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A SUNDAY TIMES HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017 'A brilliant, compelling, propulsively written, magnificent tour de force' Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard 'The second volume of what will surely rank as one of the greatest historical achievements of our age ... The War and Peace of history: a book you fear you will never finish, but just cannot put down' Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times Well before 1929, Stalin had achieved dictatorial power over the Soviet empire, but now he decided that the largest peasant economy in the world would be transformed into socialist modernity, whatever it took. What it took, and what Stalin managed to force through, transformed the country and its ruler in profound and enduring ways. Rather than a tale of a deformed or paranoid personality creating a political system, this is a story of a political system shaping a personality. Building and running a dictatorship, with power of life or death over hundreds of millions, in conditions of capitalist self-encirclement, made Stalin the person he became. Wholesale collectivization of agriculture, some 120 million peasants, necessitated levels of coercion that were extreme even for Russia, but Stalin did not flinch; the resulting mass starvation and death elicited criticism inside the party even from those Communists committed to the eradication of capitalism. By 1934, when the situation had stabilized and socialism had been built in the countryside too, the internal praise came for his uncanny success in anticapitalist terms. But Stalin never forgot and never forgave, with bloody consequences as he strove to consolidate the state with a brand new elite. Stalin had revived a great power with a formidable industrialized military. But the Soviet Union was effectively alone, with no allies and enemies perceived everywhere. The quest to find security would bring Soviet Communism into an improbable pact with Nazi Germany. But that bargain did not work out as envisioned. The lives of Stalin and Hitler, and the fates of their respective countries, drew ever closer to collision. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler: 1929-1941 is, like its predecessor Stalin: Paradoxes of Power: 1878-1928, nothing less than a history of the world from Stalin's desk. It is also, like its predecessor, a landmark achievement in the annals of the biographer's art. Kotkin's portrait captures the vast structures moving global events, and the intimate details of decision-making.
Pulitzer Prize-finalist Stephen Kotkin has written the definitive biography of Joseph Stalin, from collectivization and the Great Terror to the conflict with Hitler's Germany that is the signal event of modern world history In 1929, Joseph Stalin, having already achieved dictatorial power over the vast Soviet Empire, formally ordered the systematic conversion of the world’s largest peasant economy into “socialist modernity,” otherwise known as collectivization, regardless of the cost. What it cost, and what Stalin ruthlessly enacted, transformed the country and its ruler in profound and enduring ways. Building and running a dictatorship, with life and death power over hundreds of millions, made Stalin into the uncanny figure he became. Stephen Kotkin’s Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941 is the story of how a political system forged an unparalleled personality and vice versa. The wholesale collectivization of some 120 million peasants necessitated levels of coercion that were extreme even for Russia, and the resulting mass starvation elicited criticism inside the party even from those Communists committed to the eradication of capitalism. But Stalin did not flinch. By 1934, when the Soviet Union had stabilized and socialism had been implanted in the countryside, praise for his stunning anti-capitalist success came from all quarters. Stalin, however, never forgave and never forgot, with shocking consequences as he strove to consolidate the state with a brand new elite of young strivers like himself. Stalin’s obsessions drove him to execute nearly a million people, including the military leadership, diplomatic and intelligence officials, and innumerable leading lights in culture. While Stalin revived a great power, building a formidable industrialized military, the Soviet Union was effectively alone and surrounded by perceived enemies. The quest for security would bring Soviet Communism to a shocking and improbable pact with Nazi Germany. But that bargain would not unfold as envisioned. The lives of Stalin and Hitler, and the fates of their respective dictatorships, drew ever closer to collision, as the world hung in the balance. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941 is a history of the world during the build-up to its most fateful hour, from the vantage point of Stalin’s seat of power. It is a landmark achievement in the annals of historical scholarship, and in the art of biography.
This is a stimulating and highly original collection of essays from a team of internationally renowned experts. The contributors reinterpret key issues and debates, including political, social, cultural and international aspects of the Russian revolution stretching from the late imperial period into the early Soviet state.
There are some figures in modern history who stand out not just for their amoral conduct but their cruelty. This book explores the life of the notorious Beria, Stalin’s henchman. The first part provides an outline of the turbulent history of Russia from 1900 to 1953, in order to set the background from which Beria emerged. The second section presents a biography of Beria from his youth, his early education, and his obsequious behaviour towards Stalin to his rise to be the head of the NKVD (KGB) and later to be amongst the most senior leaders of the Communist structure in the USSR. He was responsible for the deaths of millions (and for organising the Katyń massacre), infamous for murdering colleagues, and a sexual predator, and became the most feared man in the USSR next to Stalin. The third and fourth parts move away from history and biography to moral philosophy, in order to understand from where such evil conduct arises. The question of free-will is explored in the light of human insight, and these sections also discuss the most recent scientific claims concerning human behaviour, as well as the factors which influence people in decision making.
Without Trotsky there would have been no Bolshevik Revolution, but Trotsky was no Bolshevik. Providing a full account of Trotsky’s role during the Russian Civil War and concentrating on his time as an active participant in Russian revolutionary politics, rather than his ideological writings of emigration, Swain gives the student a very different picture of the Bolshevik Commissar of War. This radically new interpretation of Trotsky’s career spanning 1905-1917 incorporates the tense relationship between Trotsky and Lenin until 1917, and pays particular attention to the Russian Civil War and Trotsky’s military organisation and contribution to the war. Swain argues critically that Trotsky achieved where Lenin would have failed, suggesting that Trotsky was in the main part responsible for the Bolshevik Revolution.
Supporters of Stalin saw Trotsky as a traitor and renegade. Trotsky’s own supporters saw him as the only true Leninist. In Trotsky and the Russian Revolution, Geoffrey Swain restores Trotsky to his real and central role in the Russian Revolution. In this succinct and comprehensive study, Swain contests that: In the years between 1903 and 1917, it was the ideas of Trotsky, rather than Lenin, which shaped the nascent Bolshevik Party and prepared it for the overthrow of the Tsar. During the autumn of 1917 workers supported Trotsky’s idea of an insurrection carried out by the soviet, rather than Lenin’s demand for a party orchestrated coup d’etat. During the Russian Civil War, Trotsky persuaded a sceptical Lenin that the only way to victory was through the employment of officers trained in the Tsar’s army. As well as examining Trotsky’s critique of Stalin’s Russia in the 1930s, this seminar reader probes deeper to explore the ideas which drove Trotsky forward during his years of influence over Russia’s revolutionary politics, exploring such key concepts as how to construct a revolutionary party, how to stage a successful insurrection, how to fight a revolutionary war, and how to build a socialist state.

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