Stalin

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Joseph Sullivan
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Sat Oct 17, 2015 12:47 pm

Little to do with cavalry except in passing, but the relatively new Kotkin biography of Stalin is simply excellent. I saw it reviewed in The Atlantic, bought it, and have found that it exceeds expectations. Kotkin goes beyond Stalin and gives a lucid explanation of all of the elements of Tzarist Russia, the transition, the near accidental assumption of power by the Reds instead of some other opposition group; in short, a survey of the period as well as the man, done in a readable style with infinite detail.
Joe
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Pat Holscher
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Sun Oct 18, 2015 7:33 am

Joseph Sullivan wrote:Little to do with cavalry except in passing, but the relatively new Kotkin biography of Stalin is simply excellent. I saw it reviewed in The Atlantic, bought it, and have found that it exceeds expectations. Kotkin goes beyond Stalin and gives a lucid explanation of all of the elements of Tzarist Russia, the transition, the near accidental assumption of power by the Reds instead of some other opposition group; in short, a survey of the period as well as the man, done in a readable style with infinite detail.
Thanks! I just finished Hasting's book Retribution and haven't started another yet. I'll look for this one.
Pat

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Pat Holscher
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Thu Oct 29, 2015 7:29 am

Joseph Sullivan wrote:Little to do with cavalry except in passing, but the relatively new Kotkin biography of Stalin is simply excellent. I saw it reviewed in The Atlantic, bought it, and have found that it exceeds expectations. Kotkin goes beyond Stalin and gives a lucid explanation of all of the elements of Tzarist Russia, the transition, the near accidental assumption of power by the Reds instead of some other opposition group; in short, a survey of the period as well as the man, done in a readable style with infinite detail.
Joe, is his book "Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928"?
Pat

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selewis
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Tue Nov 03, 2015 2:52 pm

Thanks for the recommendation. I recently read Pares' "A History of Russia" and was struck by his sins of omission and have been looking for something else to fill in the gaps in his narrative.

On another note, and I know of no supporting evidence, but I've always suspected that Prokofiev had Stalin in mind when he composed the wolf's theme. Whenever I see a photo of Uncle Joe I can't help but hear those chilling french horns. Brrr.
JV Puleo
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Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:37 pm

I just noticed this...
My late father was a life-long classical musician — for most of my youth he was first viola of the RI Philharmonic Orchestra. Needless to say, we grew up with classical music and I remember one of his favorite stories related to the fact that Sergei Prokofiev and Joseph Stalin died on the same day. The joke was "Peter and the Wolf died today"... which probably doesn't come across as very funny to most people... but classical musicians can be a bit different.
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Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:52 pm

There you have it. I'm not the only one. Nice story.
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Thu Apr 07, 2016 8:21 pm

I went to the book store yesterday to order a copy of the new Stalin biography you recommended. It seems there are two new biographies of the man and I couldn't remember the author's name. I assumed that it was the more expensive of the two but wasn't sure so I had to return home put off or a day or two.

By chance, more than by design, I've read more about Russia recently than ever before. Some fiction: Gorky Park, The Russia House, and Darkness at Noon, and others; but also some histories and, just this week, Kruschev's memoirs. I thought I would insert the following in this thread partly because it touches obliquely on Stalin but also- surprise- it brings horses onto the page. At the time of which he is writing Kruschev had just been appointed First Secretary of the Ukranian Central Committee, a post which he reluctantly accepted at Stalin's insistence.

