The book Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator by Oleg Khlevniuk has won the 2016 PROSE Award in the Biography and Autobiography category. Khlevniuk is a Leading Research Fellow in the HSE International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences.
The PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in 54 categories.
According to Khlevniuk, Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator is the result of his long study on the history of the Soviet Union in the 1920s-1950s. ‘I spent five years writing this biography on Stalin, though the road to the book was considerably longer,’ Khlevniuk noted in an interview with the HSE News Service. ‘My academic interests concern state organizations: economic policy in the Stalin years, repressive mechanisms, terror, the activities of the regional elite and networks of the 1920s-1960s, etc. But I’ve always been interested in the question of how a dictator’s predilections and actions impacted all of these processes. This is why when I was offered to write a biography on Stalin, I decided to use the opportunity to take a closer look at this topic.’
In his work, the author relies exclusively on trusted sources, including numerous archives ranging from speech transcripts and works by Stalin himself all the way to his letters with members of the Politburo and registries of the individuals who visited the leader’s office in the Kremlin.
In October 2015, Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator was also awarded the 2015 Prosvetitel [Enlightener] Prize for Biography.
Published May 19th 2015 by Yale University Press
Josef Stalin exercised supreme power in the Soviet Union from 1929 until his death in 1953. During that quarter-century, by Oleg Khlevniuk’s estimate, he caused the imprisonment and execution of no fewer than a million Soviet citizens per year. Millions more were victims of famine directly resulting from Stalin’s policies. What drove him toward such ruthlessness? This essential biography, by the author most deeply familiar with the vast archives of the Soviet era, offers an unprecedented, fine-grained portrait of Stalin the man and dictator. Without mythologizing Stalin as either benevolent or an evil genius, Khlevniuk resolves numerous controversies about specific events in the dictator’s life while assembling many hundreds of previously unknown letters, memos, reports, and diaries into a comprehensive, compelling narrative of a life that altered the course of world history.
In brief, revealing prologues to each chapter, Khlevniuk takes his reader into Stalin’s favorite dacha, where the innermost circle of Soviet leadership gathered as their vozhd lay dying. Chronological chapters then illuminate major themes: Stalin’s childhood, his involvement in the Revolution and the early Bolshevik government under Lenin, his assumption of undivided power and mandate for industrialization and collectivization, the Terror, World War II, and the postwar period. At the book’s conclusion, the author presents a cogent warning against nostalgia for the Stalinist era