Stalin: A Biography
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Overthrowing the conventional image of Stalin as an uneducated political administrator inexplicably transformed into a pathological killer, Robert Service reveals a more complex and fascinating story behind this notorious twentieth-century figure. Drawing on unexplored archives and personal testimonies gathered from across Russia and Georgia, this is the first full-scale biography of the Soviet dictator in twenty years.
Service describes in unprecedented detail the first half of Stalin's life--his childhood in Georgia as the son of a violent, drunkard father and a devoted mother; his education and religious training; and his political activity as a young revolutionary. No mere messenger for Lenin, Stalin was a prominent activist long before the Russian Revolution. Equally compelling is the depiction of Stalin as Soviet leader. Service recasts the image of Stalin as unimpeded despot; his control was not limitless. And his conviction that enemies surrounded him was not entirely unfounded.
Stalin was not just a vengeful dictator but also a man fascinated by ideas and a voracious reader of Marxist doctrine and Russian and Georgian literature as well as an internationalist committed to seeing Russia assume a powerful role on the world stage. In examining the multidimensional legacy of Stalin, Service helps explain why later would-be reformers--such as Khrushchev and Gorbachev--found the Stalinist legacy surprisingly hard to dislodge.
Rather than diminishing the horrors of Stalinism, this is an account all the more disturbing for presenting a believable human portrait. Service's lifetime engagement with Soviet Russia has resulted in the most comprehensive and compelling portrayal of Stalin to date.
of his virtues; it is massively outweighed by the scale holding the records of his murderous misanthropy. But it shows that even in the terror years he was capable of kindness to strangers. Despite rationing the number of his public appearances, Stalin could not avoid giving speeches and having them recorded for Soviet newsreels. The party’s customs could be emasculated but not entirely abandoned. In order to confirm his legitimacy as Lenin’s successor he had to get up at Party Congresses and
Svetlana proceeded to ask her father for further information. According to Sergo Beria, in whom she confided, Stalin’s response was hurtful. He resented the way Svetlana kept on examining pictures of Nadya. When she asked him whether her mother had been beautiful, he replied more insensitively: ‘Yes, except that she had teeth like a horse.’ He added that the other Alliluev women had wanted to sleep with him. This too may well have been true, but it was a painful message for Svetlana. He finished
Republic, was locked into a single military, political and economic fortress. The Eastern Block was the outer empire of the USSR. In return for obedience the subject countries were supplied with oil and other natural resources below world market prices. But in general the other immediate benefits flowed towards the Soviet Union, and Stalin and Molotov did not hide their pleasure. Although they had excoriated Churchill’s Fulton speech on the Iron Curtain, their actions fitted the description
leadership of the party in the period between meetings of the Central Committee. Politburo – Internal committee of the Party Central Committee, empowered to direct the party in the period between meetings of the Central Committee. Rabkrin – Abbreviated name of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate. Set up in 1920, it was headed by Stalin till December 1922. Red Army – The Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army, formed in 1918. Right Deviation – The supporters of Bukharin who opposed the
otchë t (Moscow, 1961) Perepiska V. I. Lenina i rukovodimykh im uchrezhdenii RSDRP s mestnymi partiinymi organizatsiyami. 1905–1907, vol. 2, part 1 (Moscow, 1982) Perepiska predsedatelya Soveta Ministrov SSSR s prezidentami SShA i prem’erministrami Velikobritanii vo vremya velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny, 1941–1945 gg., vols 1–2 (eds A. A. Gromyko, V. M. Khvostov, I. N. Zemskov, G. A. Belov, Ye. M. Zhukov, S. M. Maiorov, A. A. Novosel’skii, B. F. Podtserob, M. A. Sivolobov, P. N. Tret’yakov and M.