An important book by two members of a new generation of Russian historians. Using newly (but somewhat arbitrarily) declassified files, they have set out to explore the ``background, psychology, motives, and behavior of Soviet rulers'' from Stalin to Khrushchev. Zubok (Senior Fellow/National Security Archive, Washington) and Pleshakov (Director, Pacific Studies/Institute of US and Canada, Moscow) do not offer any major new interpretations of the period but give instead an infinitely more nuanced understanding of the forces that shaped Soviet policy. Among the surprises: the role played by Stalin in the Korean War, when, after succumbing to Kim Il Sung's pleas to sanction an attack on South Korea, he forced Chinese intervention by being prepared to accept Kim's defeat. Another is the bold policy advocated by Beria (once described by Stalin as ``our Himmler'') after Stalin's death: He was willing to throw over East Germany to secure dÇtente with the West. The authors suggest that the opposition to such moves was partly generational, and that Khrushchev--the ``last true believer''--was in turn overthrown by a new generation ``yearning for personal security'' and led by a group more cynical than revolutionary. Not all of their interpretations are as persuasive: They view Roosevelt and Churchill as helping ``to soothe Stalin's ego,'' providing him with ``an important psychological motive that pushed him in the direction of postwar cooperation.'' That push propelled Stalin, if at all, for a very short time. But their analysis of the group that surrounded Stalin and succeeded him--some well known in the West and others (like Zhdanov, Beria, and Malenkov) less so--is vivid and acute. The most careful, comprehensive, and balanced assessment yet of what Wellington once called ``the other side of the hill.''