Inside Stalin's Head

A biography offers fresh insights on one of history's bloodiest dictators.


Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928, by Stephen Kotkin, Penguin Press, 912 pages, $59.99

We all think we know Stalin. He was the brutal and vengeful dictator of the Soviet Union from the late 1920s until 1953, when, mercifully, he died before he could do any more damage. He was the instigator of forced industrialization and collectivization, taking his country down a dead-end path to modernity from which its heirs are still trying to recover. As the valued ally of Great Britain and the United States during World War II, he was responsible for his country's great victory over Nazism, which cost, sometimes senselessly, the lives of 27 million Soviet citizens. He was the primary author of the Cold War, instigating such crises as the Berlin Blockade and the Korean conflict. Stalin killed millions of people—party rivals, army officers, "kulaks" (supposedly rich peasants), ex-tsarist bureaucrats and nobles, nationalities, "asocials" (alleged prostitutes, petty thieves, gamblers, the chronically homeless and unemployed, etc.), and innumerable "counterrevolutionaries." He used the famine of the early 1930s to commit genocide against the Ukrainians. He deported and murdered hundreds of thousands of Soviet Poles, Germans, Koreans, Chechens—Ingush, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks—the list goes on and on.

Yet given Stalin's enormous importance to the history of the 20th century, it is remarkable how little we understand about his personality and motives. He left no memoirs and kept no diaries. His letters to his comrades, such as the telegraphic communications he sent to Moscow from his summer headquarters in Sochi, rarely have the color or tone of intimate notes. Those around him maintained no records of his conversations or ruminations. Memoirs of close comrades and acolytes, such as Viacheslav Molotov or Anastas Mikoyan, were not published until long after Stalin's death. The same goes for the scattered reminiscences of a variety of family members, chauffeurs, cooks, and security guards.

He was an inveterate editor, so we do have his frequent markings on political articles and essays and notations on manuscripts and books. We hear him "speak" in lengthy and detailed official protocols of the Central Committee or Politburo meetings that were made available to researchers after the fall of the Soviet Union. But these reveal more about his signature political repartee—hard hitting, to the point, caustic, self-deprecating—than about his inner world. Historians also face the same problem that his contemporaries did in trying to understand him: Stalin was a consummate dissembler. He frequently assumed poses, played roles, and concealed his real thoughts. He plotted and schemed and had a supremely tactical mind.

In Paradoxes of Power, the first installment of a projected three-volume biography of Stalin, the Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin has done a superb job of getting us up close to the dictator. This book traces Stalin's story from birth to 1928, when he inflicted the momentous First Five Year Plan and forced collectivization on the Soviet Union. Kotkin has mastered the vast historical literature, read reams of formal protocols of party and state meetings, made full use of document collections, and chased down rare and little known memoirs and reminiscences about his subject. This first volume is, in some ways, the hardest to research, since there is a great deal that is not known about Stalin's boyhood, life as a seminary student, and career as a radical activist in Georgia. It becomes easier to trace Stalin's astonishing rise to power once he assumed his crucial role in the development of the Communist Party after the October Revolution.

Stalin—Iosef Djugashvili—was born in the uplands Georgian town of Gori ("hill") in December 1878. His father was a simple cobbler who drank heavily and separated from his handsome mother in 1883, when young Iosef, nicknamed Soso, was just 5. Many biographers search for the origins of Stalin's incredible brutality and indifference to the pain of others in his youth, claiming that his alcoholic father beat both him and his mother and that he grew up in a violent milieu. Kotkin emphasizes instead that Stalin's childhood was not unusual for young urban Georgian plebeians of that time and that the stories of beatings are much overdone. Young Soso's mother coddled and nurtured him, making sure—with the help of friends, relatives, and interested churchmen—that he had a good education and was able to enter the seminary. The adolescent Stalin was not particularly a young tough; he was a sensitive and ambitious student, reading and writing poetry, influenced especially by Georgian nationalist epics and romantic verses. Soso also apparently had a quite beautiful voice and sang in seminary choruses. In short, there is not much in his background to foreshadow the mind-boggling violence and treacherous political backstabbing that came later.

Similarly, Stalin's interest in revolutionary activity did not derive, as many biographers would have it, from a particularly strong proclivity toward the violence and banditry that are endemic to the mountains of the Caucasus and a common characteristic of Georgian folk heroes. Stalin, like so many young non-Russian students in various parts of the empire—whether in Riga, Warsaw, Khar'kov, Minsk, or Tiflis—set off on the path to radical thinking at the end of the 19th century by reading socialist literature and experiencing some bitter moments of personal humiliation in an empire increasingly dedicated to the Russification of its population. He was deeply attracted to ideology and its relevance to political questions, something that stayed with him the rest of his life. Ideology was the lens through which he saw the world around him and interpreted both its opportunities and its dangers.

