The Moscow Trials of 1936-38 and the broader purges of the period were, according to Carmichael, carefully premeditated by the perversely brilliant Stalin, who ""performed an act of creativity as potent as the secret act of coupling that creates new life."" That is, he established a new religion to control the mandarinate and their state apparatus. Since his enemies were legion throughout the bureaucracy and the population as a whole, this religion required forcible atomization of government, party, and other groups. Carmichael's accounts of the trials (""the Great Charades"") and purges (""the Great Comb-Out"") have psychological animation--especially on the subject of Trotsky's inability to deal with this irrationality--but reveal little more than the absurdities of forced confessions and fabricated conspiracies. Carmichael has combined a pastiche of the sociological approach Ã la Roy Medvedev, Jesse Clarkson, and others with an unconvincing insistence that Stalin had it all planned out from the beginning. Apart from Robert Conquest's The Great Terror (1973), most treatments of this subject are found in broader biographies of Stalin or studies of Russian repression, so that the book is distinguished by its format if not its originality. Carmichael has written several works on Communist history, including Trotsky (1975).