[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a “zen“]
Stalin: Volume I. Paradoxes of Power 1878-1928 by Stephen Kotkin
I’ve read quite a bit about old Uncle Joe.
Most of the major biographies of Stalin sit on my shelf, including those from Adam Ulam, Roy Medvedev, Robert Tucker, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Dimitri Volkogonov and other historians more obscure. I’ve read extensive commentaries about the Kremlin Mountaineer from Robert Conquest, Richard Pipes, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Milovan Djilas, George Kennan, Nikita Krushchev, Leon Trotskii, Amy Knight, Vyacheslav Molotov, Anton Antonov-Oveseenko, Al Resis, Pavel Sudoplatov, Walter Bedell Smith, Eric Hobsbawm, Herbert von Dirksen, Anatoly Dobrynin and various biographers of Churchill, Truman, FDR, Hitler and Mao. I’m not a Soviet expert, but for a layman, I can throw down rather well on Josef Stalin and his Soviet system.
So, with that in mind, if you are a Russian history buff or Soviet studies person you need to run, not walk, to get yourself a copy of Stalin: Volume I. by Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin.
It is simply that good!