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A brilliant, compelling, propulsively written, magnificent tour de force' Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard
'The second volume of what will surely rank as one of the greatest historical achievements of our age ... The War and Peace of history: a book you fear you will never finish, but just cannot put down' Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
Well before 1929, Stalin had achieved dictatorial power over the Soviet empire, but now he decided that the largest peasant economy in the world would be transformed into socialist modernity, whatever it took.
What it took, and what Stalin managed to force through, transformed the country and its ruler in profound and enduring ways. Rather than a tale of a deformed or paranoid personality creating a political system, this is a story of a political system shaping a personality. Building and running a dictatorship, with power of life or death over hundreds of millions, in conditions of capitalist self-encirclement, made Stalin the person he became.
Wholesale collectivization of agriculture, some 120 million peasants, necessitated levels of coercion that were extreme even for Russia, but Stalin did not flinch; the resulting mass starvation and death elicited criticism inside the party even from those Communists committed to the eradication of capitalism. By 1934, when the situation had stabilized and socialism had been built in the countryside too, the internal praise came for his uncanny success in anticapitalist terms. But Stalin never forgot and never forgave, with bloody consequences as he strove to consolidate the state with a brand new elite.