Still, Koba, as Stalin was known in Georgian radical circles, was not averse to revolutionary bloodshed. Certainly, he was involved in the planning of the major Tiflis bank robbery of 1907 during which more than 30 people died. In his activities among workers in the oil industry in Baku, he was known to be aloof, conspiratorial, and sharp tongued. The Baku radical milieu was famous for its hostage taking, ransoms, and piracy. Crucial, too, was Stalin's attraction to a particularly extreme socialist ideology, Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevism. But none of this, Kotkin reminds us, can be seen as presaging his extraordinary rise to the pinnacle of political power in Soviet Russia.

It was Leon Trotsky who began a long tradition of deprecating Stalin's talents as a political leader when he called the Georgian nothing but an "errand boy" for Lenin in the revolution of 1917. As Stalin's rival from the get-go—the two seemed to have a visceral hatred of one another—Trotsky (and after him, a number of biographers) portrayed Stalin as a mediocre and ignorant bureaucrat, representing the self-serving interests of a class of incompetent and petty bourgeois functionaries who would take Russia down the path toward a Thermidorean Reaction. Kotkin emphatically and convincingly refutes this take, suggesting instead that Stalin, after Lenin, was one of the most important figures in the Bolshevik seizure of power and the civil war that followed.

As general secretary of the Communist Party, Stalin essentially built the party and the Soviet state, always attentive to Lenin's wishes and ideas, ready to proffer his own conceptions, but also willing to compromise and learn, especially when it came to the admonitions of "Il'ich" (Lenin). Stalin was able, hard working, and focused, as well as conniving and manipulative. When Lenin suffered a series of strokes in 1923 and died in January 1924, Stalin was in many ways Lenin's most natural successor. Trotsky, of course, did not see it this way, nor did a number of other contenders for power. Moreover, the Georgian was little known outside of narrow party and government circles. Still, Stalin had served as Lenin's chief deputy, was a diligent student of the Bolshevik master's thought, and had already amassed a considerable following among the middle level of the party.

The struggle for succession began before Lenin's death. The stricken leader was eventually confined to an estate outside of Moscow, only episodically able to come to the Kremlin for consultations. Though he desperately tried to influence the course of Bolshevik policy and thus the succession, he was increasingly incapable of expressing himself either on paper or verbally. Lenin's "Testament," released in late May 1923, called into question the capabilities of all the major contenders for party leadership. About Stalin, he wrote: "Comrade Stalin, having become general secretary, has concentrated boundless power in his hands; and I am not sure that he will always be able to use that power with sufficient caution." This wise (if rather hypocritical) observation was followed by an "addendum," released in June 1923, which emphasized: "Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in relations among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a general secretary. That is why I suggest the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin."

Kotkin lines up with some recent scholarship that suggests these documents may have been faked—that Lenin's wife and secretaries, who saw to the infirm leader's daily care, may well have published the Testament and addendum without any dictation from Lenin. They did this, the argument goes, not so much to keep Stalin from leadership as to maintain a balance between Stalin and the other contestants for power. Kotkin shrewdly argues that the Testament proved to be a Damocles sword hanging over Stalin, constantly threatening him with the humiliating revelation that Lenin had rejected him. This was not just a threat to his political ambitions but also a blow to his sense of self as Lenin's most loyal lieutenant. Kotkin suggests that Stalin's later vindictive murderousness derived in part from the resentment, self-pity, and sense of victimhood he inherited from a long struggle with the Testament and its meaning. In short, the Testament, fake or not, had a crucial effect on the development of Stalin and Stalinism.

Once Lenin died on January 21, 1924, Stalin moved to assume the formal mantle of leadership by swearing fealty to Lenin and Leninism in a liturgically structured oration—befitting the seminary student he had been—at the dictator's funeral. (Conveniently for Stalin, Trotsky was on his way to a cure in the south and did not consider it necessary to rush back to Moscow for the ceremony.) In order to present his ideological credentials for leadership, Stalin also published "The Essentials of Leninism," which, Kotkin tells us, was plagiarized from a minor comrade's work. But succession in the Soviet system was never assured, and Stalin was faced with struggles from the "left," meaning not just Trotsky but Grigori Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, and from the "right," meaning Nikolai Bukharin, Nikolai Rykov, and Mikhail Tomsky. Kotkin adds the intriguing finance expert, Grigori Sokolnikov, who called for Stalin's removal from the Politburo in 1925, to the cast of characters involved in the mix of policy prescriptions and political alignments.

The political struggle was sharp, intense, and dangerous for Stalin; there were moments when he might well have been removed. During the 1920s, writes Kotkin, Stalin developed an "increasing hyper-suspiciousness bordering on paranoia" that was "fundamentally political—and it closely mirrored the Bolshevik revolution's in-built structural paranoia, the predicament of a communist regime in an overwhelmingly capitalist world, surrounded by, penetrated by enemies." Added to this "structural paranoia" was the mounting perceived threat of foreign intervention during the late 1920s. War scares were frequent and disabling, and the Soviet leadership understood that the country's army was in pathetic condition.

The fears that derived from this situation intensified with reports from the countryside, where peasants withheld grain from the market and production figures plummeted. In 1928, Stalin went to Siberia to outline his radical plan for the full-scale collectivization of agriculture. His announcement sent shock waves through the party. It was essentially an abandonment of the New Economic Policy, which since 1921 had allowed peasants the right to sell their grain on the market. Collectivization also seemed impossible at a time when few party members and state structures penetrated the Soviet villages. Stalin launched his brutal attack on the countryside in conjunction with the beginnings of a "drawn-out, painstakingly sadistic humiliation" of Nikolai Bukharin, a strong supporter of the New Economic Policy, who eventually was denounced, tried as a counterrevolutionary, and executed.

Stalin's economic policies in this period were thoroughly intertwined not just with his Marxist-Leninist ideology but with his drive to dominate his political opponents. Combined with the threat to the state from record low grain procurements, Stalin's exaggerated fears of foreign invasion, exacerbated by the ideological prediction that imperialism would try to destroy the successful socialist revolution, set off a chain of bloody events from 1928 to 1938 that would rock the Soviet Union and the world.

Kotkin insists that this is not just a story about Lenin, Stalin, and the delusions of Bolshevism, though it is certainly that. Late Imperial Russia faced a similar problem: Both regimes wanted to modernize a peasant society to withstand the pressure of enemies abroad and at home. The Russian village stood in the way, both for Stalin and for Piotr Stolypin, the prime minister and minister of internal affairs under Czar Nicholas II from 1906 until his assassination in 1911. But while Stolypin tried to consolidate peasant holdings in an attempt to create productive yeoman farmers who would support the tsarist regime, Stalin was intent on destroying individual family farming, collectivizing agriculture, and smashing the political independence of the peasantry, which he saw as threatening Bolshevik power.

Kotkin's study is a big book, with more than 600 pages of text and over 300 pages of bibliography and detailed endnotes. Kotkin goes to great pains to embed Stalin's life within the larger Russian, European, and even world history of modernization and state building. Fortunately, Kotkin is an accomplished stylist as well as an amazingly diligent scholar. So the narrative, despite telling an intricate story that alternates between context and the details of Stalin's life and career, is frequently exciting and fast-paced. The bad news on completing it is that the reader wants to keep going; the good news is that two more volumes are to come.

Norman M. Naimark (naimark@stanford.edu) is a professor of East European Studies and the director of the Global Studies Division at Stanford University. His books include Stalin's Genocides (Princeton), Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in 20th Century Europe (Harvard), and The Russians in Germany: The History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation (Harvard).

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  1. Yeah, I'm not sure I want to spend an entire book - much less three books - following the career of a mass murderer. Too depressing. Give me the life of someone who did at least a few good things.

    1. Here you go brother. One of my favorites. Guys like this are why we live in the world we do. A genius and a hero. That is probably why no one hears about him.



      1. Mega-awesome; who knew a relative of a President could be so useful to humanity!

        1. The guy's life reads like fiction. Everything he accomplished he did so in spite of his nemesis, I forget his name. He was the personification of a bureaucratic hack who tried to stop Eads at every turn.

          Really, Eads is like a fictional Libertarian hero, intrepid, ballsy, genius, and always succeeding in spite of bureaucracy and unions.

          I think Rand's character in Atlas Shrugged Dagny Taggard's father is based on Eads.

      2. I've ordered the Kotkin book, but I'll add that one to my reading list as well.


    2. One of my favorite 20th lives: Max Eastman. His autobiographies are wonderful, as is his book on humor.

      1. Some of the people he knew: Pablo Casals, Charlie Chaplin, Eugene Debs, John Dewey, Isadora Duncan, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, H. L. Mencken, John Reed, Paul Robeson, Bertrand Russell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, George Santayana, E. W. Scripps, George Bernard Shaw, Carlo Tresca, Leon Trotsky, Mark Twain and H. G. Wells.


        1. Wells' review of Metropolis is an extremely entertaining read. I had never come across it until the latest release of the film with the restored scenes and it was certainly more than I was expecting considering his useful idiocy in regards to the Soviet Union and Stalin.

      2. Oh. I thought you meant George Eastman.

      3. Max Eastman was a member of both the Delta Psi and Phi Beta Kappa societies. (rapist)

        Seriously though, thanks to the several of you referring us to interesting historical persons. One of the best perks of hanging around this forum.

        1. As a member of Phi Beta Kappa, I can say that membership provides very few opportunities for rape.

    3. Try reading a biography of Talleyrand. He's not a saint, he's actually quite infamous, but mainly for intrigue and philandering rather than mass murder. The fact that he managed to play a major role in overthrowing the French Monarchy, then dethroning the revolutionaries after they exiled him, putting Napoleon in power, then when Napoleon got too ambitious, he cooperated with the Russians to try to rid of him; he basically dictated the peace that followed, then helped overthrow the French monarchy once again to replace it with a more liberal monarchy before he died.

      For a guy switched sides so many times it's hard to decide whether to sympathize with him. I think Talleyrand was one of the most interesting statesmen who ever lived. He is said to be the most charming man who ever lived (often evidenced both by his ability to survive, an by the number of women he bedded).

