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Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953 [Paperback]

Geoffrey Roberts
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

8 Aug 2008
This breakthrough book provides a detailed reconstruction of Stalin's leadership from the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 to his death in 1953. Making use of a wealth of new material from Russian archives, Geoffrey Roberts challenges a long list of standard perceptions of Stalin: his qualities as a leader; his relationships with his own generals and with other great world leaders; his foreign policy; and his role in instigating the Cold War. While frankly exploring the full extent of Stalin's brutalities and their impact on the Soviet people, Roberts also uncovers evidence leading to the stunning conclusion that Stalin was both the greatest military leader of the twentieth century and a remarkable politician who sought to avoid the Cold War and establish a long-term detente with the capitalist world.By means of an integrated military, political, and diplomatic narrative, the author draws a sustained and compelling personal portrait of the Soviet leader. The resulting picture is fascinating and contradictory, and it will inevitably change the way we understand Stalin and his place in history. Roberts depicts a despot who helped save the world for democracy, a personal charmer who disciplined mercilessly, a utopian ideologue who could be a practical realist, and a warlord who undertook the role of architect of post-war peace.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (8 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300136226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300136227
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 305,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Geoffrey Roberts was born in Deptford, south London in 1952. His father worked as a labourer at the local power station and his mother as a cleaner and tea lady. A pupil of Addey & Stanhope Grammar School he left aged 16 and started his working life as a clerk with the Greater London Council. In the 1970s he was an International Relations undergraduate at North Staffordshire Polytechnic and postgraduate research student at the London School of Economics. In the 1980s he worked in the Education Department of NALGO, the public sector trade union.
Geoffrey returned to academic life in the 1990s following the publication of his acclaimed first book, The Unholy Alliance: Stalin's Pact with Hitler (1989). Many books and articles followed: The Soviet Union and the Origins of the Second World War (1995); The Soviet Union in World Politics, 1945-1991 (1998); and Victory at Stalingrad: The Battle That Changed History (2002). In 2006 Yale University Press published his Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953.
Professor Roberts is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and teaches History and International Relations at University College Cork, Ireland. He has won many academic awards and prizes, including a Fulbright Scholarship to Harvard University and a Government of Ireland Senior Research Fellowship. He is a regular commentator on history and current affairs for British and Irish newspapers and a contributor to the History News Service, which syndicates articles to American media outlets. He has many radio and TV appearances to his credit and has acted as historical consultant for documentary series such as Simon Berthon's highly praised Warlords, broadcast in 2005.

Product Description


"'... an astonishing defence of the Soviet dictator... This will provoke lively debate and is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Stalin and his times.' BBC History Magazine 'There have been many books on Stalin in recent years, a few good, some not so bad and the rest pretty poor. This is one of the best, and one of the most useful. Why? Because for the first time we now have a balanced overall account of the great dictator's foreign policy in crucial years.' Paul Dukes, History Today"

About the Author

Geoffrey Roberts is professor of history, University College Cork. He lives in Kilbrittain, County Cork, Ireland.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not unbiased and not very new either 5 Oct 2009
For students of the second world war and of the cold war's origins this might have been a very important book. But there are not many new archival sources and Roberts has been airing these same ideas for quite some time.
His treatment of the origins of the cold war is - I think - deeply flawed. He acknowledges that Stalin's European policy was ideologically-driven but he wouldn't go as far as admitting that this was a crucial factor in the outbreak of the cold war.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New perspective, but biased 8 Aug 2009
Very interesting and new perspective on Stalin's role in the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War, but you have the feeling that Roberts take it too far. He for instance without any evidence say that Stalin was not involved in seperate peace negotiations with Hitler, and he also assert that Stalin wanted to keep the Grand alliance running and it was the US and the UK, which forced him more or less into a confrontation )-:
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 3 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
great thanks
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7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant study of the war leader 21 Mar 2007
This book is a very useful corrective to myths about the Second World War and the Cold War. It shows how the Soviet Union played a key role in winning the World War, defeating more than 75% of Hitler's divisions. As President Roosevelt said, "The Russian armies are killing more Axis personnel and destroying more Axis material than all the other twenty-five United Nations put together."

Roberts concludes, "Stalin was a very effective and highly successful war leader ... [who] was indispensable to the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany." Churchill continually promised to help the Soviet war effort. For example, in August 1942, he told Stalin that by spring 1943 a million British and US troops would have opened a second front in Western Europe. But Churchill delayed the second front until June 1944.

Roberts argues, "Stalin worked hard to make the Grand Alliance a success and wanted to see it continue after the war." The postwar Attlee government, on the other hand, worked hard to break up the Alliance, being more concerned to save the Empire than to keep the peace. Stalin said the Labour government was more conservative than the Conservatives in their defence of the British ruling class's imperial interests.

