On Stalin's Team

On Stalin's Team : The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics

3.96 (157 ratings by Goodreads)
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Stalin was the unchallenged dictator of the Soviet Union for so long that most historians have dismissed the officials surrounding him as mere yes-men and political window dressing. On Stalin's Team overturns this view, revealing that behind Stalin was a group of loyal men who formed a remarkably effective team with him from the late 1920s until his death in 1953. Drawing on extensive original research, Sheila Fitzpatrick provides the first in-depth account of this inner circle and their families. She vividly describes how these dedicated comrades-in-arms not only worked closely with Stalin, but also constituted his social circle. Stalin's team included the wily security chief Beria; Andreev, who traveled to provincial purges while listening to Beethoven on a portable gramophone; and Khrushchev, who finally disbanded the team four years after Stalin's death. Taking readers from the cataclysms of the Great Purges and World War II to the paranoia of Stalin's final years, On Stalin's Team paints an entirely new picture of Stalin within his milieu--one that transforms our understanding of how the Soviet Union was ruled during much of its existence.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 152 x 235 x 27.94mm | 567g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 30 ill.
  • 0691175772
  • 9780691175775
  • 447,734

Back cover copy

"On Stalin's Team is an utterly absorbing and sometimes blood-curdling account of the domestic and office life of the most bourgeois of proletarian dictators. Sheila Fitzpatrick's group biography of Stalin's inner circle of meritocratic bureaucrats and squalid mobsters is unputdownable."--Bernard Wasserstein, author of Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in Our Time

"On Stalin's Team is an extremely readable, lively, and exciting account of the lives and work of the men who were closest to the unpredictable dictator. The reader is a kind of voyeur, peeking into the personal and political relationships of powerful people who worked together on a knife's edge. It is hard not to become fascinated by these characters, whose portraits Sheila Fitzpatrick so deftly draws in this seductive book. Her scholarship is impeccable and the stories she tells are dramatic, engrossing, and tragic."--Ronald Grigor Suny, author of The Soviet Experiment

"This important book focuses on the team led by Stalin and on its members' relationships with him and each other: the Politburo after hours, as it were. Here we have fascinating details about real people with recognizable personalities, likes and dislikes, and wives and children. Written in an attractive style, this book should have a broad audience."--J. Arch Getty, author of Practicing Stalinism
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Table of contents

Explanatory Note vii Glossary ix Introduction 1 ONE The Team Emerges 15 TWO The Great Break 43 THREE In Power 64 FOUR The Team on View 89 FIVE The Great Purges 114 SIX Into War 143 SEVEN Postwar Hopes 171 EIGHT Aging Leader 197 NINE Without Stalin 224 TEN End of the Road 255 Conclusion 269 Acknowledgments 279 Notes 281 Biographies 317 Bibliography of Works Cited 333 Index 349
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Review Text

"Though there have been a number of fine studies of Stalin and his henchmen in the past few years, On Stalins Team offers new insight into the complex group dynamics that sustained his political power for so long."--Rachel Polonsky, Times Literary Supplement
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Review quote

Co-Winner of the 2016 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Non-Fiction, Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts 2015 Silver Winner in History, ForeWord Reviews' INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2016 Honorable Mention for the 2016 PROSE Award in Government & Politics, Association of American Publishers "Though there have been a number of fine studies of Stalin and his henchmen in the past few years, On Stalin's Team offers new insight into the complex group dynamics that sustained his political power for so long."--Rachel Polonsky, Times Literary Supplement "One of the most novel sections of the book is the chapter on how the ruling group fared without Stalin. Fitzpatrick shows the team managing the post-Stalin transition remarkably well, not only maintaining stability but even launching a raft of reforms. Building on a recent vein of scholarship, she suggests that they were able to do this precisely because they had already consolidated as a group under the dictator."--Yoram Gorlizki, London Review of Books "A superb group portrait of the dictator's closest lieutenants at a pivotal moment in history."--Joshua Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal "[On Stalin's Team is] a well-researched study of the social and political lives of the men who supported, encouraged, and abetted Stalin."--Kirkus "Rich in politics as well as personal intrigue... [W]ell worth reading."--Library Journal, starred review "Impressive ... this is a rare and highly accomplished piece of scholarship... Fitzpatrick shows herself to be a master storyteller as well... [Her] innovative approach situates Stalin firmly in his personal milieu for the first time, helps to elucidate how he actually exercised power through his team, and offers a compelling sense of the personalities and relationships at play in the Soviet elite that will prove invaluable in interpreting party and government records via their human context."--Lara Cook, Times Higher Education "Fitzpatrick's book does not just establish her argument, but also gives a series of wonderful, horrifying and sometimes hilarious insights into what the top Stalinists were actually like."--David Aaronovitch, The Times "Fitzpatrick has written an interesting, accessible, and valuable study of Stalin's 'team,' the men who surrounded and largely survived the Soviet dictator... The book adds new detail and insight on Stalin's personality, political modus operandi, intrigues, and Weltanschauung. It adds immensely to knowledge of Stalin and Russia and is a rich supplement to Simon Montefiore's Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar."--D. J. Dunn, Choice "Compelling and convincing."--Geoffrey Roberts, Literary Review "It might seem strange to describe a book about Joseph Stalin and his entourage as a sheer pleasure, but that's what Fitzpatrick's book is. Simple, honest, and direct, but subtle in tone, it manages to convey what was human and complex about something stark and inhuman... One comes away from this book with a far better sense of what it must have been like within the inner sanctum as it went about its business: sometimes heroic, all too often monstrous."--Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs "[A] superbly researched, intelligent book."--Donald Rayfield, Guardian "A fascinating look into the lives and work of the Soviet leadership... This is an excellent book. It is written in a way that will appeal to a wide audience of scholars and the broader public. It is both a study of team politics and interpersonal relationships at the top of the Soviet political leadership, as well as an engaging story of the ups and downs experienced by Stalin's closest associates. This is a page turner-a gripping story that will fascinate and enthrall the reader."--Steven Maddox, Russian Review "Thanks in no small measure to this elegantly written book, historians should no longer regard 'Stalin's men' as mere also-rans. Collectively, they played a major role in shaping and managing a vast country from the late 1920s through to the 1960s, in the process helping to transform it into a global superpower."--Kevin McDermott, Journal of Modern History
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About Sheila Fitzpatrick

Sheila Fitzpatrick is professor of history at the University of Sydney and Distinguished Service Professor Emerita at the University of Chicago.
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Rating details

157 ratings
3.96 out of 5 stars
5 28% (44)
4 46% (73)
3 21% (33)
2 2% (3)
1 3% (4)
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