Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%


The books we read and collect can provide telling insight into our lives. Indeed, bookshelves often draw the immediate attention of our guests, who seek to discern clues about us from the titles that we have accumulated. With Stalin’s Library: A dictator and his books, Geoffrey Roberts takes on the role of a curious visitor perusing the impressive library of Joseph Stalin (1878–1953), who, as head of the Soviet Union, amassed a collection of some 25,000 items. Conceptualised as a biography and intellectual portrait, Stalin’s Library joins a crowded field of works aimed at cracking the Stalin enigma. Setting this latest biography apart is its focus on Stalin’s personal library as a basis for constructing a ‘picture of the reading life of the twentieth century’s most self-consciously intellectual dictator’.

... (read more)

Joseph Stalin wanted this wartime correspondence published, and one can see why: he comes off best. As the authors comment, ‘the transcript of the Big Three meetings demonstrates Stalin’s careful mastery of the issues and his superior skill as a diplomatist, regularly keeping his silence but then speaking out in a terse and timely manner at key moments’. He is ...

Nobody would have expected an ordinary life for Stalin's only daughter, but Svetlana's life was extraordinary beyond any expectations. Her mother killed herself in 1932 ...

... (read more)

I first encountered Sheila Fitzpatrick's work in the mid-1990s. The 1986–87 controversy in The Russian Review about how to write a social history of Stalinism was taught as a milestone in the historiography of my field. Instinctively, I took sides against my professors and with Fitzpatrick's call to remove the state from the centre of analysis, a methodol ...

Stalin, Volume I by Stephen Kotkin & Stalin by Oleg V. Khlevniuk and translated by Nora Seligman Favorov

November 2015, no. 376

How dissimilar two books on the same topic can be: one expansive and apparently unconstrained by word limits, the other constrained and economical; one following a simple chronological narrative, the other an admirable adaptation of literary techniques of multi-layered story telling. Both are political books, but the politics are as different as the personalities of ...

In Iris Murdoch’s novel, The Sandcastle (1957), a young artist called Rain Carter is commissioned to paint a retired schoolmaster, Demoyte, an eccentric with an offbeat sense of humour. Instead of his usual attire – a shabby red velvet jacket with tobacco stains and bow tie – Demoyte turns up ...

... (read more)

In Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, the hero Robert Jordan, an American fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, receives some advice from Karkov, a Russian ‘journalist’ at the unofficial Soviet headquarters in Madrid.

... (read more)