In 1947, President Truman adopted Labour's hostility to the Soviet Union and peaceful coexistence and launched the Marshall Plan. "For Stalin the Marshall Plan was the breaking point in postwar relations with the United States." The Plan put Western European countries under US control, enabling the US state to interfere in their internal affairs. It led straight to the formation of the anti-Soviet Western bloc, which started the Cold War and split the world into two camps.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENT 19 Jun 2007
By Thomas J. Tucker - Published on
Little by little we learn more about the war in the East in WWII. Until the Russians opened their archives to Western historians, most of the events were described through the eyes of German generals who had their own axes to grind. This remarkable volume by an Irish scholar attempts to see the victory through the mind of Stalin. If there are any diaries or other personal memoirs by Stalin, they are still closed to the West. What the author gives us is Stalin's thinking through examination of his daily calender, review of what he said to his colleagues and others such as ambassadors, etc as they reported it, and an analysis of his messages and letters.
He also introduces another aspect of the early defeat of the Soviet forces. He states the Soviet thinking was confined to offense, and it was unprepared to take on major defense as a strategy in the initial stages. There is support for this analysis in Fugate & Dovoretsky's volume, Thunder on the Dnepr. They mention a top secret war game (the third) whose documentation is still closed to the West which gave the Soviets confidence they could defeat the Germans through defense in depth.
Despite his claims, Mannstein was not the originator of the tactical implementation of this strategy.
Citino's book, the German Way of War, reinforces the knowledge that the superiority of German general officers lay in their unquestioned competence in operational matters. Their great weakness was the inability to grasp the strategic implications of their operations. Here, the author points out was one of Stalin's great strengths. Even in 1943, before the great battle of Kursk, he was already thinking about post war implications.
Perrett' book, Knights of the Black Cross, describes how the Germans stripped a regiment out of each panzer division to build enough divisions for the attack on Russia. It built a fundamental weakness into the plan. Now we have Tooze's new book describing, among other things, the inherent industrial weakness of Germany fortelling the ultimate failure of the attack. Thomas Childer's Teaching Company lectures, WWII: A Military and Social History, describes how the German infantry officers encountered a different war than the panzer divisions. Overcoming Russian resistance in the encircled forces was far more difficult than contemplated.
Roberts doesn't blink at the odious consequences of Stalin's torment of the Soviet people, nor does he attempt to coat over it. It's not the purpose of his volume to go over ground that is well-known. He gives the reader insight into how the man managed the Soviet victory. He joins in creating a useable picture for students of WWII of what the man was like in conducting his affairs. His discussion of Stalin's remarkable intelligence supports the narration in Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy. Stalin's grasp of Russian history, his understanding of his armed forces and the thrust of how to conduct the war are awesome. The author points out Stalin's mistakes as well as his success. Regardless of the other sides of the man, as one reviewer emphasized, his place in this area of WWII history continues to grow.
I recommend this volume to any serious student of WWII as well as those curious about how Stalin operated on a day-to-day basis during this slice of his life. The Cold War Years portion of the book were not as interesting to me. Perhaps that era needs more time for history to digest it as well as there may be more archival releases on both sides to give us a balanced view.
This volume belongs in any library that claims to have a military history section as well as the libraries of those who wish to have a better understanding of the events of WWII or how Soviet leadership operated. It will be an important reference work for many years to come.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A contemporaneous Stalin 17 Oct 2008
By Paul E. Richardson - Published on
This book is marketed as a "provocative reassessment" of Stalin's military and political leadership during and after WWII. While "provocative" may overstate the case, this is indeed an excellent new history of WWII as seen through the prism of Josef Stalin.

The blow-by-blow accounts of Big Three summits provide enough detail and background to be interesting but not tedious, offering fascinating insights into the personalities of Truman, Churchill and Roosevelt, especially vis-a-vis Stalin. And there are well-documented and reasoned assessments of everything from the Katyn massacre, to the defense of Moscow, to the victory at Stalingrad. Roberts is masterfully judicious in his choice of which documents, telegrams, correspondence or first-hand accounts to present, always seeming to come up with some perfect morsel over which others have glossed.

In the end, Roberts comes to the conclusion that the correct image of Stalin is not one filtered over the decades, through Khrushchev et al, but rather one more in line with the contemporaneous view of the dictator during his lifetime - as a military leader who deserved praise for the unparalleled achievement of winning the Great Patriotic War: "To make so many mistakes and to rise from the depths of such defeat to go on to win the greatest military victory in history was a triumph beyond compare." (Reviewed in Russian Life)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rest of the Story 5 Nov 2012
By M. MCCASKEY - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is very well researched, documented, and written. It does not idealize Stalin, but rather, like Montefiore's books Young Stalin (Vintage), it provides the whole picture, rather than a selection of facts and events based on one or another ideological point of view. People who totally hate Stalin may not like this book, because it portrays Stalin as a leader of the ultimately successful Russian military effort to repel the invasion, and go on to defeat and destroy the Nazis. Even so, people ought to first read this book through, and then make up their own minds. Richard Overy's book Russia's War: A History of the Soviet Effort: 1941-1945 is a good book to read after finishing this one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stalin's Wars 18 Jan 2007
By T. Kunikov - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Stalin's Wars presents a history of the beginning of the Cold War while showcasing a more objective view of both Stalin and the Soviet Union as a whole. While acknowledging that Stalin and his regime were responsible for massive amounts of injustice and deaths throughout the time period under discussion, Roberts simultaneously shows that Stalin was more than just a black and white personality. Starting from the beginning of the Second World War the author discusses the moves made within the Soviet Union to initially avert war, specifically the attempts to forge an alliance with England and France against Germany, and when such an alliance was not deemed possible, the attempts undertaken to create the best possible position for the USSR, which resulted in a pact with Nazi Germany.

