Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941

by Stephen Kotkin

Hardcover, 2017

Status

Available

Collection

Publication

Penguin Press, (2017)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mrmapcase
Kotkin has created a masterpiece of a biography, one that is very, very thorough but also eminently readable. Like most biographies of world leaders this is a lengthy book, even more so that it only covers twelve years of Stalin’s life, but the information is not concealed within a mass of text, all of the chapters are broken down into smaller sub-chapters to make for an engaging read.

Free review copy.
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LibraryThing member santhony
When I purchased this biography of Stalin, I was unaware that it was the second of a three volume work. Titled “Waiting for Hitler”, it covers the time from Stalin’s ascendancy to power after the death of Lenin, up to the launch of the German offensive against the USSR, code named Barbarossa.

I have to say, this is not an easy, or enjoyable read. It very meticulously sets out the seemingly endless diplomatic and bureaucratic machinations carried out between 1929 and 1941. The first part details Stalin’s solidification of absolute power following the death of Lenin. It covers the dekulakization and collectivization of agriculture and the attendant famines that resulted. It then devolves into the terror that followed, in which Stalin murdered or exiled virtually every competent Soviet government official and military officer, in an orgy of paranoia fed violence. Page after page of Russian names soon blend together, making it impossible for me to follow. This middle part of the book is very slow going.

Finally, with the arrival of Hitler on the international scene, my interest level rose. While I was certainly well versed in the basics of pre-World War II diplomacy, this book certainly covers all of the bases. The never ending diplomatic dances involving the British, French, Russians, Germans, Italians, Polish, Chinese (Nationalist and Communist) and Japanese (not to mention the various Balkan and Baltic states) frequently resulted in temporary non-aggression agreements and trade pacts between very strange bedfellows. That the Germans and Soviets could climb into bed together after a decade of demonization from both sides tells you the complexity of the diplomatic landscape. The Soviets were shipping raw materials to Germany and the Germans were shipping finished military hardware to the Soviet Union right up to the eve of Barbarossa.

This is an extremely comprehensive and well researched piece of work. That, in itself, makes it somewhat difficult to wade through. I can usually read a book of this length (1,000 pages of text) in two weeks, three at most. It took me six weeks to finish this beast, albeit with two different four day breaks. I would recommend this work only to those with a pre-existing background or interest in the subject, looking for in-depth historical background and analysis. This is not pleasure reading.

One thing that I appreciated was the author’s tendency to break each long chapter into numerous two or three page topics, each with their own descriptive heading, making it easy to find a stopping point each evening.
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Language

Original language

English

Barcode

6983
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