    4. I'd like to know more about Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, M.D.

  2. But his intentions were good! And it wasn't all bad, was it? /sarc

  3. I'm sure he meant well. He was just a little overenthusiastic in his desire to hoist the Soviet Union into the modern world.

  4. OT (sorta) =

    Do me a favor? and type "How long does" into your google search box

    and tell me what the #1 suggested answer is

    1. For me "how long does the flu last".

      1. I got flu as well.

    2. I got "How long does Xanax Last?".

    3. same as HM, "the flu last"

      1. Or wait, unless you mean, actually do a search on HOW LONG DOES, first result is: "How Long Does THC Stay In Your System?"

        Followed by several other THC-related hits.

        1. Yes I got How long does THC stay in your system.

          Which may have been something I searched a few times in the last ten years.

          I just did some searches for flu a week or so ago as I had been sick but I did not search "how long" for flu so that one did not show up.

        2. 4 of the top 5 are THC and alcohol persistence in the body. Number 5 is "How Long Will I Live".

          Google search engine has a sense of humor.

      2. Mine was "how long does adderall last"

        The flu was the second suggestion.

    4. I got all this stuff about torture porn.


      1. How long does it take to get abs (1st suggested)

        How Long Does THC Stay In Your System? - Leaf Science
        How Long Does Marijuana Stay in the Body? - Alcoholism
        How long will it take to process my application?

      2. "how long does torture porn with STEVE SMITH last?"

    5. How long does THC stay in your body

    6. "how long does the flu last"

      1. "how long does your organ of generation have to be before causes you to tip over with the weight"

        Hmmm...I wonder why they gave me that result?


    7. The four suggestions it gives me, in order:

      how long does the flu last
      how long does it take to get a passport
      how long does a cold last
      how long does food poisoning last

      1. by the way = the above were my exact *next 4*, but #1 was about the decomposing corpse.


      2. My first was about Adderall, followed by the passport and the flu

    8. Ok, its just me then.

      My #1 response was

      "How long does it take for a body to decompose"

      Why I get the 'macabre' default, god knows.

      1. Well what's the answer?

        1. ...

          i didn't check. I was trying to find out how long to run a system-stability test/burn-in application. 'Geek stuff', not 'how long before the Jehovas' Witness starts to stink'

          1. Try 'infant mortality' 'weibull' or 'MTBF'

      2. Google's algorithms try to predict what you want based on past searches. Looks to me like you've been doing too many searches on how to kill your neighbors and discretely dispose of their bodies. The NSA is on to you. The next knock might be a SWAT team...

        1. Don't be silly.

          SWAT teams don't knock.

      3. Has someone else using your computer? If so, you may want to watch that person closely...

        If they start buying Chianti and fava beans, run.

    9. "how long does a car battery last"

    10. If I type it in, it's:

      how long does the flu last

      If I copy/paste I get:

      How Long Does THC Stay In Your System?

    11. how long does it take to become a doctor

      That's certainly not something I've googled or need to google (I already know, heh). Wonder what I've been doing to put that on top.

    12. This reminds me of one time I typed something like "do Jews have.." into Google to search something about ancestry I was checking out, I don't remember what. I just remember the first suggestion after I typed those three words was "do Jews have horns?"

    13. How long to bake a chicken breast. I think I actually asked that once.

    14. "... does it take to get a passport"

      Is someone telling me something?

    15. Interesting:

      How Long Does THC Stay In Your System?

      How Long Does Marijuana Stay in the Body? - Alcoholism

      How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Your System? Infographic

      How Long Does Alcohol Stay in the Body?

      10. How long does it take to get SNAP benefits if I can't get ...

      So lots of pot, then some booze to go with it, and then some free food for the munchies.

      1. Darn, I too misread the question, those were hits. The suggestions are:

        the flu last
        it take to get a passport
        a cold last
        food poisoning last
        it take to get to mars
        Xanax last
        Adderall last
        it take for a check to clear
        menopause last
        shingles last

    16. How long does a community organizer need to destroy a country?

    17. How long to cook a turkey

    18. I got "...it take"- followed by the flu thing.

      First link had the title "How long does it take to beat..."

  5. Stalin certainly had a colorful past before he became Russia's top strongman. I believe he came from a cossack region of Russia full of bandits where entire townsfolk would be 'in' on bank robberies and the like.

    1. According to the review, it wasn't Georgian tradition, but radical reading and associations, which turned him into a killing-oriented direction.

      1. Both Pipes and Figes ( http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb.....pbooks,293 ) have the bank robberies as a method of financing the radical left societies, not a part of any particular national culture.
        They were stealing and killing long before they had a chance to stick their hands in your pocket directly.

        1. How badly does a bank robbery have to go to end up killing 30 people? Cripes. A harbinger of Stalin's delicate touch as a ruler.

          And after searching for pictures of Stalin's mother, the word "handsome" is not what comes to mind.

          1. Reservoir Dogs comes to mind.

      2. re: Paul & NGKC

        I've read 3 or 4 stalin books, and from what i recall it was a bit of both

        The town in georgia he was from had a long history of being full of criminals and thugs. Wikipedia notes =

        "The town where Ioseb grew up was a violent and lawless place. It had only a small police force and a culture of violence that included gang warfare, organized street brawls and wrestling tournaments. Ioseb was frequently involved in brawls with other children.[1]"

        As a young man he served as "muscle" for regional labor party groups. later, for the Bolsheviks, he was again entirely a 'action' guy, leading attacks, conducting sabotage, kidnapping people, etc.

        I forget the quote, but the Russians regularly referred to him as something like 'simple-minded Georgian crook'; basically, a thuggish country boy. I know he did have brains, but it wasn't what impressed his peers, apparently.

        1. Probably akin to other regions like Sicily, plagued by a mixture of anarchy and feudalism. Political violence and old fashioned Mafia-type bandit groups get quite mixed up with each other.

          Same thing happened of course in the US with most of the labor unions, incidentally.

      3. "radical reading and associations, which turned him into a killing-oriented direction."

        But is that a which cam first chicken or egg situation? IOW did the fact he was a psychopath push him torwards those readings and associations or vice versa. Relevant to all sorts of modern day discussions of the same sort.

        1. Article the other day but increase in shootings by juveniles in Columbus. Of the there was the comment from a local pastor that we need to find out how guns are making it into the hands if people that can't handle that responsibility. Like the gun is responsible for them murdering people. Why is it tens of millions of young people who have access to guns never think of pointing a gun at another person much less shooting them but the first thing that happens when these young people get a gun is they kill people with it. There's definately something wrong but its not access to guns.

            1. My point was really that someone not already predisposed to murder isn't going to become a murderer just because they read Marx, or in my example got a hold of a gun. I've read the Communist Manifesto and yet no desire to purge the capitalists. I have guns and yet no desire to kill everyone who I perceive of some slight.

              1. Oh I see. The first sentence threw me off.
                I've also bought & read the Manifesto a few years back... that thing is hilarious; I like how Marx used some Romantic philosophy to oppose the industrial revolution and hold up the peasant village culture before it as a kind of paradise.
                I wish I'd bought it at age 17 when I was a pinko anti-capitalist. Marx's original ideas, like Freud's, are so flawed even ignoring the economic theory it's easy to see how wrong and completely outdated his thoughts are.

                1. Das Kapital is in some ways even worse. It's largely a collection of rants and anecdotes pretending to be evidence, and occasionally Marx even tries to do math (like where he "proves" that profit is labor value stolen from workers).

                  I took a class on Capital (the book) taught by a pseudomarxist who, while acknowledging criticism of Marx, always seemed to try to deflect or minimize it. He wanted to preserve Marx's reputation as a deep thinker, if not the flawlessness of his thoughts. If were less polite, I would have pointed out that Marx is less intellectually rigorous than the unibomber, and should be taken no more seriously.

        2. Considering how even Marx/Hegel advocated genocide of more primitive pre-capitalist societies including the whole of Celtic culture to speed up the forward progression from capitalist to socialist/communist society it isn't too far fetched to believe his radical friends and intellectuals turned him into a mass-killing machine

        3. i think that's a good point

          Eric Hoffer pointed out that many of the most hardcore 'true believer' types often latched onto ideology primarily as a convenient excuse to engage in lording over their peers. AND that they tended to be extremely dogmatic and revel in their own mastery of the ideological literature as a way of gaining status in their movement.

          Also that these same types were often noted to be some of the fastest converts to opposing orthodoxy whenever it seemed of significant advantage; the most radical communists were the quickest to become anti-communists, or suddenly turn to god, or adopt Nazi sympathies, or whatever alternative system presented itself

    2. I remember listening to a discussion between Christopher Hitchens & Victor Davis Hanson that was, in part, about Stalin & Hitler.

      They brought up the interesting point that often people who most buy into some kind of violent statist system come from the periphery of the state which they, themselves, come to dominate. So Stalin Georgia to Russia/USSR; Hitler Austria to Germany; Hanson cited a couple from ancient history and Hitchens had one or two from the 19th century all of which I forget now.

      1. Napoleon (from Corsica) is the obvious example most people cite.

        1. Right, that was one. Duh, can't believe I forgot that.

        2. It may be an inferiority complex type thing. In Napoleon's case, he had a huge chip on his shoulder both for being an 'outsider' and also for being a commoner rather than a nobleman. He was constantly trying to compensate for these things. Maybe Stalin and company had similar motivations.

          I forget who said it, but someone once said that a strong sense of inadequacy in men is one of the greatest driving forces behind their accomplishments or crimes. It can be said for many scientists as well as dictators.

        1. Nevermind, I didn't see you were talking about violent statist conquerors.

          1. No that actually works - my first post was poorly expressed. When they were talking about the older cases, they emphasized the way that "fringe" leaders were more devoted promoters of the core culture than most of the people in the core so AtG definitely fits.

  6. He plotted and schemed and had a supremely tactical mind.

    For politics, not so much for actual war. The thing that ultimately turned the Nazi invasion of Russia around were Stalin's commanders ignoring him. Had Stalin had his way, it's probably even more millions of Russians would have been slaughtered before it was all over.

    1. I doubt Russian commanders not listening to Stalin had anything to do with it. It all had to do with numbers and the fact that Germany could never win a war of attrition against a country as massive as Russia.

      There was that old documentary. "The World at War". In one episode a German officer wrote back to his wife that fighting in Russia was like an elephant attacking an army of ants, every time the elephant steps he kills hundreds but in the end the elephant is overcome and is eaten to the bone.

      The amount of casualties generals like Zhukov were willing to take to win a battle was something unthinkable to the US or Britain.

      1. I doubt Russian commanders not listening to Stalin had anything to do with it. It all had to do with numbers and the fact that Germany could never win a war of attrition against a country as massive as Russia.

        It had a lot to do with it. One of the definitive histories of Operation Barbarossa has essentially been re-written post-cold war because new information came to light.

        Stalin had a 'NO RETREAT' order for all commanders during the German invasion.

        What actually occurred is many commanders (after heavy losses) initiated a fighting retreat, which drew German forces into the urban areas of Stalingrad which in turn bled German forces of valuable men and materiel.

        Initially, it had been thought that Stalin had craftily used this tactic, when newly releast, post-cold war documents showed that he had specific and unambiguous orders against it.

        1. His supposed "Not One Step Back" order had nothing to do with the initial German invasion.


          By that time the Germans had already reached their closest point to Moscow and were turned back by the troops reinforced from the east


          The Battle of Stalingrad was a strategic blunder of Hitler's. It had no military value and depleated so much of the German resources tha

          1. their flanks were vulnerable and the 6th Army was trapped.

          2. I'm not sure if you're now talking about something else, but Hitler's superior fighting force (not superior in numbers, but superior in tactical and battlefield ability) overwhelmed Stalin's army (which had STARTED wwii largely demoralized because Stalin had purged most of his most experienced commanders) in the initial days and weeks of operation Barbarossa, leading analysts to believe that the total defeat of the Soviet Union might occur weeks before Hitler's predicted victory.

            Stalin's demand that there be no retreat, and the deployment of blocking detachments played a major factor in the Soviet army's losses during this early part of the invasion. When Stalin's commanders defied his 'no retreat' order, that's when things began to turn around. While I appreciate Wiki-***Eric is a fag***-Pedia, here's a link:

            One set of troops headed towards Baku and it's rich oil resources, whilst a second group pushed towards Stalingrad and the Volga. After more than a year of bitter defeats, the Soviet army was exhausted and demoralised, but it started to employ a new tactic - the fighting retreat - which put a strain on German supply lines. Soviet soldiers were no longer instructed by their generals to stand their ground at all costs. Instead they retreated - to avoid capture and continue fighting.

          3. The average life-expectancy of a Soviet private soldier during the battle of Stalingrad was just 24 hours.The infamous Penal Units - some of them including political prisoners - took part in suicidal missions as a way of atoning for their 'sins'. By the end of the siege, one million Soviet soldiers had died on the Stalingrad front.

            These tactics are considered largely responsible for Stalin's heavy losses.


            Check out some books by historian David Glantz who delves very deeply into Stalingrad and Barbarossa.

            He is largely credited with the changing historical perception that Stalin was a crafty battlefield tactician, luring the Germans into a protracted urban fight. Glantz thesis is that Stalin blundered horribly causing unnecessary Soviet losses into the millions, and the real turning point was in fact commanders defying Stalin's orders and executing "fighting retreats".

        2. I agree with you Paul. Stalin was a terrible leader. When his generals realized that you can't win battles using "Punishment Brigade's" they justly ignored him.

          The only reasons that the Soviets held on as long as they did was because the Russian winter, and spring fucked up the Nazi supply lines, and the SS running around creating partisan's.

          1. And the invention and deployment of the T34. Best tank of WWII.

  7. Bolshevik revolution's in-built structural paranoia

    You don't say!

  8. Had Stalin had his way, it's probably even more millions of Russians would have been slaughtered before it was all over.

    "We can't be losing. We still have peasants left."

  9. lol, wouldn't it have been great if both Stalin and Hitler had lost the war?


    1. The Soviets had a similar view. One told a Brit official something along the lines of:
      'When you look at battle deaths, you figure the Germans as a positive and yours as a negative.
      We enter them both in the positive column.'

      1. The only real difference between Hitler and Stalin was that Hitler was actually insane, whereas Stalin, while a horrible mass murdering monster, did have some logic behind his actions.

        "One death is a tragedy: one million a statistic. Less food than people? Get rid of the people! Fuck you, Ukraine!"

        "Hey, remember all those military geniuses before me who attacked Russia in the winter time and lost miserably? Let's try that tactic again!
        Also, let's start two fronts, so I'm surrounded by enemies!

        Also, let me get rid of all the best scientific minds in Germany who are Jewish, so they can help the allies instead."

        1. Stalin was a psychopath. He was more than happy to play nice with Hitler until Hitler got greedy which was the exact same mistake Germany made in WWI. Not the only mistake of course but no doubt a major one.

        2. In fairness, Germany swept the floor with Russia in WWI and there was no reason to think it couldn't do the same with a communist version of it with a pissed-off population that had just been starved and purged of its top military leadership. The USSR was the country whose last major military foray at this point was in getting its ass kicked by the same Poland Hitler's Germany had just run over.

          Much of Germany's problem in this front was the incredible brutality of the Eastern front and an unexpected level of resistance in Russia's major cities, itself partly the result of Nazi ideology concerning the Slavs.

          1. Why not wait until you've won on the western front then before setting your sights eastward? Megalomania is the answer.

            1. AlmightyJB|1.17.15 @ 3:12PM|#
              "Why not wait until you've won on the western front then before setting your sights eastward?"

              Hitler was running out of wealth, oil and lives. He needed the supposed treasure the east was to provide.
              Like Stalin, he presumed to command output, and like Stalin, he found command output far, far below that which results from voluntary action.
              By late '42, it was all over but the dying.

              1. Yes, but he actually wanted to invade Russia sooner, in early Spring, so they could avoid winter in Russia. Mussolini screwed up though and invaded Greece, botched the war, and the Germans had to come to his rescue and take over Greece, which delayed the invasion of Russia by a few months, which may have made a significant difference.

                1. The invasion was halted when troops waiting for a Japanese invasion that never came were moved to the east along with new Russian T-39 tanks. The Germans never saw the Russian counterattack coming.

                  I doubt the timing would have made any difference. The German brutality forced everybody to recognize that the Germans weren't going to save them from Stalin or communism and a German victory might very well mean the extermination of the Slavs. That had a way of focusing the mind and toughening the people up.

                  1. moved to the west I mean.

                  2. Yes, even the Ukrainians, the most natural enemies of the Russians in the world, gradually turned out against the Germans. You really have to be quite a jerk to get Ukrainians to side with Russians against you.

                2. Mussolini screwed up though and invaded Greece, botched the war, and the Germans had to come to his rescue and take over Greece, which delayed the invasion of Russia by a few months, which may have made a significant difference.

                  Which is, again, why everyone cracks that Hitler opened up a two-front war. Inaccurate. Hitler ended up with a three front war.

                  1. "Hitler ended up with a three front war."
                    Bomber Command and the 8th Airforce would say, with justification, 4 fronts.
                    All those 88s that weren't shooting at T-34s were shooting at B-17s and Lancasters.

          2. Hitler saw the difficulties the USSR had subduing Finland and thought it would be easy. The USSR was in a process of modernizing the Red Army and I think Stalin was under no illusions about Hitler's intentions. He just was worried they they weren't yet ready.

            I think Britain under Chamberlain was in the same boat. I don't think Chamberlain was as dumb as everybody thought.

          3. In the initial phase of Barbarossa, they were sweeping the floor with them again, and Stalin's 'NO-RETREAT' order was largely to blame.

            The formation of Stalin's "blocking brigades" ultimately just made things even worse.

            The Russians, being able to hold out until winter was definitely a turning point, and as I posted above, largely due to Stalin's commanders defying orders and engaging in fighting retreats, stretching the German front and drawing German forces into protracted urban combat.

            1. ^ This. Also early spring in Russia is mud season.

              1. To conduct an invasion of Russia you have a 5 and a half month window between May, and mid October.

          4. The real problem for the NAZIS was delaying the invasion for 6 weeks to conquer Greece in April-May 1941 to bail out Mussolini; losing more than 100,000 soldiers in the campaing and the idiotic occupation of Crete; and then the Russian winter of 1941 was came unusually early and was especially cold.

            Had the Barbarossa begun in May 1941, as planned, Moscow almost certainly would have fallen.

  10. up to I looked at the check 4 $9975 , I did not believe that my brother woz like they say trully taking home money in there spare time from their computer. . there best friend has done this less than 10 months and a short time ago paid for the depts on there home and purchased themselves a Ariel Atom . have a peek at this website...........
    ????? http://www.Workvalt.Com

  11. "How long does it take for a body to decompose"

    African, or European?

    1. What's your favorite color?

  12. Stalin, like so many young non-Russian students in various parts of the empire-whether in Riga, Warsaw, Khar'kov, Minsk, or Tiflis-set off on the path....

    I apologize in advance for being a punctuation Nazi Bolshevik, but you guys need to stop transcribing dashes as hyphens.


    1. Typical Brony

    2. But should it be em dash or en dash?

  13. Inside Stalin's head. 600 page book or rewatch Silence of the Lambs.

  14. In my idle attempt to find out about the New! Ford GT, I followed a link to Barry Ritholtz' blog, where I found this "Terms of Service" header in the comments:

    Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

    Most excellent. I'll have to spend some time there.

    1. Awesome:)

    2. Honest. I like it.

  15. Linky, for those interested.

    I'm not wild about it, but it's not horrific. The car, that is.

    Should have eight pistons; I hate V-6s, no matter how the air goes in.

    1. Looks like a 458

      tho, to be fair, the 458 borrows from the same mid-engine profile of the GT40, porsche 904, Miura, etc.

      I got to ride-along in a gt in 2006; felt large, and couldn't see the corners. Parking would be basically impossible. Though i assume that's basically the same deal with a lambo.

      the new one seems a little more compact - shorter, narrower

      i agree, v6 is disappointing. But every car-writer of the last few years has repeatedly said = 'engines are only going to get smaller-displacement from here on out'. I guess the issue is that power development from a size/efficiency perspective requires smaller-bore engines with more advanced forced induction systems.

  16. my neighbor's step-aunt makes $80 an hour on the internet . She has been laid off for five months but last month her payment was $12901 just working on the internet for a few hours.
    website here........
    ???????? http://www.paygazette.com

  17. Stalin defeated "Nazism"? Wait, what? So Reason wants me to believe a socialist defeated socialism? How does that even making any fucking sense?

    1. Uh, different kinds of socialists fight each other all the time. Time o brush up on logical fallacies. Nazism was a specific political movement and it was defeated, in part by Stalin.

  18. Sure Stalin had his faults but, boy boy boy, could he grow a mustache.

    1. boy oh boy! and poor grammar! EGADS!

      1. Off to the reeducation camp with you.

        1. Nietzsche's mustache would eat Stalin's mustache alive. Literally, I think it's some kind of animal.

  19. Three mustaches: Stalin. Hitler. FDR. Three Socialists. Coincidence?

    1. Geraldo

      think about it.

    2. In the old days in China, there were often giant posters of (in order) Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Wags would refer to this as "the history of shaving."

  20. But these reveal more about his signature political repartee-hard hitting, to the point, caustic, self-deprecating-than about his inner world.

    Em?something seems off about the punctuation. I suppose it's a matter of personal preference?and a pedantic one, at that?but I find it distracting.

  21. This guy was nothing more than an ignorant punk/thug. Who could possibly care what made him tick?

    1. Who are *you* to talk, Alger?

  22. He was really short too, you wouldn't think so from any photos.

    Really want to read this !

        1. I'm short! You've triggered me, you jerk! See this kind of trauma is why so many of us midgets go and take over the world.


          Get it? No tall men.

  23. So somebody posted links to stories from Android Police and the WSJ on the r/android subreddit about Obama's latest idiocy, this time regarding encryption, which is actually the first I read of it, but apparently the blatantly obvious concern trolling about how it wasn't relevant/came from AP inspired some mod to make it disappear like a now-disfavored commissar. (See? Topical.)

    I remembered so much bitching elsewhere about how Reddit was some libertarian stronghold, but now that I've actually been using it, I see it truly was a case of people conflating support of libertarian viewpoints with libertarian advocacy not being banned on sight (most of the time, heh).

    I mean, obviously, the real story here is about how Obama wants to have his cake and eat it too regarding encryption, but I just had to vent because it's just another thing I've come across where somebody invested too much of their personal self-image in supporting the greatest lightworking orator of our age and the overwhelming criticism in the comments threatened to stop that tingly feeling, so it had to go.

    Because making the team look bad is the one unforgivable sin.

    1. Here's a link to the original Reddit post if anyone wants to look at it, but, like I said, keep in mind that it's been nuked by some mod so unless you have a direct link like that one you're not going to see it. Mmm, I can smell the openness, transparency, and intellectual honesty from here.

    2. /r/android deleted something from AP? Sheesh, AP is their muse.

      IMO there is a strong case to be made that it's sufficiently off-topic to be deleted, but the fact that "Verizon Is Still Using 'Supercookies' To Track Your Browsing Whether You Like It Or Not" has been allowed to live strongly suggests that's not why it was swept away.

      1. It was one of the most highly-upvoted stories this month even considering it was only live for a few hours, and there's a reason why Google and Apple both implemented default encryption in their mobile OSes--because despite how much the government wants to cry about it they've clearly shown that only a fool would trust them. Especially after previous backdoors like the Gmail one resulted in hacks.

        Also considering that phones are carried on your person they're far more likely to fall into the wrong hands (some of those wrong hands possibly having a badge) than a computer at home.

        1. It was one of the most highly-upvoted stories this month even considering it was only live for a few hours

          Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's on topic.

  24. That dude jsut loosk corrupt as the day is long. Wow.


  25. Earning money online was never been easy as it has become for me now. I freelance over the internet and earn about 75 bucks an hour. Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. A little effort and handsome earning dream is just a
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  26. Earning money online was never been easy as it has become for me now. I freelance over the internet and earn about 75 bucks an hour. Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. A little effort and handsome earning dream is just a click away.,.,.,.,
    . ?????? http://www.wiki-careers.com

  27. 'Inside Stalin's Head'

    I preferred 'Being John Malkovich.'

  28. In sweden there is an award called the "Lenin award". Its been awarded authors and other swedish profiles from the cultural sphere, Its considered to be a great honour. Stalin was a great guy according to the swedish left, all those horrendous things he did are just lies cooked up by western capitalists. Oh how i love my country

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