STALIN'S SECRET WAR by Nikolai Tolstoy


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After Solzhenitsyn and Medvedev, the main outlines of Stalin's rule are not in serious dispute; the paranoia, reliance on camps, purges, exploitation of class and racial hatred, etc. Some dispute still exists over the scale of the Stalinist terror, with Solzhenitsyn at the furthest extreme and Medvedev at the nearest, but the main lines are drawn, leaving interpretation as the field of battle. Tolstoy (The Secret Betrayal) is of Solzhenitsyn's mind. The secret war was Stalin's war on his own and on subjected peoples. Tolstoy confidently analyzes the system of slave labor represented by the camps; makes a blanket comparison with the Nazi death camps (the Germans, on the whole, come off well); graphically depicts Stalin's personal paranoia (three-inch-thick glass on his car, four hundred bodyguards to line his route to work, etc.); and so on. Tolstoy argues that Stalin was more concerned with the threat from within than from without--relying on the NKVD to keep the Red Army in line, and even saving his best troops for protection rather than to stop the Germans. Further, he makes much of stories of Soviet mass murder--few as universally acknowledged as the Katyn massacre of Polish officers (and many derived from standard anti-Soviet sources). Stalin's forces did do much of what Tolstoy alleges, but his hysterical tone and suspect documentation make it difficult to accept his material on the serious level it deserves.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1982
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston