This a new approach to Stalin's rule in the Soviet Union, focused on the political team he formed in the second half of the 1920s that was still in existence (though in modified form) thirty years later. This book spans the whole period from the mid 1920s to the mid 1950s - an intensely dramatic time, with one crisis succeeding another in rapid succession (collectivization and forced-pace industrialization, famine, Kirov's assassination, the Great Purges, the Second World War), when the very survival of the regime sometimes seemed in question. Stalin was the team's undisputed leader - one might also regard him as a playing coach - but he was not the only powerful personality or self-willed actor on the team. All of the original members were Old Bolsheviks; many had worked together as comrades either in the pre-revolutionary underground or the Civil War. Viacheslav Molotov, Stalin's no. 2 for many years, eschewed charisma but was less of a yes-man than often thought. Lazar Kaganovich, known for his bullying administrative style but deferential in his relationship to Stalin, was the team's only Jewish member.
Anastas Mikoian, the wily Armenian; Sergo Ordzhonikidze, the fiery and charismatic Georgian whose independence often annoyed Stalin in the 1930s, despite their friendship; and Klim Voroshilov, Stalin's Civil War buddy, were all foundation members. Each had his own personality and modus operandi, his own special friendships within the group, and his own distinctive relationship to Stalin.show more