Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953

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This breakthrough book provides a detailed reconstruction of Stalin’s leadership from the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 to his death in 1953. Making use of a wealth of new material from Russian archives, Geoffrey Roberts challenges a long list of standard perceptions of Stalin: his qualities as a leader; his relationships with his own generals and with other great world leaders; his foreign policy; and his role in instigating the Cold War. While frankly exploring the full extent of Stalin’s brutalities and their impact on the Soviet people, Roberts also uncovers evidence leading to the stunning conclusion that Stalin was both the greatest military leader of the twentieth century and a remarkable politician who sought to avoid the Cold War and establish a long-term detente with the capitalist world.
By means of an integrated military, political, and diplomatic narrative, the author draws a sustained and compelling personal portrait of the Soviet leader. The resulting picture is fascinating and contradictory, and it will inevitably change the way we understand Stalin and his place in history. Roberts depicts a despot who helped save the world for democracy, a personal charmer who disciplined mercilessly, a utopian ideologue who could be a practical realist, and a warlord who undertook the role of architect of post-war peace.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
Stalin's brutality -- as great as that of any Russian autocrat (no mean comparison set) -- is well known. But was there also greatness in the man? Roberts answers yes, at least in terms of his leadership during World War II. Without Stalin, he argues, the Soviet Union might well not have prevailed. Using new archival material, Roberts carves a figure who grew with the war, got the most from his people and his generals, and held the country together as a lesser force could not have. Moreover, he says, Stalin wanted to preserve cooperation and peace with his wartime allies after 1945, admittedly on his terms. Had Winston Churchill and others understood this, the Cold War might have been averted. Roberts makes a serious historical argument. This is not Cold War revisionist history that whitewashes the pathologies and extreme cruelty of Stalin's leadership. On the contrary. Still, in the end, it glosses over the question of whether, if largely on Stalin's terms, peace -- that is, no Cold War -- really had much chance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300136227
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 11/11/2008
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 565,640
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Roberts is professor of history at the University College Cork, Ireland. He is a frequent contributor to British, Irish and American newspapers and to popular history journals and he has acted as a consultant for a number of TV and radio documentaries. His publications include Victory at Stalingrad (Longman/Pearson, 2002) and The Soviet Union in World Politics (Routledge, 1998).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2007

    Excellent analysis of World War Two and the Cold War

    This book is a very useful corrective to myths about the Second World War and the Cold War. It shows how the Soviet Union played a key role in winning the World War, defeating more than 75% of Hitler¿s divisions. As President Roosevelt said, ¿The Russian armies are killing more Axis personnel and destroying more Axis material than all the other twenty-five United Nations put together.¿ Roberts concludes, ¿Stalin was a very effective and highly successful war leader ¿ [who] was indispensable to the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.¿ Churchill continually promised to help the Soviet war effort. For example, in August 1942, he told Stalin that by spring 1943 a million British and US troops would have opened a second front in Western Europe. But Churchill delayed the second front until June 1944. Roberts argues, ¿Stalin worked hard to make the Grand Alliance a success and wanted to see it continue after the war.¿ The postwar Attlee government, on the other hand, worked hard to break up the Alliance, being more concerned to save the Empire than to keep the peace. Stalin said the Labour government was more conservative than the Conservatives in their defence of the British ruling class¿s imperial interests. In 1947, President Truman adopted Labour¿s hostility to the Soviet Union and peaceful coexistence and launched the Marshall Plan. ¿For Stalin the Marshall Plan was the breaking point in postwar relations with the United States.¿ The Plan put Western European countries under US control, enabling the US state to interfere in their internal affairs. It led straight to the formation of the anti-Soviet Western bloc, which started the Cold War and split the world into two camps. Stalin¿s policy of peaceful coexistence did not mean accepting whatever the imperialists did. Two years after US forces intervened in Korea, he said, ¿One must be firm when dealing with America ¿ It¿s been already two years. And the USA has still not subdued little Korea. ¿ They want to subjugate the whole world, yet they cannot subdue little Korea.¿

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