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Seminar 1

What is Stalinism?

  • How would you define Stalinism?
  • To what extent can Stalin's biography help us to understand Stalinism?
  • How does Trotsky explain Stalin’s rise to power?
  • What were Stalin’s political aims?


Essential Reading

Stalin, J.V., ‘The Tasks of Economic Executives. Speech Delivered at the First All-Union Conference of Leading Personnel of Socialist Industry, February 4, 1931’, in J.V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 13 (Moscow, 1955), pp. 31-44. NEW LINK

Trotsky, L.D., ‘The Soviet Thermidor,’ in C. Ward (ed.), The Stalinist Dictatorship (London, 1998), pp. 13-24 (= Chapter 5 of 'The Revolution Betrayed', 1935) Link 1

Siegelbaum, Lewis, ‘Building Stalinism, 1929-1941’, in Gregory L. Freeze (ed.), Russia. A History (Oxford, 2002), pp. 291-318. (or any other overview on this period in a 'History of Russia' or 'History of the Soviet Union', for example by Christopher Read, Geoffrey Hosking or Robert Service)

Fitzpatrick, Sheila, 'Introduction', in Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary life in extraordinary times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (New York, 1999), pp. 1-13 (electronic copy in library) Link 1, Link 2

Read, Christopher, Stalin: From the Caucasus to the Kremlin (London: Routledge, 2017), Chapter 1, pp. 1-38 (electronic copy in library)

Recommended Reading

Start reading a biography of Stalin: recommended are the biographies authored by Stephen Kotkin, Robert Service, Christopher Read (see above), Robert Tucker, Isaac Deutscher.

Kotkin, Steven, MagneticMountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (Berkeley, 1995), pp. 1-25 [= ‘Introduction: Understanding the Russian Revolution’]

Further Reading

Gill, Graeme, The Origins of the Stalinist Political System (Cambridge, 1990)

Davies, Sarah and James Harris, ‘Joseph Stalin: power and ideas’, in Davies/Harris (ed.), Stalin. A New History (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 17 ff

Laue, Theodore von, ‘Stalin in Focus’, in Ward (ed.), The Stalinist Dictatorship, pp. 24-43