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Publisher's Summary

Josef Stalin exercised supreme power in the Soviet Union from 1929 until his death in 1953. During that quarter century, by Oleg Khlevniuk's estimate, he caused the imprisonment and execution of no fewer than a million Soviet citizens per year. Millions more were victims of famine directly resulting from Stalin's policies. What drove him toward such ruthlessness?

This essential biography, by the author most deeply familiar with the vast archives of the Soviet era, offers an unprecedented, fine-grained portrait of Stalin, the man and dictator. Without mythologizing Stalin as either benevolent or an evil genius, Khlevniuk resolves numerous controversies about specific events in the dictator's life while assembling many hundreds of previously unknown letters, memos, reports, and diaries into a comprehensive, compelling narrative of a life that altered the course of world history.

In brief, revealing prologues to each chapter, Khlevniuk takes his reader into Stalin's favorite dacha, where the innermost circle of Soviet leadership gathered as their vozhd lay dying. Chronological chapters then illuminate major themes: Stalin's childhood, his involvement in the Revolution and the early Bolshevik government under Lenin, his assumption of undivided power and mandate for industrialization and collectivization, the Terror, World War II, and the postwar period. At the book's conclusion, the author presents a cogent warning against nostalgia for the Stalinist era.

Cover image: "Stalin is our banner!" poster, 1948. Collection of the Russian State Library, Moscow. © Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy, Reportage/Archival image.

©2015 Oleg Khlevniuk; Yale University (Translation) (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

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A well researched picture

An excellent look at Stalin, thanks to new information from archives debunking many myths and theories. Perhaps it's not the ultimate biography, but, it comes very close.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great, balanced look at the life of a man traditionally criticized as cruel and ruthless

Russia has always been a country of hardship, violence, and survival of the strongest. Here, we get a proper treatment of Stalin as a man within the context of his times. We get an understanding of how his early experiences during and after the revolution — backstabbing, duplicity, and ambition of those all around him — shaped his totalitarian and ruthless ruling style that employed fully by the time he ascended to full power over the USSR. His cruelty and will no doubt led to the deaths of countless lives, within his party and across the USSR. On the other hand, his aggressive measures to bring Russia from a 19th-century state to a competitive industrial power that rivaled both Germany and America, within a handful of years, enabled the Soviets to contend with Germany alone, on the Western front, ultimately beating the Germans back into full retreat. Accounts of other players are skillfully woven into the biography, always with an eye on accenting small details that reveal the hidden humanity of Stalin. Riveting read, with great audio narration, you will be transfixed on absorbing this 18h-long audiobook once you get started.

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Ole' Wonderful Work

Oleg Khlevniuk's work allowed me to feel his story. I learned SO much. I now want to read more about Russian history.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great book

The narrative is not linear and it was easier to understand Stalin and his impact on 20 th century.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-24-18

Both fascinating & important

For anyone interested in the political and everyday history of the Soviet Union, this book is invaluable, as well as very interesting. It is an objective account written by an insider, an Ukrainian with access to the newly opened Soviet archives, and reveals much that was hitherto unknown about those years. He shows Stalin, the man, as well as Stalin, the dictator. I definitely recommend it for anyone who understands the importance of history.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful