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Publisher's Summary

A magnificent new biography that revolutionizes our understanding of Stalin and his world. It has the quality of myth: A poor cobbler's son, a seminarian from an oppressed outer province of the Russian Empire, reinvents himself as a revolutionary and finds a leadership role within a small group of marginal zealots. When the old world is unexpectedly brought down in a total war, the band seizes control of the country, and the new regime it founds as the vanguard of a new world order is ruthlessly dominated from within by the former seminarian until he stands as the absolute ruler of a vast and terrible state apparatus, with dominion over Eurasia. We think we know the story well. Remarkably, Stephen Kotkin's epic new biography shows us how much we still have to learn.
Volume One of Stalin begins and ends in January 1928 as Stalin boards a train bound for Siberia, about to embark upon the greatest gamble of his political life. He is now the ruler of the largest country in the world, but a poor and backward one, far behind the great capitalist countries in industrial and military power, encircled on all sides. In Siberia, Stalin conceives of the largest program of social reengineering ever attempted: the root-and-branch uprooting and collectivization of agriculture and industry across the entire Soviet Union. To stand up to the capitalists he will force into being an industrialized, militarized, collectivized great power is an act of will. Millions will die, and many more will suffer, but Stalin will push through to the end against all resistance and doubts. Where did such power come from? The product of a decade of scrupulous and intrepid research, Stalin contains a host of astonishing revelations. Kotkin gives an intimate first-ever view of the Bolshevik regime’s inner geography, bringing to the fore materials from Soviet military intelligence and the secret police.
©2014 Stephen Kotkin (P)2014 Recorded Books
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By IRP on 03-23-15

Excellent Book But First Time Listener Beware

I am an avid student of history, especially relating to the First World War and the period of time preceding the war and subsequent to it. I also an avid student of the Russian Revolution, Russian Civil War and period following it. This book was extremely well written and it probably one of the finest biographies I have read about Stalin. That being said, there are two issues that one should consider before purchasing this book.
First- as has been pointed out by other reviewers, the narration is not as good as it could and should be. While I did not mind the narrator's pace and tone, it bothered me greatly and detracted from my enjoyment of the book that he could not correctly pronounce the Russian names of the historical figures in the book. It seems logical to me that if you are going to narrate a book with non-English character names, you need to do a good job with the pronunciations. That was not the case with this narration.
Secondly- the book does a phenomenal job of sketching the time frame in Russian history which Stalin was a part of and the book went into great details about Lenin, Trotsky, Stolypin, Tsar Nicholas II, Kerensky as well as the other Russian historical figures of the period. While this was great for me in that it added greatly to my understanding of Stalin, for the first time reader of a Stalin biography, this can detract from his/her enjoyment of the book because not enough time is spent on Stalin's life. Therefore, if you have never read or listened to a biography of Stalin, I would not listen to this book as the first book on the subject. Instead consider first listening to the Stalin biographies written by Simon Sebag Montfiore (only covers Young Stalin), Robert Conqeust and/or Edward Radzinsky (all three books are available from Audible) and then consider listening to this one. I believe that by following this course of action, the listener will enjoy this book more and learn more about Stalin from it.

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41 of 44 people found this review helpful


By Jay on 01-13-15

Stalin's story merged with Russian history

If you could sum up Stalin, Volume I in three words, what would they be?

Incredibly detailed account

Any additional comments?

I cannot recommend Stalin, Vol 1 highly enough. This book often feels more like a history of revolutionary Russia than an account of Stalins life, which is great if you are more interested in public policy vs. an individuals biographic info. The book really heats up when discussing the in-fighting between Stalin and a few of his comrades, such as Trotsky and Kamenev. Ultimately, Vol. 1 is about the fascinating way in which Stalin slowly accrued power over the course of the 20's. My only regret is that Vol. 2 isn't available yet.

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8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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