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14 November 2018

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Stalin's Wars

by Geoffrey Roberts

This book is marketed as a “provocative reassessment” of Stalin’s military and political leadership during and after WWII. While “provocative” may overstate the case, this is indeed an excellent new history of WWII as seen through the prism of Josef Stalin.

The blow-by-blow accounts of Big Three summits provide enough detail and background to be interesting but not tedious, offering fascinating insights into the personalities of Truman, Churchill and Roosevelt, especially vis-a-vis Stalin. And there are well-documented and reasoned assessments of everything from the Katyn massacre, to the defense of Moscow, to the victory at Stalingrad. Roberts is masterfully judicious in his choice of which documents, telegrams, correspondence or first-hand accounts to present, always seeming to come up with some perfect morsel over which others have glossed.

In the end, Roberts comes to the conclusion that the correct image of Stalin is not one filtered over the decades, through Khrushchev et al, but rather one more in line with the contemporaneous view of the dictator during his lifetime – as a military leader who deserved praise for the unparalleled achievement of winning the Great Patriotic War: “To make so many mistakes and to rise from the depths of such defeat to go on to win the greatest military victory in history was a triumph beyond compare.”

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Mar/Apr 2007