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Stalin made little distinction between his personal and political life, and as Service demonstrates in this balanced, tightly written work, it is necessary to consider each in the context of the other. Never abandoning his wide-angle lens, Service shows how Stalin's experiences of religion, nationalism, peasant lore, and imperialism became the channels through which he funneled his radical agenda...Keenly aware that by putting a human face on the monster he is exposing himself to charges of being an apologist, Service nevertheless perseveres in setting the record straight in this comprehensive and landmark biography...By painstakingly deconstructing Stalin's personal reinventions and self-created legacy, Service takes an important step toward revealing the man behind the myth. The more the tyrant is exposed for who he was, the harder it will become to wax nostalgic for his times.
— Rebecca Reich