STALIN: Man and Ruler by Robert H. McNeal

STALIN: Man and Ruler

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A biography of the Soviet dictator, informed by a wide range of previously unused sources, by McNeal (History/U. Mass. at Amherst), author of The Bolshevik Tradition, Bride of the Revolution, and Tsar and Cossack, 1855-1914. This is a vividly painted Stalin, thanks to McNeal's access to many notes of meetings and to archives that have up until now been unavailable to western scholars. It is interesting that--at a time when the Soviet leadership seems to be finishing up the job, started by Khrushchev nearly a quarter-century ago, of dismantling the Stalin cult--this bio appears, showing Stalin, despite his problems, to be a highly astute and gifted politician. McNeal asserts that he is not trying to rehabilitate Stalin: ""The established impression that he slaughtered, tortured, imprisoned and oppressed on a grand scale is not in error."" But McNeal seems, on the whole, much kinder (in situations that call more for personal judgments, rather than for documentation) than some other biographers, as when he opts for Stalin's first wife's suicide, rather than for the more generally adopted version that Stalin personally murdered her. McNeal manages to unearth a few relatively new concepts (e.g., the fact that apparently Stalin was a dedicated Christian in his youth before turning to Marxism), as well as some hitherto unavailable Chinese accounts of the Mao-Stalin meeting in Moscow in 1949 that show a tenacious Man practically camping out at Stalin's door to ensure an agreeable meeting. No matter what happens with the new regime in Moscow, Staliniana will always be welcome to shed more light on one of the major stories of this century--the rise of the Soviet Union. In this respect, McNeal has done history a service.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1988
Publisher: New York Univ. Press