Just like that

Sheila Fitzpatrick

  • Stalin, Vol. II: Waiting for Hitler, 1928-41 by Stephen Kotkin
    Allen Lane, 1154 pp, £35.00, October 2017, ISBN 978 0 7139 9945 7

Stephen Kotkin’s Stalin is all paradox. He is pockmarked and physically unimpressive, yet charismatic; a gambler, but cautious; undeterred by the prospect of mass bloodshed, but with no interest in personal participation. Cynical about everyone else’s motives, he himself ‘lived and breathed ideals’. Suspicious of ‘fancy-pants intellectuals’, he was an omnivorous reader whose success in getting the Russian creative intelligentsia into line was ‘uncanny’. Inclined to paranoia, he was still able to keep it under control. Intensely suspicious of almost everyone, he was not suspicious enough about Hitler.

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