The Stalin Cult


You are viewing an older version of the Yalebooks website. Please visit out new website with more updated information and a better user experience:

A Study in the Alchemy of Power

Jan Plamper

View Inside Format: Cloth
Price: $85.00
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

Also Available in:

Between the late 1920s and the early 1950s, one of the most persuasive personality cults of all times saturated Soviet public space with images of Stalin. A torrent of portraits, posters, statues, films, plays, songs, and poems galvanized the Soviet population and inspired leftist activists around the world. In the first book to examine the cultural products and production methods of the Stalin cult, Jan Plamper reconstructs a hidden history linking artists, party patrons, state functionaries, and ultimately Stalin himself in the alchemical project that transformed a pock-marked Georgian into the embodiment of global communism. Departing from interpretations of the Stalin cult as an outgrowth of Russian mysticism or Stalin's psychopathology, Plamper establishes the cult's context within a broader international history of modern personality cults constructed around Napoleon III, Mussolini, Hitler, and Mao. Drawing upon evidence from previously inaccessible Russian archives, Plamper's lavishly illustrated and accessibly written study will appeal to anyone interested in twentieth-century history, visual studies, the politics of representation, dictator biography, socialist realism, and real socialism.

Jan Plamper is Dilthey Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

"This special book won't get lost in the sea of books about Stalin. Jan Plamper takes the reader into "the kitchen" of Soviet propaganda where its main dish—the myth of the "beloved leader"—was prepared. Although millions of Soviet citizens never saw Stalin in person, they were certain that they had "seen" him. From this stunningly intelligent study, we learn how and by whom this grand illusion was produced."—Elena Zubkova, Institute of Russian History, Moscow

"This is an excellent book which for the first time, and on a documentary basis, uncovers the mechanisms of the making of Stalin's personality cult in the visual arts."—Vitaly Komar, Artist, New York/Moscow

"This long-awaited, meticulously researched book advances our understanding of how Stalin's image came to exercise such thralldom over Soviet society. Highlighting the importance of visual culture in the Soviet polity, Jan Plamper's generously illustrated study is attentive not only to the visual strategies adopted by the cult artefacts - subjecting them to illuminating visual analysis - but also to the contexts in which they were produced, disseminated, and took on public meanings."--Susan E. Reid, Professor of Russian Visual Culture, University of Sheffield.

“The crafting, production, and canonization of Stalin’s image was no simple endeavor. It involved technologies that gave Stalin’s cult a particularly modern flavor. . . through this alchemy of institutional and individual power did Stalin’s personality cult penetrate the psyche of the Soviet citizenry.”—Sean Guillory, New Books in Russia and Eurasia

“Plamper’s account represents the most rigorous and lucid analysis of the Stalin cult, not just in art but also in Soviet culture as a whole, by any historian to date. It will be essential reading not only for Soviet historians, but also for all those interested in the genesis and evolution of Stalinism, a key phenomenon of the modern politics that Plamper analyses so eloquently in this remarkable book.”—Polly Jones, Times Higher Education

“Plamper has written a superbly documented, truly original and engrossing analysis…Plamper offers a gripping and persuasive explanation…an impressive art book.”—Vladimir Tismaneanu (University of Maryland), International Affairs

“An excellent study which greatly advances our understanding of one of the most important cultural artifacts of the twentieth century.”— Graeme Gill, Russian Review

"Plamper's section on art is thorough and revealing."— George Walden, Times Literary Supplement

“A fascinating history of the making and marketing of the Stalinist cult, [characterized by] clarity, sharp analysis, and a deft selection of images and illustrations. . . . A rich, valuable contribution to both modern intellectual history and the history of Russia."—Choice


"Jan Plamper’s excellent study of the Stalin cult makes an important contribution to our understanding of this phenomenon."—Erik van Ree, Revolutionary Russia

“Invaluably, Plamper provides a wider framework for considering Socialist Realism, while his history of the Stalin cult of personality and the way that art was organised and controlled under this despotic ruler makes this essential reading for anyone who wants to gain a more profound understanding of the period, the art, and the way it was produced.”—Christina Lodder, Burlington Magazine

Winner of the 2013 University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California and awarded annually by the Association for Salvic, East European, and Eurasian Studies for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern or Eurasia in the fields of literary and cultural studies.
ISBN: 9780300169522
Publication Date: January 17, 2012
352 pages, 7 x 10
62 b/w + 21 color illus.
Yale-Hoover Series on Authoritarian Regimes
Master of the House

Stalin and His Inner Circle

Oleg V. Khlevniuk; Translated by Nora Seligman Favorov

View details
Guns and Rubles

The Defense Industry in the Stalinist State

Edited by Mark Harrison

View details
The Lost Politburo Transcripts

From Collective Rule to Stalin's Dictatorship

Edited by Paul R. Gregory and Norman Naimark

View details
Terror by Quota

State Security from Lenin to Stalin (an Archival Study)

Paul R. Gregory

View details
Scorched Earth

Stalin's Reign of Terror

Jörg Baberowski; Translated by Steven Gilbert, Ivo Komljen,

View details
Policing Stalin's Socialism

Repression and Social Order in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953

David R. Shearer

View details