Beria: Stalin's First Lieutenant

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Overview

"A milestone, an invaluable achievement, the natural heir to Leggett's history of the Cheka."—John le Carr

"This first full-scale scholarly biography of the clever, cruel, domineering security chief whom Stalin once called 'my Himmler' casts valuable new light on various events of the Stalin period and its early aftermath."—Robert Tucker, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University

The first comprehensive biography of Lavrentii Beria, Stalin's notorious police chief and for many years his most powerful lieutenant. Beria has long symbolized all the evils of Stalinism, haunting the public imagination both in the West and in the former Soviet Union. 12 halftones. Map.

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Editorial Reviews

The Times Literary Supplement
The first serious book-length study of Beria's public career. . . . Knight's staidness and deliberation bring a refreshing change of approach. . . . A major contribution to our knowledge of Soviet politics.
— Robert Service
The [London] Times
Beria is ripe for revisionism. The danger is that too much can be made of Beria's relative liberalism. . . . Amy Knight does not fall into this trap. Hers is a strictly political biography and a very good one.
— Simon Sebag Montefiore
Newsweek (International Edition)
This smoothly written book is laudable, not just for its speculation on the Beria that might have been, but also for its naked portrait of the Beria that was.
— David Gordon
Newsweek, International Edition - David Gordon
This smoothly written book is laudable, not just for its speculation on the Beria that might have been, but also for its naked portrait of the Beria that was.
The Times Literary Supplement - Robert Service
The first serious book-length study of Beria's public career. . . . Knight's staidness and deliberation bring a refreshing change of approach. . . . A major contribution to our knowledge of Soviet politics.
The [London] Times - Simon Sebag Montefiore
Beria is ripe for revisionism. The danger is that too much can be made of Beria's relative liberalism. . . . Amy Knight does not fall into this trap. Hers is a strictly political biography and a very good one.
From the Publisher
"This smoothly written book is laudable, not just for its speculation on the Beria that might have been, but also for its naked portrait of the Beria that was."—David Gordon, Newsweek, International Edition

"The first serious book-length study of Beria's public career. . . . Knight's staidness and deliberation bring a refreshing change of approach. . . . A major contribution to our knowledge of Soviet politics."—Robert Service, The Times Literary Supplement

"Beria is ripe for revisionism. The danger is that too much can be made of Beria's relative liberalism. . . . Amy Knight does not fall into this trap. Hers is a strictly political biography and a very good one."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, The [London] Times

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As Stalin's police chief, right-hand man and commander of the Gulag slave-labor network, Lavrenty Beria (1899-1953) was a mass murderer whose weapons included torture, deportation and execution. Yet, after Stalin died in 1953, this devious, cold-blooded Bolshevik embarked on a short-lived liberalization program designed to curb the Communist Party apparatus and to give the non-Russian minorities more decision-making powers and limited recognition of their national and cultural identities. Arrested in a coup led by Khrushchev, Beria was executed. Critics view Beria's de-Stalinization proposals as mere tools in a succession struggle, but Knight, a Library of Congress scholar who did extensive research in the former Soviet Union, portrays the Georgian-born police chief as a would-be reformer who saw change as inevitable but was motivated above all by a desire to further his own power. A provocative biography of one of history's most evil men. Photos. (Nov.)
Library Journal
A strong entry in the wave of post-glasnost biographies, Knight's book is an accessible study of one of the most sinister members of Stalin's inner circle. Yet Knight, a senior research analyst in Soviet affairs at the Library of Congress, points out in her introduction that she is not attempting to ``rehabilitate'' Beria but to ``challenge some basic assumptions, both about Beria and about the Stalinist system in general.'' Using recently released documents, Knight succeeds in describing the life of Lavrentii Beria, from his student days in Baku, to his role as Stalin's most powerful henchmen, chief of security, and head of the slave-labor network in the gulag, to his rapid fall after the death of Stalin in the power struggles that brought Khrushchev to power. This work is recommended for undergraduates and informed lay readers.-- John Sandstrom, Houston P.L., Tex.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691010939
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 12/11/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 338
  • Sales rank: 1,468,933
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Map of Georgia, 1991
Chronology of Beria's Life
Abbreviations
Introduction 3
Ch. 1 Early Life and Career 11
Ch. 2 Service in the Georgian Political Police 29
Ch. 3 Leader of Georgia and Transcaucasia: 1931-1936 47
Ch. 4 The Purges in Georgia 67
Ch. 5 Master of the Lubianka 87
Ch. 6 The War Years 110
Ch. 7 Kremlin Politics After The War 132
Ch. 8 Beria under Fire: 1950-1953 155
Ch. 9 The Downfall of Beria 176
Ch. 10 The Aftermath 201
Ch. 11 Beria Reconsidered 225
Notes 231
Bibliography 281
Index 295
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 1999

    Beria: Stalin's Head Henchmen

    So few books are available on the subject of Lavrentii Beria. Beria was a secret policemen, charged by Joseph Stalin to inspire fear in the minds of the Soviet public. During the long course of his police career, Beria served his master, Stalin, very well. Upon the death of Stalin in 1953, Beria had outlived his usefulness, and his many enemies surrounded him like the ambitious Julius Caeser, and put him to the wretched end that he well deserved. Ms. Knight has done excellent research of Soviet archives and of eyewitnesses reports on her subject. A book that should be read by any serious student of Soviet history. Glenn Shiveler GlennShiv@aol.com

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