- Paperback: 640 pages
- Publisher: Anchor (August 18, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385479549
- ISBN-13: 978-0385479547
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 139 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives Paperback – August 18, 1997
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"The Farmer's Son" by John Connell
"A fascinating portrait of a single sensibility, a born noticer, someone on whom nothing is lost, observing birth and death, the landscape, and his own heritage." ―Colm Tóibín, author of "Brooklyn" Learn more
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...Mr. Radzinsky's narrative is deeply personal. Driven by anger almost as bitter asAleksandr Solzhenitsyn's in The Gulag Archipelago and peppered with pungent anecdotes, itsweeps the reader along with its force. -- The New York Times Book Review,
From the Publisher
From the author of The Last Tsar, the first full-scale life of Stalin to have what no previous biography has entirely gotten hold of: the facts. Granted privileged access to Russia's secret archives, Edvard Radzinsky paints a picture of the Soviet strongman as more calculating, ruthless, and blood-crazed than has ever been described or imagined. Stalin was a man for whom power was all, terror a useful weapon, and deceit a constant companion.
As Radzinsky narrates the high drama of Stalin's epic quest for domination-first within the Communist Party, then over the Soviet Union and the world-he uncovers the startling truth about this most enigmatic of historical figures. Only now, in the post-Soviet era, can what was suppressed be told: Stalin's long-denied involvement with terrorism as a young revolutionary; the crucial importance of his misunderstood, behind-the-scenes role during the October Revolution; his often hostile relationship with Lenin; the details of his organization of terror, culminating in the infamous show trials of the 1930s; his secret dealings with Hitler, and how they backfired; and the horrifying plans he was making before his death to send the Soviet Union's Jews to concentration camps-tantamount to a potential second Holocaust. Radzinsky also takes an intimate look at Stalin's private life, marked by his turbulent relationship with his wife Nadezhda, and recreates the circumstances that led to her suicide.
As he did in The Last Tsar, Radzinsky thrillingly brings the past to life. The Kremlin intrigues, the ceaseless round of double-dealing and back-stabbing, the private worlds of the Soviet Empire's ruling class-all become, in Radzinsky's hands, as gripping and powerful as the great Russian sagas. And the riddle of that most cold-blooded of leaders, a man for whom nothing was sacred in his pursuit of absolute might--and perhaps the greatest mass murderer in Western history--is solved.
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Having launched out on a personal survey of Russian history from Peter the Great to the present, I can honestly say this is the worst of the many books I have read on the topic. Compared to the writing of Robert K. Massie and Richard Pipes, this volume is just awful.
Stalin came from a dirt-poor family in Georgia. His father was a shoemaker and violent alcoholic who was largely absent, his mother was an illiterate peasant who provided what love and support she could. Early on, he entered a seminary, one of the few gateways to education available, and wrote poetry. However, once he discovered Marxism-Leninism, he became a revolutionary operative of ruthless efficiency and great experience. This caught the attention of Lenin, who quickly promoted him to be his deputy - Radzinsky makes very clear that he recognized a similarity of method to the man, i.e. the willingness to do whatever was necessary to promote the revolution, be it massacres, imprisonment of even loyal opponents, or the waging of war. Stalin enshrined Lenin as a kind of messiah, a personality cult that he would later claim for himself.
Most crucially, Lenin appointed Stalin to the new post of general secretary, which enabled Stalin to promote the faithful to local and regional leadership roles, ensuring that they were ideological allies, hence translating into their willingness to do whatever they were told. Not only did this include the control of the secret police (the Cheka), but it allowed Stalin gain the allegiance of all those who owed their positions to him, whether by fear or loyalty. Stalin knew how to employ this monopoly of power to consolidate his position. Radzinsky argues that the enfeebled and dying Lenin began to oppose Stalin, but it was more for personal reasons than any misgivings or awareness of the excesses to which Stalin was headed.
Radzinsky does an excellent job of portraying the terror. First, in the atmosphere of civil war as exacerbated by the encouragement of the western great powers, he clamped down on domestic opponents, purging classes such as the Kulaks (rich peasants) and even entire nationalities, such as the Tatars of the Crimea or Chechans. Then, he went after the old Bolsheviks, eliminating them with his customary efficiency. Finally, he went after anyone he perceived as a threat. It makes for chilling reading, but these facts are well known. What Radzinsky adds is the argument that Stalin was doing exactly what Lenin intended for him to do and does not represent any kind of aberration; indeed, Radzinsky makes the case that all the others who lost out would have done pretty much the same.
The readers gets a good sense of Stalin the man, written in almost the tone of a folksy psycho-drama. Everyone around him suffered, including the second wife who probably committed suicide and his neglected children. He comes off as a psychopath in the mold of Ivan the Terrible, whom he admired. But then, Radzinsky was a playwright, not a historian or political scientist. I would have wanted much more on the economic and social impact of the collectivization, the concentration of the development of heavy industries like steel, the truncation of the capitalist mode of capitalist practices.
Recommended. This is a good book, but not what I was expecting.
In addition to presenting the usual agglomeration of unpronounceable and confusing Russian names, Radzinsky’s book demands a basic knowledge of Russian history and the major political players of the time. If you are unfamiliar with the historical relationship between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, the troubled history of Ukraine and Russia, etc., well, too bad for you. Radzinsky simply offers a chronological survey of what Stalin did and to whom he did it. Stalin himself remains an enigma. So many details, so little insight.
It’s a shame, because if we know one thing, it’s that history repeats itself, and if a genocidal despot like Stalin could place an entire country under his malevolent spell, then understanding the factors that created such a monster is something we all need to know. – grouchyeditor.com