Some might think this a betrayal of some sort but the fact remains that Stalin and the USSR were the first to propose an alliance against Hitler. The Soviet Union continually attempted to stop Hitler's moves on the international arena only to be dismissed by the western powers. Finally, when the Munich conference went through without Stalin even being invited, this was more than enough to show Stalin and the Soviet Union that the western allies were no longer truly serious about stopping Germany's expansionist aims.

Up until 1941 the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had trade relations from which both benefited with Stalin trying his best to avert war even when told via various sources that it was imminent. While he made some major miscalculations in this instance, it is also true that he authorized troop movements, the calling up of reserves, and numerous other actions with the aim of showing Hitler that it would be a mistake to attempt an invasion. Unfortunately, everything that was authorized was too little and too late to stem the tide of the German advance into the Soviet Union once Operation Barbarossa began.

Throughout the beginning period of war, that is up until the battle of Stalingrad, Stalin was responsible for some of the major blunders and mistakes that cost the Red Army hundreds of thousands of casualties. However, it should be kept in mind that Stalin never took a decision on his own. Stalin had a habit of calling meetings and allowing those present to debate the merits of specific proposals. Thus, it was usually easy enough to find someone who would side on issues in a way they thought would please Stalin. Stalin had final say and at times he would make the wrong choice, but he was never a sole figure advocating for it. While this does not excuse the poor decisions he made throughout the war, it sheds light on the fact that he was not the only one making mistakes during the initial period of war on the Eastern Front. Eventually he would relegate more control to his generals and Marshals with the outcome being greater and better organized operations like Uranus, Bagration, etc.

While military history takes up a large chunk of the book it should also be noted that this is also a political history. The author mainly concentrates at the activities of Stalin and his wartime allies, the United States and England. Various meetings were held throughout the war; Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam, which made arrangements for what relations would be like after the war was over. The Polish question was on everyone's mind as well as what would happen to Germany. Additionally, Roosevelt was very interested in having the Soviet Union enter the war against Japan.

One of the interesting aspects of this book are the ideas behind Stalin's insistence that Eastern Europe should be a Soviet sphere of influence. When asked to leave Greece to England, Stalin readily agreed. He took little interest in the developments in Norway, Holland, and a number of other territories freed by the western allies and established once more as independent states within the sphere of influence of either the United States or England. Yet when it came to Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria the allies continued to voice their opinions about what should be going on within these sovereign states that were supposed to be part of the Soviet Union's sphere of influence. Stalin's thinking was that it took Germany 20 years to get into another war, it could take another 20 for WWIII to begin so why shouldn't the Soviet Union do everything in her power to protect herself? These Eastern European states would become a buffer zone for her to protect her from future German aggression, especially since Germany was not going to be broken up as had proposed numerous times.

Although I am only presenting details from various sections of this book that I personally found interesting, there is obviously a lot of information that I'm unable to cover. But the above is a good representation of what can be expected from this text. The author mainly concentrates on Stalin's thinking and actions, contextualizing them into the grand scheme of Soviet history throughout the Second World War and up until Stalin's death in 1953. Many archival sources are utilized as well as recent literature on the Soviet Union that has benefited from the opening of former Soviet archives. 'Stalin's Wars', in my opinion, is an excellent addition to literature on the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War, especially Stalin's role in both events.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wars of a Dictator 3 July 2009
By Cody Carlson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Geoffrey Roberts book "Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953" offers a new look at the dictator's wars of aggression and defense. The scope of this book is unique in that it begins with the Finnish war and ends with Stalin's death as the Cold War was heating up. The strength of this book is the author's presentation of Stalin's actions within these important eras. As Stalin was the absolute master of the Soviet Union it is difficult to imagine Soviet history playing out the same without him. The chapters on the Second World War are very well done and informative, as are for the most part those on Stalin's foreign policy in the early Cold War. The book does tend to run out of steam toward the end, lacking as it does the desperate contingency of the war against Hitler. Also, the reader would have enjoyed more on the Finnish war. The episode, all too commonly, is dealt with as merely a prelude to the "Great Patriotic War". The Russo Finnish War, 1939-40, deserves greater attention in works of this kind, as it shows Stalin at his most devious, aggressive, and impotent. This is a good book that students of the Eastern Front or early Cold War should definitely check out.
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