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Stalin: A Biography Hardcover – 15 Oct 2004


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; First Edition edition (15 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333726278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333726273
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 303,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Service is a Fellow of the British Academy and of St Antony's College, Oxford. He has written several books, including the highly acclaimed Lenin: A Biography, Russia: Experiment with a People, Stalin: A Biography and Comrades: A History of World Communism, as well as many other books on Russia's past and present. His most recent book, Trotsky, has been shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize. Married with four children, he lives in London.

Product Description

Review

'For an understanding of Stalin and his place in modern Russian history - Robert Service’s book is unsurpassed' -- Harold Shukman, Emeritus Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford

'[an]engrossing and well-researched book' -- Andrew Roberts, Daily Telegraph

This outstanding biography of lightly worn authority, wide research and superb intuition will be read for decades. -- Simon Sebag Montefiore, Sunday Times

Book Description

Drawing on a wealth of unexplored material - available for the first time since the collapse of the former Soviet Union - Robert Service's biography of Stalin is the most authoritative yet published. It concentrates not simply on Stalin as dedicated bureaucrat or serial political killer, but on a fuller assessment of his formative interactions in Georgia, his youthful revolutionary activism, his relationship with Lenin, with his family, and with his party members. 'This is effectively the first full biography since perestroika to encompass the economic, political, diplomatic, military, administrative and, above all, ideological dimensions, as well as the personal aspects of Stalin's colossal life . . . Gritty and unshowy, but enlightened by Service's compelling characterisation, magisterial analysis and dry wit, this outstanding biography of lightly worn authority, wide research and superb intuition will be read for decades' Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of STALIN: The Court of the Red Tsar Sunday Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Matt on 5 Mar. 2005
Format: Hardcover
Stalin has had more biographies than even the most dedicated russophile would care to read. So why read this one?
Well, many of Stalin's biographies are warped by the context they were written in. During the cold war the history of Stalin became a battleground in itself, with historians either portraying him either as a crazed bureacrat, a monster, or nigh on a God.
Service makes use of newly available evidence and weaves together a balanced, clear and comprehensive portrait of Stalin. More than any other biography of Stalin I've read it provides a rounded portrayal of this most controversial of figures. However, whilst being dispassionate helps Service cooly analyse his subject, this also leads to this biography being somewhat dry.
If you want to gain a thorough understanding of Stalin without worrying the autor has a hidden agenda, this biography is unsurpassed. However, if you want to get a feel for the warped version of reality that characterised life close to Stalin, and prefer something a bit more readable, Simon Sebag Montefiore's book 'Court of the Red Tsar' may be a better choice.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Copyzombie on 16 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover
As far as biographies go, Stalin appears to be the most popular of 20th Century's great mass murderers. During the last couple of decades quite a few historians and non-historians have had their say in book form. Why might this be? Was it because Stalin did live a very interesting life - a romantic poet of some renown, political bandit and exile, womanizer, bank robber, warlord and possibly history's greatest dictator? Simon Sebag Montefiore has already shown in two brilliant books (Stalin: The Court of The Red Tsar and Young Stalin) that Stalin's life can be turned into an exciting and well-researched book. Service's approach is more matter-of-fact and, inevitably, dry.

The question that has always interested me most in Stalin's character is his relationship to the Communist ideology. Was he a true believer? Or did he just cynically use the ideology to reach the supreme power? Before reading this book I tended to think that there was an element of cynicism from the beginning, and by the end of his life the Communist ideology was merely a tool. Stalin was a rebel against authority from young age, and Communism and later Bolshevism were rebellions par excellence. So, the act of rebellion was more important than the ideology in which name he rebelled. Service's biography made me change my thinking about this subject: Stalin apparently was something of a believer until the end. He just twisted it to his own ends and probably rationalized to himself that it was all for greater common good.

By the way, if there still are people out there who think evil Stalinism was a perversion of good Leninism, this book - as well as Service's previous biography of Lenin - should make them see that the Soviet system was in most important respects rotten from the beginning.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Turner on 26 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
I found Robert Service's Stalin to be a very detailed and informative read. Although the writing is a little dry at times, it is very redable and service does manage to take the reader into the mind of Stalin - this is no mean feat given the mythologising surrounding him and state secrecy. The first half of the book, from Stalin's childhood in Georgia to his gradual rise to political supremacy is the driest section. Alot of it is taken up with political, Marxist or Leninist theory. Once Stalin reaches the summit the pace does quicken up annd the narrative flows. However, as another reviewer has stated, the Second World War is given relatively short treatment.

Stalin comes across as a murderous thug beset with political and personal paranoia about being overthrown in a coup, very much a psychopath. What struck me reading this book is how brutal the Soviet regime was, not just Stalin's in particular but Lenin and the post-Stalin eras also appeared bedevilled by political backstabbing and personal ambition. Numerous times I read of conspiracies (not all were imagined by Stalin's paranoia), show-trials, executions and whole groups of people being hauled off to the Gulag on little pretext. Service also tells us of Stalin's murderous treatment of his family, friends and colleagues.

Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Taylor on 9 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
Stalin, one of the most controversial and important political leaders of the 20th century no doubt. Yet, do we have a real understanding of the man and his desires to dominate? Robert Service, a Russian history professor at the University of Oxford, is an expert on all the important figures from this time and has written books on Lenin and Trotsky also. Service is able to give the reader a chapter by chapter account chronicling Stalin's childhood in Georgia, to his early revolutionary days in London and St Petersburg. Leading onto the October Revolution, his rise to power and notoriously the great terror. Service explores themes of personality and society as well the wider picture of global and national politics. I found his account of Stalin's pure determination to take everything and to use murder as a state tool fascinating and eye opening.

I only had a basic understanding of Russian history before but feel I have learnt a great deal. However, I would add that the books on Lenin and Trotsky will give a greater understanding on those figures because if Service had written in greater detail on those two, it would have been a much longer read.

Easy to read and enjoyable.
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