Stalin's Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War
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A chilling, riveting account based on newly released Russian documentation that reveals Joseph Stalin’s true motives—and the extent of his enduring commitment to expanding the Soviet empire—during the years in which he seemingly collaborated with Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and the capitalist West.
At the Big Three conferences of World War II, Stalin persuasively played the role of a great world leader. Even astute observers like George F. Kennan concluded that the United States and Great Britain should view Stalin as a modern-day tsarist-like figure whose primary concerns lay in international strategy and power politics, not in ideology. Now Robert Gellately uses recently uncovered documents to make clear that, in fact, the dictator was an unwavering revolutionary merely biding his time, determined as ever to establish Communist regimes across Europe and beyond, and that his actions during these years (and the poorly calculated Western responses) set in motion what would eventually become the Cold War. Gellately takes us behind the scenes. We see the dictator disguising his political ambitions and prioritizing the future of Communism, even as he pursued the war against Hitler. Along the way, the ascetic dictator’s Machiavellian moves and bouts of irrationality kept the Western leaders on their toes, in a world that became more dangerous and divided year by year.
Exciting, deeply engaging, and shrewdly perceptive, Stalin’s Curse is an unprecedented revelation of the sinister machinations of the Soviet dictator.
political agenda, and no doubt also Soviet security interests as he defined them. Western Europeans did not share his vision of the future, as became apparent in the early postwar period, when France and Italy, despite widespread misery, were already saying no to Communist pressure. Stalin could see that wherever he looked in Western Europe, his hopes for a Red future could not stand up to the will of the people, as demonstrated in fair elections, and it would certainly be doomed if there were
emphatic—just like Marx and Lenin—about wanting a “scientific” and “objective” book, he gave the authors politically charged instructions and met with them to ensure that they kept to the “correct” political line. The only way they could produce a “rational,” as opposed to a political, account of Stalinist economics was to ignore a host of monumental facts. For starters, they all knew that to the extent that the Soviet Union had attained economic success at all, it was because of its resort to
Feb. 1942, in Vladimir Dedijer, Tito Speaks: His Self-Portrait and Struggle with Stalin (London, 1953), 178; Alfred J. Rieber, Stalin and the French Communist Party, 1941–1947 (New York, 1962), 26–33. 2. For the background, see Dimitrov to Stalin, July 1 and Oct. 6, 1934, and Stalin to Dimitrov, Oct. 25, 1934, in Alexander Dallin and F. I. Firsov, eds., Dimitrov and Stalin, 1934–1943: Letters from the Soviet Archives (New Haven, Conn., 2000), 13–22. 3. Entries for July 6 and 7 in Georgi
private meeting with Stalin on December 1, he said that those lands had in history, and again more recently, been a part of Russia. The official protocol states that he “added jokingly that when the Soviet armies re-occupied these areas, he did not intend to go to war with the Soviet Union on this point.” Making matters look worse, he said that “it would be helpful for him personally, if some public declaration could be made in regard to the future elections” in those states. The Soviet leader
would have been crippling. As for the political impact, Stalin had already indicated that the Soviets were unlikely to give up any territory already in their possession. At the very least, the consequences of having the Soviet Communists in the heart of Europe would have opened any number of roadblocks to the development of democracy. THE RED ARMY AGAINST JAPAN When Truman went to Potsdam, he carried with him a prepared statement advising the Japanese of the hopelessness of their situation