Here, Tucker (Politics/Princeton; The Marxian Revolutionary Idea, 1969) persuasively depicts Stalin as a traditional Russian despot who, while purporting to lead a revolution, reverted to the authoritarianism of the Tatars and czars. Tucker concentrates on Stalin's "second revolution" in domestic policy, beginning in 1928. Like the reforms of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, Tucker argues, Stalin's policy constituted a "revolution from above" that sought to transform Russia by force into a militarily powerful and industrially advanced nation. Thus, Stalin paradoxically modernized Russia by reactionary means. Tucker theorizes that, out of a neurotic need to establish himself as a revolutionary hero equivalent to Lenin, and with an acute awareness of Russian tradition (keener than that of the other Bolsheviks, perhaps, because Stalin was not Russian but Georgian), Stalin started a revolution as a radical means of modernizing Russia's economy. He fostered a continuing sense of crisis, which was well served by terror—collectivization, the liquidation of the landed peasantry, the purges, and the show trials. While Stalin modernized the Russian economy in many ways, Tucker makes clear that his reign ultimately weakened the country, especially through his foolish rapprochement with Hitler. At book's end, the reader is left with the image of Stalin on the day of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, stunned with the realization of his folly. Tucker develops his thesis with erudition and a sure command of the facts, and impressively details the manifold continuities between imperial Russia and the modern Soviet Union.
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