Stalin: A Biography

Stalin: A Biography

Robert Service

Language: English

Pages: 760

ISBN: 0674022580

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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held attention at the time: Stalin’s claim that socialism could be constructed in a single country. Until then it had been the official Bolshevik party assumption that Russia could not do this on its own. Indeed it had been taken for granted that while capitalism remained powerful around the globe, there would be severe limits on the achievability of immense social and economic progress in even the most advanced socialist country. Such had been Lenin’s opinion, and he had expressed it in his

specialised in groceries, fish and footwear. On the south-eastern side of the town there were the factories and the prison which were familiar from his time working for Adelkhanov. There was also a large railway depot and repair works in the capital’s Didube district. The city bustled with high-booted Russian soldiers, Tatar men in their green and white turbans (and their becowled wives) and Germans carefully attired in the mid-European style. These inhabitants themselves were outshone by the

Dimitrov, whom he barely knew but who had worldwide fame after being put on trial in Nazi Germany. Stalin in public mentioned foreign policy in his political reports on behalf of the Central Committee but wrote no substantial piece on the subject. Yet when items of importance cropped up, an internal group of the Politburo consulted among themselves.2 Stalin watched, regulated and directed. He sent instructions. No important decision was taken before he had given his approval. Yet he did not

Mikoyan and Voznesenski agreed. This State Committee of Defence was envisaged as supplanting the authority of both party and government and as being headed by Stalin. It was the first great initiative for years that any of them had taken without seeking his prior sanction.17 The snag was to get Stalin to agree. The group resolved to drive out to Blizhnyaya to put the proposal to him directly. When Molotov raised the problem of Stalin’s ‘prostration’ in recent days, Voznesenski stiffened his

the United Nations Organisation, visited Stalin in Moscow in May 1950, Stalin recalled Molotov to take an active part in the discussions.4 Molotov’s expertise was as yet too useful to discard. His formal status had been undermined but his actual influence, despite having been reduced, was still far from negligible. He remained a Politburo member and, more importantly, a regular dinner guest at Stalin’s dacha. Stalin was playing a long game. For a counterweight to Malenkov’s new authority he

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