STALIN: The Glasnost Revelations by Walter Laqueur

STALIN: The Glasnost Revelations

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An engrossing examination of the social, political, economic, and cultural impact of the Stalin phenomenon on Soviet history, in the light of information only recently made available by the Soviet Union. After briefly reciting the facts of Stalin's biography (and attempting to analyze his psychological makeup, Laqueur (Soviet Union 2000, p. 709; The Long Road to Freedom, 1989, etc.) tries to capture the vast scope of Stalin's crimes, both by anecdotal evidence and by newly disclosed statistical evidence. He also tries to answer the question of how such a paranoid, amoral man, whose policies wrought such widespread destruction and suffering, could have ruled the Soviet empire so completely for so long. Laqueur approaches this question by examining the tradition of the strong authoritarian leader in Russian history (a tradition that includes such characters as Ivan the Terrible, whom Stalin consciously emulated, and Peter the Great and Catherine the Great). No historical tradition, however, can explain how a revolution made in the name of workers could have resulted in the decimation of the landed peasantry, the suffocation of private agriculture and initiative, and the extermination, one by one, of the fathers of the Russian Revolution. Stalin's vendetta against these men was so complete that it is only in the glasnost era that they have been rehabilitated as historical figures; Trotsky, arguably the most brilliant and iconoclastic of the Russian founding fathers, has yet to be rehabilitated. Although Laqueur's scholarship is impressive, and his research exhaustive, the answer to the question of how so many people could have, apparently willingly, participated in their own destruction eludes him. An important examination of Stalin the man and Stalin the historical phenomenon, and indispensable to the serious student of modern Soviet history.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Scribners