From "Kruschev Remembers" translated by Strobe Talbot, edited with notes and commentary by Edward Crankshaw:



"…I arrived in the Ukraine in January or February of 1939, just in time to start getting ready for the spring sowing. We immediately found ourselves up against a dangerous problem. Horses were dropping dead all over the western sections of the Ukraine, along the Polish border. No one could figure out what was making the horses sick. During a visit to a collective farm in the Vinitsa region, I asked a stable attendant if he had any idea why the horses were dying like flies. He told me that the horses were being poisoned:

"I saw this man administering poison to the horses", he said, " so we grabbed him and turned him in. And you know what he turned out to be? A veterinarian"

This was plausible enough. We figured that the Germans, who were then preparing for war against us, might be trying to sabotage our economy and our military capabilities. You see, horses weren't just livestock in those days; they were what tanks, airplanes, and jeeps are today.*

[despite confessions, Kruschev suspected that sabotage was not the problem]

I decided to look into the situation a little bit further. ….

I decided to set up a commission to look into the mysterious deaths of all the horses. I was faced with a problem here, too, because there had already been several such commissions, and when the horses kept on dying, the commissions had been dissolved and their members arrested and eliminated. Therefore, with some justification, it was widely thought that an appointment to serve on one of these commissions sealed a man's fate.

I summoned Comrade Bogomolets, president of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. he was a non-Party member, but as far as I was concerned that was a matter of formality, which I never held against a good Soviet citizen and a progressive person.

"Comrade Bogomolets", I said, "you know that the horses on our farms are dying. We have to do something"

"What's there to do?"

"I can't believe that science is absolutely helpless here. Surely if we make a concerted effort, we can isolate and identify the cause of the deaths. I think we should set up another commission to investigate. Now, I realize your colleagues are afraid of being appointed to these commissions since the members of past commissions have been arrested. But if you, the president of the Academy of Sciences, were the chairman, I'm sure other specialists would join you willingly. ….
I propose we take another precaution as well: we'll set up two commissions to work in parallel with each other. …"

Bogomolets agreed, but without much enthusiasm.

….Just to be absolutely safe, we added a third commission, made up of Russian scientists from Moscow, headed by Professor Vertinsky. All three groups went out to the stricken farms and started to work.

Some time later one of the Ukrainian commissions, Professor Dobrotko's, came to the conclusion that the horses were being made sick by a fungus which grew in wet hay. ….

A long time passed, and finally Vertinsky informed me that he agreed with Dobrotko's findings. The field research came to an end, and a report was made at a plenum in Kiev. The recommended method for stamping out the disease was simple- keep hay dry. "



*This may sound odd, but it is true. For example, until American trucks started arriving in their thousands by the Persian route at the time of the Battle of Stalingrad, Soviet army transport was almost entirely horsedrawn. ( Ed. Edward Crankshaw)
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Pat Holscher
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Thu Apr 07, 2016 8:40 pm

Pat Holscher wrote:
Joseph Sullivan wrote:Little to do with cavalry except in passing, but the relatively new Kotkin biography of Stalin is simply excellent. I saw it reviewed in The Atlantic, bought it, and have found that it exceeds expectations. Kotkin goes beyond Stalin and gives a lucid explanation of all of the elements of Tzarist Russia, the transition, the near accidental assumption of power by the Reds instead of some other opposition group; in short, a survey of the period as well as the man, done in a readable style with infinite detail.
Joe, is his book "Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928"?
I've been reading this book, by the way, and its excellent.
Pat

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Pat Holscher
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Thu Apr 07, 2016 8:43 pm

selewis wrote: *This may sound odd, but it is true. For example, until American trucks started arriving in their thousands by the Persian route at the time of the Battle of Stalingrad, Soviet army transport was almost entirely horsedrawn. ( Ed. Edward Crankshaw)
Recent research on materials in Soviet archives reveals that Soviet reliance upon Western aid was even more significant than previously thought and certainly more significant than the Soviets were willing to admit. Even before American aid really hit, following their disastrous losses early in the war, there was a period of time when the percentage of British aircraft and armor being used overall was quite a bit higher than generally supposed.

Post war the Soviets tended to discount this but then the extent of the reliance was not publicized during the war and not well known. For a period of time after their initial heavy losses and the subsequent big gearing up of Soviet production the British were a major factor in Soviet armor and aircraft.
Pat

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