You could call this the essential life-and-times: a succinct but sound survey of events up to Lenin's death in 1924 precedes a profile of Stalin as a youth and a comparably brief outline of his apprenticeship and rise to power; the remainder is history as Stalin made it, and how. Here is progress at a price under the Five-Year Plans; the purges to eliminate not only real but also potential opponents and their followers; retreat and revenge in the Second World War; recovery and the Cold War. Viewing the latter, Mrs. Roberts is less paranoid than most American authors; the first Berlin face-off, for instance, is seen as preciplated by ambition American ambition to make its zone a showcase while the Russians preempted German material to rebuild what the Germans had destroyed. Frequent references to Svetlana Allilnyeva's recollections deepens the personal dimension, and good use is made of other up-to-date sources. Necessarily less detailed than Archer, this offers a thorough grasp of the subject in an hour's reading, supplemented by contemporary photos.