I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Wicked Uncle

The Wicked Uncle

Pádraig Murphy
On Stalin’s Team, The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics, by Sheila Fitzpatrick, Princeton University Press, 384 pp, £24.95, ISBN: 978-0691145334 Stalin, Biography of a Leader, by Oleg Khlevniuk, ACT Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 752 pp, £12.99, ISBN: 978-1780228358 There is a very rich memoir literature covering Stalin’s life and times, written after his death by those centrally involved. The most prominent part of these works are the memoirs of Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva. Like all memoirs, these sources have to be treated carefully – self-interest or failing memory affects all of them, although it is accepted that Svetlana’s memoirs are in a separate class in this regard. After the fall of the Soviet Union, many Russian archives relating to the Soviet period were opened, providing new material on that period, and in particular on Stalin himself. These lives of Stalin and his entourage draw on this, as well as drawing carefully on the memoir literature. In Oleg Khlevniuk’s view, too many sources for biographies of Stalin have been made available over the last twenty years, if one bears in mind the need to sift their sheer volume. In his words, the dilemma consists either of covering the hero without the context, or the context without the hero. He emphasises that many of the documents on which Stalin worked directly are in the former archive of the politburo, now the Russian Presidential Archive, which has not yet been completely opened to researchers. Pending such opening, perhaps a fully definitive biography cannot yet be written. For the time being we’ll have to content ourselves with the results of research on the documentation available, of which these are the most notable. Khlevniuk is liberally acknowledged as an important source of assistance in the other two works. It is difficult to imagine that his own work, which admirably covers both the hero and the context, will be surpassed except in matters of less important detail. Stalin was one of the great monsters of the twentieth century, quite on a par in this regard with Hitler. The challenge is to understand how the son of an obscure cobbler, born in a small town in Georgia on the margins of the then Russian empire, could in the course of his life become the master of half of Europe and the creator of what became…

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