Radzinsky 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 real story of how he mangled his left arm; the crucial importance of his 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 had 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, and his turbulent relationship with his wife Nadezhda, recreating the circumstances that led to her suicide. Finally, Radzinsky discovers one of Stalin's elite bodyguards, who breaks 40 years of silence to give the strongest evidence yet of the conspiracy behind Stalin's death.
The Kremlin intrigues, the private worlds of the Soviet Empire's ruling class, Radzinsky thrillingly brings them to life. 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.
© and (P)1996 Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, A Division of Random House, Inc.
I have been a periodic reader of Soviet history for the past three decades. With the opening of the various secret Soviet archives to certain researchers came the possiblity of better understanding of that which had only been speculated in the past, the "back-story" history of the revolution and the coming to power of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and the succession of Koba Stalin. Prior to Radzinsky's book, I had read Dmitri Volkogonov's definitive history - STALIN: TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY. Radzinsky's book brings, I believe, a more coherant and understandble story of Stalin's rise. Which author, Volkogonov or Radzinsky, is more correct in their presentation of Stalin? I cannot say. For the most part, their stories are complementary. I found Radzinsky to be more readable, more organized. This is an excellent book which I recommend highly to those interested in Soviet history.
Now, about David McCallum's narration of this book: Brilliant. I have neaver heard a more perfect match of a book with a narrator. The pace, the phrasing, the nuance, the innuendo built into the reading was excellent. I was so impressed by McCallum's reading that I had hoped to find other historical volumes narrated by him. I'm sorry to say that I found only novels.
The narrator is tremendous. As another reviewer mentioned, his voice is perfect this book. He really captures the evil, deception, and debauchery of the times. He is slightly British sounding.
This is overall a good, interesting, and revealing book about Stalin. However, the reader/listener should be aware that at times Radzinsky takes a position that is not widespread. A few example are: Stalin was preparing to start for World War 3, his breakdown during WWII was just an act to test the loyalty of his cohorts, Stalin was not surprised by the German attack in 1941, and Stalin was planning to attack Germany before they attacked him. Radzinsky builds his case for his interpretations often times on circumstantial evidence or something someone told him. I am no expert on the subjects, so I can't say he is wrong. I just know that based on my other readings of Stalin, some of his assertions are not widely held.
The abridged audio version focuses mostly on the Bolsheviek's rise to power, Stalin's rise to power, the Great Terror of the late 1930's, World War II, and the terror and purges after the war.
Overall, highly recommended, just beware of a few of Radzinsky's uncommon interpretations.
I bought this book thinking it was a biography of Stalin. It is not and you will not find much about his young life, his marriage and children, his life in the early Communist Party and so on. Rather the book is a study of Stalin during a series of political crisis, many of his own devising, how he came to dominate the Communist Party and State, how he disposed of his rivals and how he maintained that control. It is a frightening portrait of how one person could terrify first a party organization and then an entire state. It is also a view of how a ruthless person who has no controls on his behavior can keep and maintain terror as a weapon.
The author's family apparently grew up in Russia during the time of Stalin and this connection allows him to add a personal touch to the episodes in this book. The very first story in the book concerns Stalin's birth and how the entire Soviet State observed a fictitious anniversary on his “birthday”. This episode is meant, I assume, to assure us that everything we thought we knew about Stalin as likely to be wrong and simply a device through which the dictator fashioned and maintained the information the public thought they knew about him.
Most of the information is related to Stalin's seizure and maintenance of power. Other events, such as the Second World War, occupy little or no space at all. However the re-imposition of terror after the Soviet Union's victory in World War II is given a great deal of space as is his plans for a final round of terror prior to a new war. The book is chilling and one is left with the feeling that only providence prevented World War III.
While much in this book was surprising to me perhaps most surprising was the willingness of some of Stalin's victims to be victims. Their loyalty was more to the Communist Party and the Soviet State than to their own lives and they were prepared to be humiliated and degraded rather than be seen as varying from “the party line”. This seemed to be true of almost all of the early Communist revolutionaries with the exception of Trotsky who never was willing to bend to Stalin.
The title I gave to this review is from a line in the book. Stalin's associates apparently knew that their day would come and felt that as long as he was humiliating them, they were safe. Hence the line – humiliating the living dead. They knew they were, as the expression goes, dead men walking, and he seemed to get a great deal of pleasure out of humiliating the living knowing that they were eventually doomed to be killed in one of his purges. And their view of Stalin is shown in the story of how Khrushchev acted when he found Stalin almost dead from a stroke. While I had read this story before Khrushchev's actions explain perfectly the way Stalin's associates viewed him.
While this book did not give me much information about Stalin's life outside of his struggle to gain and then maintain power, he left me with much more knowledge about this despot than I had before and I feel that it was well worth reading. The narration, by David McCallum, was powerful and perfectly suited for the subject. I would have given it 6 stars had I been able to.
Highly recommended with some warnings. It is not a biography and it is not for young children.
It chills your spine to hear of Stalin's cruelty to his people and to his loyal servants. To live under Stalin must have been an experience from Alice in Wonderland where yes meant no and no yes. Talk about walking on egg shells; working with Stalin was simply risking your life every day, not knowing when he would turn on you for a trifle. I enjoyed the author's research in the now opened Stalin era archives and his honesty about how they have been cleansed so that one cannot take the documents at their face value. Many have been removed.
This was a fine companion to my listening to the Gulag Archipeligo.
Jumps on his bed while licking the bottom of one foot. He persists in this life affirming act despite interference from the head nurse.
First listen to Young Stalin by Montefiore, to get the most details of Stalin's amazing first thirty years. Then read Radzinsky, who does not write as much detail but speculates about Stalin's motives and personality from a Russian perspective. The two compliment one another like peanut butter and chocolate.
I'm a Russophile to begin with, and have always found tyrants fascinating. Edvard Radzinsky's 'Stalin' brought to light many things I never knew about Stalin and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. McCallum's narration is awesome and very easy to listen to.
Yes David McCallum really makes the book interesting..He reads the Russian names perfectly and that rrally makes the book a good read..
His dedication to making the book interesting..Without his reading it would have been a dull book..
Yes I enjoyed it.
Excelent overall biography on "'Ol Joe" and the people around him. Much of it is information that I had read about before but there is also a good amount that I had not known. This is very good for both readers new to the subject or for those of us who spend a lot of time reading up on Soviet History.
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