This biography presents the enigmatic and extraordinary life of Stalin and explains why and how he became one of the most powerful Communist leaders of his time.

Through recently uncovered research material and Stalin's archives in Moscow, Kuromiya analyzes how and why Stalin was rare, even unique politician who literally lived by politics alone. He further analyses how Stalin understood psychology or human relations well and how he used this understanding in his poltical reign and terror. Kuromiya provides a convincing, concise and up-to-date analysis of Stalin's political life.

Profile in Power Series

In recent years historians have been preoccupied with broad questions of structure and process, and many have become suspicious of biography and the 'Great Man'''' approach to history.
On the other hand many students and readers continue to be drawn to history by an interest in individuals. This ambitious and wide-ranging series provides critical studies of key figures in international political history since 1500. The books are not biographies, though inevitably they contain much biographical material; rather they are succinct interpretative essays, analysing the major features of the career within the context of its own time.


Stalin, like all political leaders, was a complex figure. Although numerous biographies have been written, anyone who attempts to write Stalin’s life finds him an enigma. One biographer, writing in 1967 on Stalin’s early life, despaired: ‘the more that has been written about Stalin’s pre-revolutionary life, the less clarity has emerged; the more details that have been supplied, the deeper one must dig for facts’. The Soviet dissident writer Andrei Siniavskii wrote in 1990: ‘Ultimately, everything connected with Stalin is so involved and obscure that it’s often impossible to know how to interpret the facts…. In short, the figure of Stalin, given the opacity of his machinations, becomes lost in the murk.’ Moreover, in the case of Stalin, unlike most other individuals, biographers generally dislike the subject instead of liking him. One such biographer loathed Stalin so much that he wondered why Stalin’s colleagues failed to act when they ‘must have known then that Stalin, like a mad dog, had to be destroyed’. ‘Sometimes,’ he wrote in 1983, ‘in the quiet of my study I have found myself bursting out to their ghosts: “For God’s sake, stab him [Stalin] with a knife, or pick up a heavy object and bash his brains out, the lives you save may include your own”.’ Writing about Stalin is not as easy as writing about tyrants of the remote past, because his era is still a lived experience for many people. It is only half a century since Stalin died.

Fortunately, the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union has led to the opening up of the formerly closed Soviet archives. Not all archives are open or accessible, and an unknown portion of Stalin’s personal archives and a large part of his personal library are believed to have been destroyed or lost. Still, a tremendous amount of new information has become available in recent years, and historians, both inside and outside the former Soviet Union, have taken advantage of the new opportunities and written a great deal on Stalin and his era. Recent major English-language biographical studies (including translations from other languages) include Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy (1991), Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1997), Erik van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin (2002), Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003), Miklós Kun, Stalin: An . . .

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