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.
Marxist class-identity labels--"worker," "peasant," "intelligentsia," "bourgeois"--were of crucial importance to the Soviet state in the 1920s and 1930s, but it turned out that the determination of a person's class was much more complicated than anyone expected. This in turn left considerable scope for individual creativity and manipulation. Outright imposters, both criminal and political, also make their appearance in this book. The final chapter describes how, after decades of struggle to construct good Soviet socialist personae, Russians had to struggle to make themselves fit for the new, post-Soviet world in the 1990s--by "de-Sovietizing" themselves.
Engaging in style and replete with colorful detail and characters drawn from a wealth of sources, Tear Off the Masks! offers unique insight into the elusive forms of self-presentation, masking, and unmasking that made up Soviet citizenship and continue to resonate in the post-Soviet world.
As is characteristic of twentieth-century Russian women's autobiographies, these life stories take their structure not so much from private events like childbirth or marriage as from great public events. Accordingly the collection is structured around the events these women see as touchstones: the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War of 1918-20; the switch to the New Economic Policy in the 1920s and collectivization; and the Stalinist society of the 1930s, including the Great Terror. Edited by two preeminent historians of Russia and the Soviet Union, the volume includes introductions that investigate the social historical context of these women's lives as well as the structure of their autobiographical narratives.