Lessons of Stalinism in O. V. Khlevnyuk’s New Book

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Sergey I. Shubin

Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Arkhangelsk, Russian Federation

Lessons of Stalinism in O. V. Khlevnyuk’s New Book


The article reviews a book by an acclaimed Russian historian O.V. Khlevnyuk - “Stalin: Life of one leader: A biography” - published in 2016. It is my deep respect for the author and a wish to express my gratitude for a work nicely done that prompted me to write this review. A scholar and a researcher of the Soviet modernization, I have been always interested in Stalin’s personality, and known Oleg Vitalyevich Khlevnyuk as an authority on the subject. However, rules of the genre require a more formal approach. Thus, I’d like to focus on the most consistent patterns that the author of the book sees “in the life of one leader” throughout his political activities, most of which still cause heated debates among historians and laypeople. In my view, O. Khlevnyuk has come very close to revealing genuine reasons for establishment of Stalin’s dictatorship and assessing its impact on the national development in the first half of the 20th century. A hallmark of his research style is a subtle prompting of the reader to infer lessons from Stalinism that are crucial for the future development of the Russian society. These lessons spring from documental substantiation, rigorous scientific analysis, conclusions and findings of the author. I’d like, however, to point out some aspects that demand a further analysis: Stalin’s “revolution in human resources policy” in the periphery, famine (Holodomor), pre-revolutionary activities of the would-be “leader of the peoples”. The book title is followed by a logically structured research that reveals insights into Stalin’s phenomenon. It retraces the doings at the “nearer dacha” and in the Kremlin in the last days of leader’s life (from March 1 to March 5, 1853), when his dictatorship was beginning to crumble. Among the highlights of the book I should point out the author’s convincing argumentation on such issues as authenticity of Lenin’s last letters that suggested “that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin” from his position of Secretary-General. The book offers new insights into Stalin’s “personal motives” of supporting for a time the New Economic Policy, and then rejecting it; it explains Stalin’s policy of dividing opposition at the eve of the Great Turn of 1929.

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I. V. Jughashvili (Stalin), revolution, Stalinist neo-NEP, establishment of Stalin’s authority, Great Patriotic War, personality cult, illness and death of Stalin


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About author

Sergey I. Shubin, PhD in History, professor, Northern Arctic Federal University, professor, Arkhangelsk, Russia, +7-921-481-54-03, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Submitted 23.03.2017, published:

SHUBIN, S. I. Uroki stalinizma v novoi knige issledovatelya O. V. Khlevnyuka [Lessons of Stalinism in O. V. Khlevnyuk’s new book. In Russ.]. IN: Vestnik arhivista – Herald of an Archivist, 2017, no. 3, pp. 312-319.

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