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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize finalist Stephen Kotkin continues his definitive biography of Stalin, from collectivization and the Great Terror through to the coming of the conflict with Hitler's Germany that is the signal event of modern world history.

When we left Stalin at the end of Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, it was 1928, and he had finally climbed the mountaintop and achieved dictatorial power of the Soviet empire. The vastest peasant economy in the world would be transformed into socialist modernity, whatever it took. What it took, or what Stalin believed it took, was the most relentless campaign of shock industrialization the world has ever seen.

This is the story of the five-year plans, the new factory towns, and the integration of an entire system of penal labor into the larger economy. With the Great Depression throwing global capital into crisis, the Soviet Union's New Man looked like nothing so much as the man of the future. As the shadows of the '30's deepen, Stalin's drive to militarize Soviet society takes on increasing urgency, and the ambition of Nazi Germany becomes the predominant geopolitical reality he faces when Hitler claims that communism is a global "Judeo-Bolshevik" conspiracy to bring the Slavic race to power.

But just because they're out to get you doesn't mean you're not paranoid. Stalin's paranoia is increasingly one of the most horrible facts of life for his entire country. Stalin's obsessions drive him to violently purge almost a million people, including military leadership, diplomatic corps, and intelligence apparatus, to say nothing of a generation of artistic talent. And then came the pact that shocked the world and demoralized leftists everywhere: Stalin's pact with Hitler in 1939, the carve-up of Poland, and Stalin's utter inability to see Hitler's buildup to the invasion of the USSR.

Yet for all that, in just 12 years of total power, Stalin has taken this country from a peasant economy to a formidable modern war machine that rivaled anything else in the world. When the invasion came, Stalin wasn't ready, but his country would prove to be prepared. That is a dimension of the Stalin story that has never adequately been reckoned with before, and it looms large here. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler: 1929-1941 is, like its predecessor, nothing less than a history of the world from Stalin's desk. It is also, like its predecessor, a landmark achievement in the annals of its field and in the biographer's art.

©2017 Stephen Kotkin (P)2017 Recorded Books

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Would Be Riveting if Better Read

This superb narrative is poorly served by the reader whose monotone blunts the impact of a story of high drama and global consequence. At times I had to replay portions because the narrator’s delivery had put me in a daze so I’d missed significant observations or events. The material in the book itself is essential to understanding one of history’s most diabolical men and how a nation could succumb to authoritarianism.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Mind Altering Achievement

A Mind Altering Achievement (My Mind; Professor Kotkin's achievement): 'Cannot recommend this book more highly.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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An Unparalleled Biography of Stalin

Kotkin in this his second volume of the planned three, has picked up right where he left off from the first. Simply put, this is the best and by far most thorough biography of the Soviet despot. Though it is not for those new and green in the subject of Soviet history. It requires no less than a decent working knowledge of these events, and the various figures in question.

If indeed you’re a listener up to speed on the Stalinist USSR, it is a must read. The scholarship is not simply masterful, but Kotkin tells these stories so well. In addition to many unique stories being revealed for the first time.

The narrator does take some getting used to, but he does a steady job. He by no means negatively effects the quality of the book.

If you’re interested in learning about power, how it’s obtained, how one builds upon it, and how one exercises that power on an unprecedented scale - this is your biography. It’s a magnum opus, plain and simple. I can’t wait for the third volume!

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If you want the almost literal play by play account

Overall —-If you are already knowledgeable of other parts of USSR history and want a detailed account of this time period (29-41) this is your book. Be warned , this book is heavy on facts and is not in a narrative format (Tuchman or Beevor style ). What it does do is hit you with so many facts that you paint your own detailed picture of events . I feel like I hung out in the “Little Corner” and came to grasp a rich knowledge of this time period . So what I basically mean is I’m a history teacher and this kind of book is my cup of tea. But I would probably not recommend this book to any of my 11th grade students who might have a passing interest in the subject where this book will really “spark” their interest . You want to read this book ,if like me , you just have a thirst for deeper knowledge of this time period .



What you will learn ——This book has a rhythm to it that, if you can , you can really ride with to eventually come away in the end with an extremely well rounded knowledge of Stalin/USSR (is there really a difference)?

I came into this book with a lot of Soviet WWII-1989 knowledge . If you are like me , you always heard That in Soviet WWII history Stalin conducted a truly massive purge of Officers just before the war and as we all know it had some real exquisite outcomes for the Red Army in 1941. So basically I read this book because, what the hell were the purges all about ? This book will give you a vivid and detailed picture of how this horror movie quality shit went down .

You also get a very good insight into Soviet culture and how Stalin basically controlled all aspects of it . The author made a profound point that that the Soviet Central Government was more than just that , it was Wall Street , and Hollywood, and the newspapers , and the books , and the school lessons . And , if you do not already know this , Stalin in this time period could honestly declare “I am the State” . The dude micromanaged the USSR to levels I never considered . Stalin controlled virtually everything , and everyone .


The author also did a tremendous job of covering the build up to WWII up until June 22 41’, from the often unconsidered Soviet point of view AKA Stalin . You may have always wondered the exact details of these questions :


-Why exactly did the Soviets want Finland? What was the Winter War?

-How did the collectivization of farming and agriculture actually go ?

-How did Stalin choose who to purge ?

- how were Soviet forces deployed in June 1941?

-How did that little weezle Hitler surprise attack the USSR? What the hell was Stalin thinking ?

-What were all those 1930s border clashes with the Japanese in Manchuria all about?

- How did Stalin react to Germany’s first round K.O of France ?

- What did Stalin want out of the brewing conflicts and early stages of WWII? Expansion or peace ?


I could write more but maybe that sparked your Interests.

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Fascinating look at the pre war years

The years immediately prior to the war are amazing but the early years here drag a bit.

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Excellent Scholarship

An amazing text, in every respect, and well read, which is impressive given the number of foreign names and terms.
NOT for casual readers, but the depth means you do not need much background knowledge.

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Another look at Stalin, but, with more info.

It adds a lot to things about his rule I already know, and it does it well.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful