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date: 14 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

If Stalin was the supremely powerful dictator of popular renown, then why did he feel the need to persecute so many Soviet citizens? This chapter draws on recently released archives, including Stalin’s personal papers, to reassess not only the leader’s fears and ambitions but also the nature of the Stalinist order. Covering the period from Lenin’s death to 1953, it offers fresh perspectives on Stalin’s rise to power; on his ‘cult of personality’; on the concentration of political power in the hands of a narrow elite; and on the operations of the Soviet secret police and intelligence services. Presented with misleading intelligence, Stalin and other Soviet leaders persistently misinterpreted both internal and external challenges to their rule and to the revolution as a whole. Stalin’s drive to accumulate power and to smash resistance was intensified by a misperception of events.

Keywords: Stalinism, terror, Bolshevik Party, political police, political violence, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kirov

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