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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable addition to Stalinaria, 24 July 2009
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This review is from: Stalin and His Hangmen: An Authoritative Portrait of a Tyrant and Those Who Served Him (Paperback)
Rayfield writes fluidly and concisely carrying the reader through at as steady pace through the Principle characters of Stalins regime. His portraits of Djerzinksky and Beria are of particular interest. One learns in some details of the humble origins of the Cheka, forerunners of todays FSB via a train of other incarnations.
These portraits are not as luridly revealing as Sebag's 'In the Court of the Red Tsar', but they unflinchingly counterpoise the brutality of the principle characters actions with their personal traits that may seem incongruent to a reader.

It is clear that in part, absorption into the party apparatus meant a dramatic and awful transformation for men, capable of familial love, filial fraternity, and yet imbued with the intoxicating vision of an almost Godlike power, utter corruption beyond recognition, a vile descent into perversion, cruelty and sadism, a cruelty and callouness only matched by the Holocaust.
Characters like Yezhov, loveable, mischievous, transformed into monsters in the course of bloody duties enthusiastically taken on.
This book makes it explicit that normal men from normal backgrounds, with talents that might raise the soul in the direction of human kindness, could be channelled and deformed by all recognition by the power and obsessional absorption in the politics of power.
These men killed millions by their actions and their own hands. Yet they were husbands, father, lovers, friends, poets even!
This book is a prescient reminder of the capabilities of transformation and corruption that lie within ALL men...
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