‘Lately, the paradoxical turns of recent Russian history… have given my research more than scholarly relevance,’ remarks Oleg Khlevniuk in his introduction. Indeed, in Putin’s Russia Stalin’s apologists and admirers seem daily to become more vocal. The language of the 1930s is used in televised tirades against ‘internal enemies’ and ‘foreign agents’. Stalin himself is upheld not only as a strong leader, but also as an ‘effective manager’ who, despite his mistakes, did what was necessary to modernise the Soviet Union; or, contrarily, as a benevolent dictator who was unaware of the corrupt actions of his officials.
In short, there could hardly be a more opportune moment for the publication of this authoritative, fluently written, concise life, the pinnacle of current scholarship on its subject.