Stalin's Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War
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A chilling, riveting account based on newly released Russian documentation that reveals Joseph Stalin’s true motives—and the extent of his enduring commitment to expanding the Soviet empire—during the years in which he seemingly collaborated with Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and the capitalist West.
At the Big Three conferences of World War II, Stalin persuasively played the role of a great world leader. Even astute observers like George F. Kennan concluded that the United States and Great Britain should view Stalin as a modern-day tsarist-like figure whose primary concerns lay in international strategy and power politics, not in ideology. Now Robert Gellately uses recently uncovered documents to make clear that, in fact, the dictator was an unwavering revolutionary merely biding his time, determined as ever to establish Communist regimes across Europe and beyond, and that his actions during these years (and the poorly calculated Western responses) set in motion what would eventually become the Cold War. Gellately takes us behind the scenes. We see the dictator disguising his political ambitions and prioritizing the future of Communism, even as he pursued the war against Hitler. Along the way, the ascetic dictator’s Machiavellian moves and bouts of irrationality kept the Western leaders on their toes, in a world that became more dangerous and divided year by year.
Exciting, deeply engaging, and shrewdly perceptive, Stalin’s Curse is an unprecedented revelation of the sinister machinations of the Soviet dictator.
minority. In the 1946 elections, people who moved into formerly German-dominated regions of Czechoslovakia voted overwhelmingly for the Communists, especially in what used to be the Sudetenland. There the party got three-quarters of the ballots.57 Moreover, the new regime won both legitimacy and gratitude from the new residents, who were more deeply tied to and dependent on the state. A similar pattern of reliance on, and solidarity with, the government can be discerned for the Poles who moved
from wanting Germany’s division and was prepared to “join with any other occupying government or governments for the treatment of our respective zones as an economic unit.” It had become untenable to continue administering Germany “in four air-tight compartments.”76 On July 11 Byrnes invited “all his colleagues,” including the Soviets, to join in an effort to merge the zones; something had to be done to deal with the country’s growing economic chaos. Britain agreed the next day, while the Soviet
switch to more emphasis on class struggle” and to move away from national unity government.42 With new national elections scheduled for August, the Hungarian Communists almost certainly would have preferred to be among the recipients of U.S. recovery funding, and yet they had to reject it. József Révai, one of the hard-line Stalinists who had been socialized during the war in Moscow, responded to the invitation to attend the event in Paris by saying that it would be impossible to participate in
flooded downtown Moscow, filling the streets up to a hundred miles away as they made their way on foot to catch a glimpse of the fallen Master. Some traveled by train from far away, and as the masses converged, a mortal crush resulted in hundreds of deaths in Moscow and in Stalin’s own Georgia. These fatalities went unreported in the press, perhaps because the regime did not want to reveal such evident chaos.47 According to most memoirs from those times, there was widespread emotional
ordeal at dawn and then had to face work at their offices. The bizarre hours, stress, and excessive drinking had disastrous effects on their health, but that did not stop the Boss from playing childish games, like “fining” someone an extra shot of vodka if they polished off the last one too slowly. The meals sometimes degenerated into food fights. But no matter how boisterous, silly, and fun-filled these occasions, he could turn on someone in the blink of an eye. What made the man so terrifying,