In this book, the first to draw from recently released archives, Robert Conquest gives us Stalin as a child and student; as a revolutionary and communist theoretician; as a political animal skilled in amassing power and absolutely ruthless in maintaining it. He presents the landmarks of Stalin's rule: the clash with Lenin; collectivization; the Great Terror; the Nazi-Soviet pact and the Nazi-Soviet war; the anti-Semitic campaign that preceded his death; and the legacy he left behind.
Distilling a lifetime's study, weaving detail, analysis, and research, Conquest has given us an extraordinarily powerful narrative of this incredible figure.
©1991 Robert Conquest; (P)1992 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Robert Conquest is one of the greatest historians writing about an evil dictator whose is responsible for more deaths, famine and destruction than perhaps any other dictator. The bio is comprehensive but not too long esp when listening to a fine narrator.
I hope Conquest's many other books, including The Great Terror and The Harvest of Sorrow, will become available on Audible.
I have long been fascinated by Joseph Stalin. However, of the leaders of WWII, he is probably the most mysterious, and for this reason, maybe the most interesting. The book does an excellent job of setting out the facts of Stalin's life. The author does not do a lot of "psychologizing" but manages to paint a picture of an evil person with a very evil personality, quite possibly a true psychopath. He does an excellent job of showing what such a person can do when he has total control of a large country.
The narrator has some odd speech mannerisms, that at first I found irritating, but fairly early into the book, I grew to like. He did an excellent job of differentiating speakers when reading dialogs and I particularly liked the way he imitated Winston Churchill when reading his quotes.
I am only a few hours into this book and am enjoying the the words but this is technically the worst Audible recording I have listened to.
After an hour, you are instructed to "Go to Disc 2...".
I am constantly changing the volume of my car radio or my iPhone as I listen. In some ways, it is like watching a commercial on TNT where you get blown out by the advertisers, and then have to increase the volume to hear what Brenda is saying to Provenza.
I will finish this interesting book, but it is distracting.
This book was too dry for my taste (I only got about a quarter of the way through). I was looking for more color and context. It is very factual, as if someone is reading from historical documents. I would have enjoyed this more had the author given more background info on Russian history, the culture of the era, personalities, etc.
Lots of good history in this, but the author connects everything Stalin has done to his ideology as a Marxist. At the end, he says that there is discussion as to whether Stalin was a sociopath, but he basically argues that every bad thing that happened was due to Socialism and Communism and that otherwise, Stalin would have been, say, a particularly stern economics professor or something.
This is inadequate to say the least. Compare this to a cult leader who follows a narrative to the T and then implodes as the falsity of the narrative emerges in varied ways. He ends up killing his own people or himself or both and it all collapses. Ideology alone does not create the sort of lasting power monger and military force that Stalin was. There's much more to it than that - a reason why ideology speaks to a person. Compare this to "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," which has a thorough understanding of Hitler, his childhood, his personal relationships and his early megalomaniacal ambitions, as opposed to just saying "well, he's an anti-Semite and that explains it all."
The author also tries to marry all dictators in WWII to the Communist worldview, while later acknowledging that Hitler and Mussolini persecuted Socialists and Communists. The ideological bias and agenda is clear throughout the book, interrupting the flow of the narrative to reiterate that Marxism caused everything bad that happened.
So compared to other historical biographies, the author seems to accept "he's a communist so he was evil" as the primary understanding of Stalin in a way that does not address the psychological ego and will it takes to starve millions of your own people. I would think that a different biography would provide a more specific view of the man, rather than a critique of all Marxism disguised as a biography of one person. (The straw man "Marxism" at that).
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