In this unrelenting biography, former Soviet Colonel General Volkogonov mines archives still closed to historians, interviews eyewitnesses--and presents perhaps the most intimate look to date at Stalin's monstrousness and his nation's complicity. Volkogonov, whose father was murdered in a purge that placed the family under a political cloud, nonetheless rose through Army ranks to become deputy chief of military political indoctrination. He was thus uniquely placed to examine secret Communist Party, NKVD, military, and other archives (and even studied the marginalia of Stalin's private library). Stalin, a masterful actor with an extraordinary memory (especially for grudges), went to great lengths to conceal his role as mass murderer and to establish himself as universal expert and demigod in the public mind: ``the total embodiment of absolute good...[who] repudiates evil, ignorance, treachery, cruelty. He is that smiling man with the moustache who is carrying the little girl waving the flag.'' Going behind this mountain range of deceit, Volkogonov exposes Stalin, who was expelled from seminary, as a man who had an unremarkable Party record under Lenin; who, when he gained total power (through consistent application of coercion and terror), was nonetheless a weak theoretician and an inept military commander; and who systematically executed every official who knew him when he was obscure and could thus threaten his mythology. The author also explores how and why Russia was willing to submit with zest to this regime and to an absolute dictator whose triumph was the nation's tragedy. A riveting account that adds great depth to the widely known outline of Stalin's crimes. (Twenty-four pages of photographs--not seen).