Last Days of Stalin

Joshua Rubenstein

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September 26, 2017
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300228847
Paper

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A gripping account of the months before and after Stalin’s death and how his demise reshaped the course of twentieth-century history

Joshua Rubenstein’s riveting account takes us back to the second half of 1952 when no one could foresee an end to Joseph Stalin’s murderous regime. He was poised to challenge the newly elected U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower with armed force, and was also broadening a vicious campaign against Soviet Jews. Stalin’s sudden collapse and death in March 1953 was as dramatic and mysterious as his life. It is no overstatement to say that his passing marked a major turning point in the twentieth century.
 
The Last Days of Stalin is an engaging, briskly told account of the dictator’s final active months, the vigil at his deathbed, and the unfolding of Soviet and international events in the months after his death. Rubenstein throws fresh light on
  • the devious plotting of Beria, Malenkov, Khrushchev, and other “comrades in arms” who well understood the significance of the dictator’s impending death;
  • the witness-documented events of his death as compared to official published versions;
  • Stalin’s rumored plans to forcibly exile Soviet Jews;
  • the responses of Eisenhower and Secretary of State Dulles to the Kremlin’s conciliatory gestures after Stalin’s death; and
  • the momentous repercussions when Stalin’s regime of terror was cut short.

Joshua Rubenstein is an associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University. He lives in Brookline, MA.

"Convincing, . . . fascinating."—Rosemary Sullivan, Wall Street Journal

"A clear, sober and emotionally powerful narrative that brings to life the last years of Joseph Stalin’s rule, showing vividly how the death of the tyrant changed Soviet and international politics and brought relief to millions of his existing and potential victims, and first and foremost the Soviet Jews."—Serhii Plokhy, author of The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine
 

"Based on a plethora of primary Soviet sources, Rubenstein has produced a persuasive and well-written account of the convoluted time that followed Stalin's death in March 1953. He discusses the complex succession politics in the Kremlin and provides much new information. Rubenstein also explores Eisenhower's and Dulles' disinterest in taking up Churchill's proposals to exploit the 'narrow window of opportunity' to embark on constructive negotiations with Moscow once Stalin had gone. This is an enlightening and important book."—Klaus Larres, author of Churchill's Cold War: The Politics of Personal Diplomacy

"Joshua Rubenstein, in his vivid, brisk account, describes the months on each side of Stalin’s death to give the reader a sense of the significance of this turning point."—Robbie Millen, Times

"Intriguing."—David Mikics, Tablet

"A fascinating work."—Amy Lewonstin, Library Journal

"Joshua Rubenstein tells a gripping tale of the year around Stalin’s death, including revealing previously unknown details of the trial of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and Stalin’s version of the Final Solution, the Doctors’ Plot."—Brett M. Rhyne, The Jewish Advocate

"Stalin’s death in March 1953 cut short another spasm of blood purges he was planning, but triggered only limited Soviet reforms. To some Westerners it promised an extended period of peace, but others feared it would leave the West even more vulnerable. Joshua Rubenstein’s lively, detailed, carefully crafted book chronicles a key twentieth-century turning point that didn’t entirely turn, revealing what difference Stalin’s death did and didn’t make and why."—William Taubman, author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era

"[Stalin’s] last days make a dramatic story, and Rubenstein tells it well."—Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Guardian

"A compact, chilling account."—Harvey Blume, Arts Fuse

"Engaging . . . highly recommended."—D. J. Dunn, Choice

"This book will be most valuable to readers with an existing interest in Soviet history but seeking
a detailed narrative of this crucial moment in the history of the dictatorship."—E. Thomas Ewing, Russian Review