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The Hitler-Stalin Pact of August 1939 -- which granted Hitler cover by the Red Army on the Eastern Front -- was intended to encourage Hitler to open hostilities.Stalin was delighted with the German invasion of France.Can there be any real doubt who was the prime mover in the tumultuous events of 1933-1945?
As fine biographies of political leaders so often are, this one too is an inside version (as it were) of grand history, a new perspective on well-known facts and larger themes.
In the case of Stalin, these touchstones comprise many of the 20th century's defining moments: the rise of Bolshevism; the 1917 October Revolution, the Civil War and the foundation of the Soviet state and the world communist movement; the 1928-32 "revolution from above," which completed the construction of the world's first modern, industrialized and militarized totalitarian state by robbing and enslaving the peasants who made up 80 percent of the Soviet Union's population; and the Great Terror of 1936-39, which left Stalin in possession of probably the most -- and surely the least challenged -- power of anyone in modern history.
He is not alone in suggesting that Stalin was planning a military offensive against the West.
Grigore Gafencu, Romania's sometime foreign minister and ambassador to the USSR during the war, felt that Stalin had secretly provoked Germany into attacking.
A new situation now presented itself to Stalin if the German Army were defeated, the Soviets could be masters of Europe.
As the author points out, given the inaccessibility of Kremlin archives, "it cannot be stated exactly when the decision was made to embark on this strategy." Topitsch is convinced that Stalin set out to provoke Hitler to attack the Soviet Union, just as Franklin Roosevelt maneuvered Japan into "firing the first shot."Topitsch contends that regardless of what Hitler did, Stalin was preparing to attack Germany, most likely in 1942.If Stalin's aspirations were not fully realized, the outcome of the war does not detract from Topitsch's theory that "the Second World War was only a phase -- though an important one -- in the realization of Lenin's grand strategy to subjugate the capitalist or 'imperialist' nations -- in other words, all those which had not yet undergone the process of Sovietization."Topitsch's book is not without its flaws, particularly in A. One also wonders if the author believes that fascism is "the most extreme form of capitalism" (p. The translators' capricious usage in anglicizing German and Russian names is bothersome as well.For "Moldavia and Wallachia" we read "Moldau and Wallacheit while the Vistula and Narew Rivers are rendered as "Weichsel" (German) and "Narev" (? Transliteration of Russian names generally straddles proper German and English usage, so that the reader encounters, instead of "Zhukov" or "Schukow," the translators' "Schukov." There are an irritating number of typos as well such as "Nersky" for "Nevsky" and "Frisch" for "Fritsch."Villains fascinate, and mass murderers doubly so. To learn, and guard against, the warning signs of advancing savagery?Built to strict ideological specifications, the totalitarian state -- whose construction Stalin completed and perfected and which took almost four decades after his death to dismantle -- could not but be aggressive and expansionist in its struggle to the bitter end with "world capitalism." Hence, the forced and violent Sovietization of Eastern and Central Europe, with its own tsunami of death, destruction, suffering and daily indignities; the nuclear arms race; the global Cold War; and more death in local hot wars from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Nicaragua.Given the subject, then, one hesitates to call Robert Service's biography a labor of love, but the expression seem to fit the years (perhaps decades) this massive book must have taken to produce, filled with the relentless and arduous search for facts. Antony's College at Oxford and the author of an earlier biography of Lenin, Service has written an unhurried, richly detailed and rigorously researched book, anchored in hundreds of sources -- a vast but cleanly structured text, polished, fluent and brisk.Yet while falling short of the impossible -- a complete explanation for the behavior of the man at the root of one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes in history -- Service greatly advances our understanding by deftly fusing the tale of the man with that of the doctrine to which he was fanatically beholden and the ethos and practices of the tiny underground party.Iosif Dzhughashvili became editor of Pravda in 1912 and changed his party alias from the Georgian "Koba" (after the legendary 19th-century robber whom young Iosif emulated) to "Stalin," or "man of steel," a translation of his last name into Russian (dzhuga is steel in Georgian and stal its Russian counterpart).Following the end of the First World War, Lenin concluded that the war had been just a prelude to further imperialist wars, which would eventually lead to the final victory of socialism world-wide.In a speech given in 1920, Lenin outlined how Germany and Japan could be used to provoke another war within the "capitalist camp."Stalin pursued Lenin's strategy.From Herod to Pol Pot, Genghis Khan to Hitler, Ivan the Terrible to Saddam Hussein, we have been drawn to the edge of the abyss for a glance into the bottomless and cold darkness of Great Evil. Even in this gallery of mega-rogues, Joseph Stalin stands apart.Although second to his imitator Mao Zedong in the absolute numbers of the compatriots killed (shot, tortured to death in prisons, starved in villages, murdered in concentration camps) and to Pol Pot in the proportion of the country's population exterminated, Stalin may be unmatched, at least in modern times, in the number of people his policies affected -- in his impact on the contemporary world.