. This book illustrates, again and again, that Stalin's talent lay in paranoid attention to detail, in certain spheres of his work. As the soviets expanded their rule over vast tracks of Central and Eastern Europe - towards then end of World War 2, he paid great attention in details of discipline and national strategy, dreading that even the slightest fissure in communist doctrine was not to be tolerated.
For some peoples and Nation States the fallout, of the strategy employed, was catastrophic: but the actions taken were in harmony with communist philosophy, which was what mattered to Stalin. For some this book is uncomfortable reading, never the less this is an interesting and well researched book that shows Stalin's legacy.
This claims to be a new take on the whole, `how bad was Stalin really,' debate. Gellately says he is being controversial by challenging some of the revisionist historians, which is something that happens rather a lot, so not all that controversial then? He takes us from the early days of Stalin in the pre war period and his origins as an acolyte of Lenin and then through WW II or `the Great Patriotic War' as it is known in Russia and then on to his much over due death in 1953.
There are a few technical errors like getting peoples jobs wrong and even saying Churchill was Prime Minister when he gave his `iron curtain' speech, when he had been ousted at that point. There are some others as well and some obscure references, but I don't really mind as this is actually really well written and actually very entertaining. There is so much here that I did not know very much about like the creeping anti- Semitism that Stalin seemed to develop along with the clogging of the arteries in his brain. The death toll is truly staggering, especially when you see the numbers that perished after the war through misguided collectivism and enforced movement or rather expulsion of whole peoples. Germany really did pay a high price for the war and Stalin made sure of it.
He also goes into post war politicising and deals with each country in turn. I felt all of this could have been expanded upon and found it fascinating, and could easily be another book. He makes some suggestions as to what might have happened and has done `exhaustive' research on a number of points to try to prove either way what was either the motivation for certain things or even whose idea some such policy actually was, so he has to be praised for that. Then he sometimes says things which do look like pure assumption, especially concerning Stalin's state of mind. That said this holds together incredibly well and I found it read like a ruddy good thriller, so it gets the thumbs up from me.
Robert Gellately is the Earl Ray Beck Professor of History at Florida State University and so should know his stuff. To that end he clearly loves his subject and probably wanted to cram as much in as possible in this new book. If you are new or a beginner then this will be pure gold on Russian and World history, if you are a bit more seasoned then there will still be something here for you and I am sure you will find it a rewarding read. There are masses of references at the back so there is the added bonus of being able to go off and research the reference material too, which is something I always appreciate.
on June 5, 2013
When I was in high school in the late 1980's, I worried about Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D.). The commies in Reagan's 2nd term were the bogeymen, and our very real fear had to do with our proximity to a nuclear attack submarine base in Groton, Conn. I trace my fascination with Russia back to an elective class I took when I was a high school senior called Modern Russia. I keep coming back to this fascinating nation. It's history is full of horribleness. Stalin contribution to the horror is unmatched. His paranoid war against his own people, in pursuit of a utopian communist world, cost as many Russian lives as his war with Nazi Germany, 25 million each. It's this body count in World War 2 that has also attracted my attention.
As I've read more World War 2 history, and as Russian archives have been opened to Western historians, my understanding with the war's center of gravity has shifted east. The Nazi Reich's defeat came on the Russian front. The war in western Europe, although horrific in itself, was dwarfed by the scale on the eastern front. Both demagogues fought as amateurs, and crashed waves upon waves of soldiers against each other to their deaths. Fortunately for the world, Hitler ran out of soldiers before Stalin did. It's not that the United States did nothing, we supplied Stalin with tons of war matériel. But Stalin was convinced that the U.S. wanted the U.S.S.R. as exhausted as Germany by the end of the war. The author of Stalin's Curse, Robert Gellately, does not believe Stalin correct in such an assumption. It's hard to determine what Stalin believed to be true, other than the world needed to become Communist.
Gellately believes the documentation is sufficient to assert that Stalin always had his eye on the long game of world-wide Communism. Even as his troops were battling the Nazis to a bloody draw, he was gaining Roosevelt's confidence, circumventing Churchill's caution. Eventually, even Churchill negotiated a losing bargain on Eastern Europe with Stalin. It could be an especially Russian/Georgian ability to bargain hard and inefficiently to slow things down so much as to wear the other side down. For Stalin and his staff, this glacial negotiating pace, even to the side effect of greater loss of innocent lives, was their strong suit. They had no difficulty letting their own people starve to death while making their utopia. Likewise they had no difficulty letting Eastern Europeans also die while they slowed post-war negotiations on sphere's of influence. Utopia had to be grasped at all costs, contrary to all facts on the ground.
Stalin's curse is his devotion to his communist fantasy no matter what it cost. Twenty-five million of his own citizens was only part of the price in blood as the Soviet satellite states implemented his vision on their devastated countries. Gellately's book is another well-supported indictment of Communism.
on May 3, 2013
For those nostalgic about Stalinist policies, this book is a cure. It is a reminder of how this man was a monster plain and simple. He certainly knew how millions had died or seen their lives ruined because of his orders. How he would make sure that whole families would be punished for a perceived slight of one member. The saying about absolute power that corrupts absolutely, finds here its full significance. How sad that apologists still believe that the end justifies the means, and if only the West didn't start the Cold War. This book explains in minute details how Stalin would ruthlessly pursue his strategy to engage the world in one of the greatest folly of the 20th century: communism. A trip to Poland or Bulgaria tells that we are still paying the price.