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on 30 December 2007
This book is superb. Very readable and packed full of information. It chronologically details the careers of the 3 dictators in an objective but candid way. Dealing with the political rather than the personal lives of the dictators, the book is fast paced and very interesting. Drawing on a wide range of research (including some of his own, which he has obtained from Germany and Russia) Gellately manages to present a well known topic in an original and fresh way. Very readable.
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on 22 September 2015
Although there are already many academic books on these three dictators, the present book by Robert Gellately, one of the leading historians on Europe, is very readable and suitable for the general reader.

It is the author's attempt to record the evils perpetrated by both Soviet Communism and German Nazism and to figure out how the two systems brought such misery and destruction to Europe during the first half of the twentieth century, which was "the age of social catastrophe" as the author puts it.

It describes the strategies and tactics that these dictators used in order to gain and increase power; Lenin resorted to class hatred and violence; Stalin repression and violence; and Hitler political power by consent, racism and violence. Many historians tend to compare only Stalin with Hitler, but Lenin is added here (the shortest section of the book) since, according to the author, Lenin laid the foundation for terror that Stalin used.

Although the author's narrative is concise and fast-moving, there are enough details on key issues such as the Soviet labour camps (initiated by Lenin); Hitler's hatred of "Jewish-Bolshevism" and his invasion of the Soviet Union (the western front is only briefly described); Stalin's Terror and ethnic cleansing and his efforts to combat the Nazis and to gain territories after the war.

The author had access to new information, since the fall of Communism, on the number of Russian casualties of WWII and Stalin's Terror. I think it is worth reflecting how many people perished in Europe alone during the first half of the last century - causing the huge loss of a gene pool - as a result of these dictators' actions.
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on 30 January 2010
This is a really good book, and readable, although perhaps a bit long. I probably only say that because I found the earlier chapters more interesting, so struggled a bit with it towards the end. Not many surprises about Hitler and Stalin, but the real reason I wanted to read it was to find out more about Lenin. I considered this by far the most interesting stuff in the book, and the author does make a clear case that the soviet union would probably have taken the direction it did even had Lenin been at the helm for longer. I would certainly recommend it above some of the more popular books being published about this period of history, such as Young Stalin.
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on 18 September 2012
I enjoyed this book, learned new things about these people. I was born in 1944 when Stalin was an ally of those fighting against Germany in WWII. In those days lots of things were secret. One of the advantages of being old is that secrets are revealed and explained if you wait long enough. I enjoyed reading the author's interpretation of events I had lived through. I was unaware of most of the facts about Lenin.

I am now doing an Open University module in which I have to study 'The myth of Stalin'. I thought I would read this for some background, and discovered that there were lots of myths about Lenin, too, and that Krushchev used those myths to bring about changes in the USSR.

If there were mistakes in the book, I didn't find them. I recommend it for everyone interested in 20th Century history.
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on 6 December 2010
although it has it's minor flaws and slightly boring bits, this book is a great addition to anyone's history collection. since reading it i have gained a much greater understanding of the three tyrants, especially Lenin, whose section in my opinion is the best (if shortest). it reasses Lenin's role in the creation of the Soviet state and states that the soviet state would probably have gone the same way it did, even with Lenin behind the helm. with evidence of his creation of the secret police and work camps, starting of the terror and censorship of the press. within 2 days. overall a great work and a political biography of all three as well as passages on the Russian revolution, rise of the Nazi party and second world war
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on 28 November 2012
This is really not a very good book, especially considering the author's apparent academic qualifications and his work in the field of German social history in the Nazi era. One of its central theses is how comparisons of Stalin and Hitler in books by people like Bullock and Overy omit the importance of Lenin, but the book really doesn't show why including lenin adds significantly to understanding the whole picture - it just makes the book longer. Not that the book is actually very detailed - one of the disappointments is how lightweight the material is, with important episodes skimmed over and a distinct lack of evidence. Overall I'd say this would be a passable introduction but it is way behind in quality to the authors mentioned above.
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on 24 February 2012
I'll start with a confession; I didn't complete the book. It's clearly reheated Cold War era historiography and I tired of that long before the Cold War ended. I only read the first section which dealt with Lenin, the Russian Revolution and Civil War and got bored and irritated with the one-dimensional vision, the exaggerations, the omission of reference to context, the omission of counter evidence, the omission of counter analysis, the mendacious distortion of evidence. It was obvious where the rest of the book was going - to a linear so-called `Totalitarian' analysis where Lenin, Stalin and Hitler get painted with the same brush- and so I saved my time.

Among Gellately's many faults and errors I would mention: his total misunderstanding of the nature of a `vanguard party', sure his portrayal of the concept aids his aim of showing the `evil' `anti-democratic' nature of Bolshevism but it's not an accurate portrayal. How else does Gellately continue his hatchet job? Well, he drags out the charge that the Bolsheviks were financed by the Germans which is a tired old charge that lacks supporting evidence. Lenin is charged with not complaining about anti-semitism when one can read his denunciations and even hear a speech of his against it on the web. Numbers killed by the Red Terror are grossly exaggerated while the causation and greater death toll from the White Terror barely rate a mention. Policy towards the Cossacks is misrepresented leading to an unwarranted charge, a lie in fact, of genocide. Gellately wants to cling to the `continuity thesis', that Lenin lead to and caused Stalin and so the inconvenience of Lenin's Testament where he calls for Stalin's removal is simply brushed aside with no serious engagement with the evidence.

This is childish, non-serious history that seeks to present a neat continuum whereas real history is far more complex and to bolster this simplicity resorts to misrepresentation, exaggeration and, on occasion, outright falsehood.
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on 7 January 2016
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