Stalin: A Biography
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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.
1917, continued to possess their own schools and press. This immense conglomeration of peoples, held together in the framework of a revolutionary state, required new forms of rulership. Stalin is wrongly depicted as simply a tsar in Red clothing. In several ways he could not have been more different from Nicholas II. It is true that both Stalin and Emperor Nicholas, apart from a few trips to the ballet, rarely appeared in public except on occasions of great state ceremony. But Nicholas and his
carrying out ‘Marxist propaganda’;33 but the reality was that he had left of his own accord. His was a wilful spirit. He had lost his religious faith and was beginning to discover a different way of interpreting the world in Marxism. He was also impulsive. Joseph Dzhughashvili had had enough: he left the priestly environment on his own terms. Always he wanted the world to function to his wishes. If he left a mess behind him, too bad. He had made his decision. He abhorred the Imperial
Ketevan or his son. He had not even bothered to live with her throughout the last months of her illness. That Joseph was shaken by her death, though, is beyond dispute. What is less plausible is that this single event was the decisive one in turning him into a man seeking murderous revenge on humanity in general. There were many such events in his long life. His friends and associates noted how each event made him harsher in his dealings with the world. Iremashvili stated that even before
for them?) Dzhughashvili and his fellow Bolsheviks at any rate took no notice of Davydov’s request. Incidents recurred on Mount David. The two groups went on raising their respective party finance by persuasion, fraud, extortion and armed robbery. Owners of businesses were easily intimidated. Even the entrepreneurial family of the Zubalovs, who had constructed the building that later became the Spiritual Seminary, made financial subventions to Davrishevi.24 Dzhughashvili kept quiet about the
practically unopposed. The British government warned the Soviet leadership to halt its troops, but the Party Central Committee on 16 July took the strategic decision to take the war on to Polish territory, and Lenin informed Stalin and others on the same day.7 (Stalin, based in Kharkov in eastern Ukraine, had been unable to attend.)8 The military command of the Western Front prepared to cross the River Bug and move on Warsaw. European socialist revolution beckoned, and on 23 July the Politburo