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New Biography of a Dictator

Oleg V. Khlevniuk; Translated by Nora Seligman Favorov

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The most authoritative and engrossing biography of the notorious dictator ever written, winner of the 2016 PROSE Award for Biography & Autobiography

"Enthralling, brilliant, and groundbreaking, this book confirms Khlevniuk as probably the greatest living expert on Stalin. Essential reading."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar

Josef Stalin exercised supreme power in the Soviet Union from 1929 until his death in 1953. During that quarter-century, by Oleg Khlevniuk’s estimate, he caused the imprisonment and execution of no fewer than a million Soviet citizens per year. Millions more were victims of famine directly resulting from Stalin's policies. What drove him toward such ruthlessness? This essential biography, by the author most deeply familiar with the vast archives of the Soviet era, offers an unprecedented, fine-grained portrait of Stalin the man and dictator. Without mythologizing Stalin as either benevolent or an evil genius, Khlevniuk resolves numerous controversies about specific events in the dictator’s life while assembling many hundreds of previously unknown letters, memos, reports, and diaries into a comprehensive, compelling narrative of a life that altered the course of world history.
In brief, revealing prologues to each chapter, Khlevniuk takes his reader into Stalin’s favorite dacha, where the innermost circle of Soviet leadership gathered as their vozhd lay dying. Chronological chapters then illuminate major themes: Stalin’s childhood, his involvement in the Revolution and the early Bolshevik government under Lenin, his assumption of undivided power and mandate for industrialization and collectivization, the Terror, World War II, and the postwar period. At the book’s conclusion, the author presents a cogent warning against nostalgia for the Stalinist era.

Oleg V. Khlevniuk is a leading research fellow at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences and senior research fellow at the State Archive of the Russian Federation. His previous Yale books include The History of the Gulag, Master of the House: Stalin and His Inner Circle, and several collections of Stalin's correspondence.

"Oleg Khlevniuk is incontestably the best Russian student of Soviet history. In this biography, he uses his experience and talents to give us an innovative and convincing portrait of the Soviet 'micromanaging' despot. The chapters dealing with the Terror, war, victory and the tragic postwar years break new ground. Stalin’s political and private life, his relationships with his immediate circle, his family and the 'Soviet people,' his intellectual capacities and his way of leading the country, as well as his cruelty and the system of power he built, come vividly to life, and one leaves the book with a much more profound understanding of some of Europe’s darkest decades."—Andrea Graziosi, author of the Histoire de l'URSS

"Oleg Khlevniuk, master of the Russian archives, provides a fresh and acute analysis of Stalin the destroyer to confound revisionists who portray him as a state builder and modernizer."—Alfred J. Rieber, author of Stalin and the Struggle for Eurasia

"Khlevniuk is one of the most knowledgeable historians of Stalin and his era. This excellent biography of Stalin represents the current state of scholarship, and should be read widely."—Hiroaki Kuromiya, author of Stalin: Profiles in Power

"A superb account by the eminent scholar who pioneered the opening of the Soviet archives. Oleg Khlevniuk summarizes a lifetime of research, eschewing unsubstantiated anecdotes and tales and sticking to the documentary record, to produce an authoritative narrative of Stalin’s life and times."—Paul Gregory, Hoover Institution

"Enthralling, brilliant, and groundbreaking, this book confirms Khlevniuk as probably the greatest living expert on Stalin. The culmination of his revelatory archivally-researched works that were the first to understand Stalin as a politician, the book reveals him as a fanatical Marxist and Russian statesman of exceptional but flawed complexity formed above all by his political life and the idiosyncratic realities of Soviet power. Essential reading."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar

"Oleg Khlevniuk makes the modest claim that this is a biography of Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union for thirty years. In fact, Khlevniuk has given us not just a biography of Stalin, but a history of the ruling system that Stalin created, and he does so in six concise chapters. Khlevniuk writes with clarity and insight, following the evolution of Stalin from young revolutionary, to undisputed dictator, and finally to ruthless despot, alone and dying as his subordinates cower and hope for the end. The translation by Nora Favorov is excellent, and makes the book easily accessible to English reading audiences. Khlevniuk's biography of Stalin is a deft achievement."—David Shearer, author of Policing Stalin’s Socialism: Social Order and Mass Repression in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953

"Oleg Khlevniuk’s biography adds greatly to our understanding of Stalin by making extensive and careful use of newly available archives to throw new light on Stalin’s rule. His clear-eyed analysis draws a sharp distinction between what we know from serious research and what we should discard as mere speculation. The result is an unvarnished account that warns against nostalgia for Stalin’s rule."—David Holloway, author of Stalin and the Bomb

"In this excellent book, Oleg Khlevniuk answers questions that have engaged historians, puzzled political scientists, and fascinated casual observers for decades. How did Stalin rise from a minor revolutionary to one of the most powerful men in history? How did he manage to first defeat contenders within the Soviet leadership, then to subordinate the Communist Party and the Red Army to his personal authority, to eventually build an empire whose specter haunts Eastern Europe to the present day? And crucially, why didn’t anyone stop him before it was too late?"—Milan Svolik, author of The Politics of Authoritarian Rule

"Khlevniuk manages to take us into the inner sanctum of the dictator's power and show how he ruled his subordinates—indeed the whole country—through the knout and the ginger cookie, the Russian version of carrot and stick. A masterly portrait drawn by a master historian."—Ronald Grigor Suny, author of The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States

"No one in the world knows the inner workings of Soviet power in Stalin’s time better than Oleg Khlevniuk. Beautifully and artfully composed, deeply moral, and supremely readable, Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator will become the benchmark against which all future biographies of Stalin will be measured. A masterpiece."—Jan Plamper, author of The Stalin Cult: A Study in the Alchemy of Power

"A very digestible biography, yet one packed with revelations. . . . If you read just one biography this year, make it this one."—Paul E. Richardson, Russian Life

"Superb . . . deeply informed and utterly compelling . . . What [Khlevniuk] highlights is so frequently new and revealing that the portrait in the end seems more accurate and complete than anything before. Favorov’s masterful translation from the Russian preserves the book’s spare, penetrating prose."—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

"By the amount and quality of information presented, [Stalin: New Biography] surpasses all other biographies on Stalin previously published inside or outside Russia."—Alexander Gogun, Journal of Slavic Military Studies

"The book is attractively organized and presented. . . . This is a brisk, exciting and compelling read."—J. Arch Getty, Slavic Review

"[A] beautifully constructed, lucid, and brief new life of the dictator. . . . Written with fluent sobriety and humour the book is a constant pleasure to read. No book of history is ever definitive: new facts trickle out, new writers bring new perspectives to bear. This is the charm of the genre. But some history books can become classics for later generations. Khlevniuk’s Stalin is likely to be one of them."—Rodric Braithwaite, Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies

Won the 2016 PROSE Award in Biography & Autobiography. The Prose Awards recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing. Presented by the Professional Schoarly Publishing (PSP) Dision of the Associaton of American Publishers (AAP)

Awarded second prize for the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize for the Best Russian book in translation
ISBN: 9780300219784
Publication Date: September 20, 2017
432 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
21 b/w illus.
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From Collectivization to the Great Terror

Oleg Khlevniuk; Translated by Vadim Staklo; Foreword by Rob

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The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931–36

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Stalin's Letters to Molotov


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Stalin and His Inner Circle

Oleg V. Khlevniuk; Translated by Nora Seligman Favorov

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Networks, Loyalty, and Institutional Change in the Soviet Union

Yoram Gorlizki and Oleg Khlevniuk

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