Master of the House: Stalin and His Inner Circle
By Oleg V. Khlevniuk, translated by Nora Seligman Favorov
Yale University Press, 2009
HC: 344 pages
$38.00 ($30.41 on Amazon, click here)
What the author set out to write was a detailed study from Soviet archives intended to refute a prior theory that Stalin’s rule in the 1930’s involved Stalin as a balance wheel between radical and moderate factions within the Stalinist clique at the top of the party – state apparatus. He makes an excellent case that this was not so. He shows personal alliances across the supposed moderate – radical fault line. He shows that supposed radicals and moderates changed their supposed ideology as they changed positions within the overlapping spheres of state and party bodies governing the Soviet Union. He shows Stalin making a show of leadership by committee long after the internal archives show that no decision of any serious consequences could be made without him, much less in opposition to him. On all of this the author makes a quite convincing case but, as is often the case with archival research, even in far more open societies than Putin’s Russia one should be wary of accepting that any conclusion is truly final until far more decades of archival mining have taken place. All that one can truly say at this point is that the earlier analysis based on memoirs and similar less exacting sources needs new evidence from the archives to again be taken seriously.