Perhaps no figure in modern history was responsible for more deaths than Joseph Stalin. Born to a poor family in the Russian province of Georgia, Stalin rose to dictatorial power in the Soviet Union. Once in power, Stalin ruthlessly crushed all actual or perceived opposition. Through this personal and institutional brutality, tens of millions of Soviet citizens perished in gulags, police cells, torture chambers, by firing squad, in war, or due to famine. At the time of his death in 1953 Stalin had become an all powerful and paranoid figure. It is the life of Stalin that Brenda Haugen traces in this title, a part of the "Signature Lives" series. Haugen provides a fast-paced and sturdy introduction to a historical figure of monumental impact. Illustrations drawn from the Stalin era are peppered throughout the text and serve as excellent visual guideposts. The narrative is crisp and includes anecdotes that illuminate the terror that encompassed so much of Stalin's rule. In the end the Soviet Communist Party repudiated Stalin's policies and actions. His body was removed from its place of honor beside Lenin in Red Square and buried in a nondescript spot near the Kremlin wall. However, even now and despite the revelations of Stalin's crimes, there are people in Russia who still look back at him as a strong leader. Hopefully, through clearly recalling the keynote elements of Stalin's life, as is done in this fine book, readers will remember the past and Stalin's place in it. 2006, Compass Point Books, Ages 10 to 14.
Greg M. Romaneck