Stalin New Biography of a Dictator Oleg Khlevniuk, Nora Seligman Favorov

Publication date:
20 Sep 2017
Yale University Press
432 pages: 235 x 156mm
21 b-w illus.
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The most authoritative and engrossing biography of the notorious dictator ever written, winner of the 2016 PROSE Award for Biography & Autobiography

"Enthralling, brilliant, and groundbreaking, this book confirms Khlevniuk as probably the greatest living expert on Stalin. Essential reading."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar

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.

Oleg V. Khlevniuk is a leading research fellow at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences and senior research fellow at the State Archive of the Russian Federation. His previous Yale books include The History of the Gulag, Master of the House: Stalin and His Inner Circle, and several collections of Stalin's correspondence.

"[A] beautifully constructed, lucid, and brief new life of the dictator. . . . Written with fluent sobriety and humour the book is a constant pleasure to read. No book of history is ever definitive: new facts trickle out, new writers bring new perspectives to bear. This is the charm of the genre. But some history books can become classics for later generations. Khlevniuk’s Stalin is likely to be one of them."—Rodric Braithwaite, Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies

"Authoritative, fluently written. . . . The pinnacle of current scholarship on its subject."—Charlotte Hobson, Spectator

"This brilliant, authoritative, opinionated biography ranks as the best on Stalin in any language. Khlevniuk’s research is prodigious and covers a plethora of primary and secondary sources."—Martin McCauley, East-West Review

"A historiographical and literary masterpiece, which undoubtedly will remain the standard biography of Stalin for decades to come."—Mark Edele, Australian Book Review

Won the 2016 PROSE Award in Biography & Autobiography. The Prose Awards recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing. Presented by the Professional Schoarly Publishing (PSP) Dision of the Associaton of American Publishers (AAP)

Awarded second prize for the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize for the Best Russian book in translation

"Oleg Khlevniuk is incontestably the best Russian student of Soviet history. In this biography, he uses his experience and talents to give us an innovative and convincing portrait of the Soviet 'micromanaging' despot. The chapters dealing with the Terror, war, victory and the tragic postwar years break new ground. Stalin’s political and private life, his relationships with his immediate circle, his family and the 'Soviet people,' his intellectual capacities and his way of leading the country, as well as his cruelty and the system of power he built, come vividly to life, and one leaves the book with a much more profound understanding of some of Europe’s darkest decades."—Andrea Graziosi, author of the Histoire de l'URSS

"Oleg Khlevniuk, master of the Russian archives, provides a fresh and acute analysis of Stalin the destroyer to confound revisionists who portray him as a state builder and modernizer."—Alfred J. Rieber, author of Stalin and the Struggle for Eurasia

"Khlevniuk is one of the most knowledgeable historians of Stalin and his era. This excellent biography of Stalin represents the current state of scholarship, and should be read widely."—Hiroaki Kuromiya, author of Stalin: Profiles in Power

"A superb account by the eminent scholar who pioneered the opening of the Soviet archives. Oleg Khlevniuk summarizes a lifetime of research, eschewing unsubstantiated anecdotes and tales and sticking to the documentary record, to produce an authoritative narrative of Stalin’s life and times."—Paul Gregory, Hoover Institution

"No one in the world knows the inner workings of Soviet power in Stalin’s time better than Oleg Khlevniuk. Beautifully and artfully composed, deeply moral, and supremely readable, Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator will become the benchmark against which all future biographies of Stalin will be measured. A masterpiece."—Jan Plamper, author of The Stalin Cult: A Study in the Alchemy of Power