STALIN: The Man and His Era by Adam B. Ulam

STALIN: The Man and His Era

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So this Russian Czar was naked, but how did he manage to convince Party, country and the world that he was wearing clothes? Ulam's Stalin is a tyrant of many facets -- kinto (""a tough sardonic street urchin""), opportunist, a pragmatic pol, ""a realistic statesman,"" Bolshevik Torquemada extirpating sin, an egoist who turned into a megalomaniac, a hard worker, a hardhat (""Relax controls the slightest bit and people again become loafers""), a ""restless rebellious man,"" the deus ex machina who transformed Russian politics into a theater of the absurd. Absolute power eventually corrupted him absolutely -- ""an explanation of his life. . .as banal as many of Stalin's old speeches"" -- but a lot of people had confidence in Uncle Joe -- namely Lenin, an insecure intellectual who saw Stalin as a proletarian and handed him the Party's Secretariat, many of the Kremlin oligarchs who believed he stood between anarchy and Trotsky when Lenin took a long time dying, the masses who thought he kept the country safe from wreckers. Ulam, Director of Harvard's Russian Research Center and also a popularizing Kremlinologist, sees Stalin as less influenced by Georgian epic tales than does Payne (The Rise and Fall of Stalin, 1965) or Tucker (Stalin as Revolutionary, KR, p. 806) and less Lenin's disciple; and he goes out on a limb to argue that Kirov's assassin acted single-handedly, that Stalin, fearing that the regime would fall if Russia went to war, sought either a power equilibrium on the continent or a protracted war between the fascists and democracies, that the 50-50% deal with Churchill was just a scrap of paper, and that recognition for the Lublin Poles was the quid pro quo for Russia's entrance into the UN. But Ulam is no revisionist -- just an old cold warrior spinning out an off-told tale, sometimes lucidly, sometimes verbosely.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Viking