Stalin: Breaker of Nations

( 5 )


Of all the despots of our time, Joseph Stalin lasted the longest and wielded the greatest power, and his secrets have been the most jealously guarded--even after his death.

In this book, the first to draw from recently released archives, Robert Conquest gives us Stalin as a child and student; as a revolutionary and communist theoretician; as a political animal skilled in amassing power and absolutely ruthless in maintaining it. He presents the landmarks of Stalin's rule: the ...

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Of all the despots of our time, Joseph Stalin lasted the longest and wielded the greatest power, and his secrets have been the most jealously guarded--even after his death.

In this book, the first to draw from recently released archives, Robert Conquest gives us Stalin as a child and student; as a revolutionary and communist theoretician; as a political animal skilled in amassing power and absolutely ruthless in maintaining it. He presents the landmarks of Stalin's rule: the clash with Lenin; collectivization; the great Terror; the Nazi-Soviet pact and the Nazi-Soviet war; the anti-Semitic campaign that preceded his death; and the legacy he left behind.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Drawing on a wealth of new material from the Soviet Union, Conquest presents a chilling portrait of a mass murderer who gave personal instructions on how his victims should be tortured. Stalin (1879-1953), a rebellious young seminarian who wrote poetry, would later have poets executed. Conquest ( The Great Terror ) portrays the Soviet dictator as an insufferably rude husband, a Georgian who hated his roots and Russified himself, a crude boor who yearned to be a backslapping man of the people. Although omitting intricate political details and focusing instead on the person himself, this masterful biography provides fresh insight into a progressively paranoid leader who ruled by terror and falsification, deported millions to slave labor camps, engineered the famine of 1932 that killed some five million Ukrainians, and launched an anti-Semitic campaign of murders and arrests. Photos. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Joseph Stalin, a leader with many biographers, has become the subject of renewed study as a consequence of Soviet glasnost and the opening of formerly closed archives. Both of these books describe Stalin's development as a revolutionary, his rise to power upon Lenin's death, the Terror and consolidation of his control, his triumph in World War II, and his decline and death as the Cold War expanded. Conquest, a respected Western scholar, incorporates new details of Stalin's life and establishes a broad context for understanding his actions, highlighting how he was underestimated by both colleagues and foreign diplomats. Volkogonov, a Soviet researcher and the head of the Institute of Military History, sets forth a study of Stalin the man, centering upon his actions and thoughts. Reflecting new Soviet openness, he finds that Stalin rejected socialism and scorned freedom to the detriment of his nation. Greater access to records, such as those showing the depth of Stalin's control over military decision-making and the truth regarding the Katyn Forest massacre of Polish officers by the NKVD, will afford many opportunities for further study. These works are both carefully researched and well written (well edited and translated in the case of Volkgonov's book), offering new information and insights into Stalin's life and era. Volkogonov's work is noteworthy for the sense it conveys of the Soviet struggle to come to terms with the meaning of Stalin's rule. Conquest's work excels in its sophisticated portrayal of Stalin's life against the map of world politics and society. Both are of interest to general and specialist readers and are recommended for larger collections and those of Soviet studies. Conquest's book previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/91.--Ed.-- Rena Fowler, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette
School Library Journal
YA-- Written in a fast-moving informative style, this absorbing biography charts Stalin's rise from obscure revolutionary flunky to power-mad dictator. Borrowing liberally from unsealed memoirs of survivors of the Stalinist era, Conquest offers psychological insights into the man who condemned millions of his countrymen to death in the purges of the 1930s and led his nation to become a leading world power. A compelling portrait for students and teachers of modern Russian and European history alike. --Richard Lisker, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Blending impeccable scholarship and deeply revealing anecdotes, noted Soviet scholar Conquest (Stalin and the Kirov Murder, 1989, etc.) illuminates Stalin's role in history as well as his private character. "Overall he gives the impression of a large and crude claylike figure, a golem, into which a demonic spark has been instilled," writes Conquest of "a man who perhaps more than any other determined the course of the twentieth century." Conquest sifts through post-glasnost material to pursue the truth about the author of the Big Lie, who "ruled not only by terror but also by falsification" (the emblem of which was, Conquest notes, torture to extract false confessions). In revisiting the stages of Stalin's upbringing, rise to power, and despotism, Conquest excels at finding the telling detail to reveal the man: Stalin's claim to party leaders that Lenin had asked Stalin to procure poison for him; Stalin's telephone call to Pasternak inviting him to plea for the poet Mandelstam's life; his praise of Hitler for murdering much of the Sturmabteilung—the Nazi storm troopers—one night. At the height of the 1932 famine in which millions were dying (and which the Soviet government made a state secret and simply denied worldwide), Stalin's second wife, Nadezhda, told him of the famine, which resulted in a fight and may have led a few days later to a public scene of brutality—after which Nadezhda shot herself. In the larger historical events (collectivization, the purges, the Great Patriotic War, the show trials), Conquest shows a masterful grasp, quickly and lucidly drawing fresh assessments without getting mired in the nonessential. Said to be the first post-glasnost Stalinbio by a Westerner, this is a must for anyone interested in the dictator, and helps to illumine the recent, denser study by Soviet military man Dmitri Volkogonov (Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy, p. 921). (Eight pages of photographs—not seen.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140169539
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/28/1992
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 726,849
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Prefatory Note
1. Gori
2. Seminary
3. Underground
4. Rising Revolutionary
5. Revolution
6. Civil War
7. The Long Death of Lenin
8. The Fight for Power
9. Towards Supremacy
10. Terror
11. With Hitler
12. War
13. Postwar: Cold War
14. Last Years
15. Stalin Today
Bibliographical Note

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    I am a high school sophomore and I chose to read this book for m

    I am a high school sophomore and I chose to read this book for my project. The author includes does a good job describing his life, from when he was a child to becoming the ruler of the Soviet Union. The book was extremely informative and describes something other resources would usually leave out, such as his personal life, marriage, and family. The book presents a neutral stance on Stalin, making sure to include sources that were either with or against Stalin. However, the book also had some problems. First, the book would keep on going on. The second problem I had was that it was sometimes hard to read. The information would sometimes be jumbled up in a section and would require me having to look for what it was related to. The final problem was that the author assumed that the reader already had some knowledge prior to reading the book. A lot of terms or people come out randomly, and sometimes there would be no information about them our how they’re relevant to the topic and would require extra reading in order to understand it. In conclusion, the book is a good resource to use if you want to learn more about Stalin and I would recommend this book to people interested in learning more about Stalin and won’t mind the extra reading they would need to do. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2005

    Review of Stalin's life and unpleasant childhood

    Stalin:Breaker of Nations reveals the unbelievable childhood of Stalin and shows what led to his uprising and terror of the Russian people. Conquest does a great job of analyzing documents for this book. The author also shows how Stalin's legacy lives on today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2004

    The Title is Misleading, a Misnomer.

    'Breaker of Nations' caused me to believe that this book was about the destruction and domination of Eastern Europe and other international events. Instead, it's about Stalin's climb to power. It is written like a supplimentary text for a history course. The professor's lecture fills in the many missing pieces. The only reason I understood what Conquest was writing about during the civil war era was because I read 'Stalin's Lieutenants' by Spahr. I already knew about Stalin's esteem for Budenny, and Zhukov's duty and victories in the East. I knew about the poison gassing of recalcitrant peasants and the rebellious sailors on the battleships 'Petrpavlovsk' and 'Sevastopol'. This book is not even properly cited, no end or foot notes. Conquest gives a quote about Beria warning President Bierut of Poland to stop questioning Stalin about thousands of missing Polish communists, p.289. A reader does not know if this quote is from Polish sources, which can cause a reader to think differently about Beria. If the quote is from Beria and is unsubstantuated, then the quote could be self-justification by Beria, while he revised his own history. At the end of the book, Conquest gives a list of recommended books, which intensifies the feeling of a required text book that is explained by the professor. This book needed a good editor to pull it together.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2004

    wonderful account of a not so wonderful man

    Stalin:Breaker of Nations,by Robert Conquest was by far one of the best biographies I myself have ever read.Before reading this book,my view of stalin went as far as to what I learned in school.In this book,Conquest brilliantly reviews Stalin's life as a child,leading us up to what led him to become the most hated,despised,and feared man of the 20th century.I strongly recommend reading this book as a means of learning about the single most feared man that had the biggest effect on the lives of the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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