Stalin the intellectual: the dictator cast in a new light

The link between mass-murdering dictators and the gentle occupation of reading and writing books is a curious one, but it definitely exists. Mao was a much- praised practitioner of traditional Chinese poetry; Hitler was widely if haphazardly read, dictated Mein Kampf and was a fan of Karl May’s Wild West stories; and Stalin, as Geoffrey Roberts shows, took books at least as seriously as the purging of foes, real and imagined. Though we may wonder whether Enver Hoxha and Kim Il-sung really wrote the dense works of Marxist-Leninist theory with which they’re credited, there is no doubt that Stalin found the time while running the Soviet Union and fighting the

Why autocracy in Russia always fails in the end

Churchill was wrong: Russia is neither a riddle nor an enigma. Russians themselves concoct endless stories to glorify their country’s achievements and minimise its disasters and crimes. But the rest of us do much the same, as we try to explain Britain’s imperial history or the impact slavery still has on America’s revolutionary ideals. Russia is little harder to understand than anywhere else. But you need to separate the facts from the myths, as Mark Galeotti does in A Short History of Russia, an informative, perceptive and exhilarating canter through 1,000 tumultuous years. He starts with two founding events, each a mixture of fact and myth. In the ninth century,