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The Unknown Stalin Hardcover – January 5, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 6 ratings

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From Publishers Weekly

Except for Hitler, perhaps no 20th-century historical figure has more speculation swirling about him than Stalin. But this work by two former Soviet dissidents only partially clears the mist. The work is no chronological biography; instead, it is organized thematically, making it difficult for those unfamiliar with the issues. Another of the book's weaknesses is that some of the legends the authors debunk, such as the charge that Stalin was poisoned, are not widely believed in the West. Despite these flaws, there's a lot of fascinating material. Not surprisingly, since Zhores Medvedev (The Legacy of Chernobyl) is a former Soviet scientist, much of it has to do with Stalin's attitude toward science. The authors (Roy wrote Let History Judge) show how Stalin was at heart a scientific totalitarian-he was willing to modify his view of science if it served his purposes, but unwilling to open up science to outside forces. Instead, as he did in other aspects of Soviet life, Stalin changed his views on science to purge political opponents who might threaten his power base. The authors also detail a little-known nuclear accident in 1951, arguing convincingly that the toll from the accident at Chelyabinsk-40 (the actual number of whose victims is still unknown) was made worse because the officials chose a "course of action that would demand considerable human sacrifice." As others have emphasized, human sacrifice was the norm during the Stalinist era. But there's not enough new here to attract those who are not scholars or those already intrigued by Stalin's life.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The Soviet strongman who condemned millions to early deaths went to his own grave laden with secrets, many of which are here disinterred by two prominent Russian dissidents. In a series of thematically grouped essays, the Medvedevs tease out the truth about Stalin's turbulent and shadowy career, clarifying the extent of his horrific crimes and the mixed character of his political and cultural legacy. On some issues, the authors' scrupulous scholarship--much of it based on newly available documents-- serves chiefly to detail what was previously surmised, but in their treatment of other matters, they demolish prevalent myths with stunning revelations. For example, although medical evidence provides no support for rumors that Stalin's enemies poisoned him, a shrewd reading of the conflicting accounts of Stalin's final hours lays bare the machinations of conspirators who reversed many of his final decisions and destroyed incriminating personal archives. But nothing will haunt readers more than the glimpses these essays provide of a ruthless inhumanity: among his personal trophies, Stalin kept a pathetic preexecution letter from the slavishly devoted Bukharin asking why he, too, must die. An essential modern-history acquisition. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Abrams Press; 1st Edition (January 5, 2004)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1585675024
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1585675029
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.4 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 6 ratings

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed in the United States on April 10, 2004
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Mr. M. Herbert
4.0 out of 5 stars A Russians insight into Stalin
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 16, 2013
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