I recently finished reading the meticulously researched Stalin’s Curse by Robert Gellately, a Florida State history professor and author of three other books, mostly dealing with Hitler. It’s not the only book out there about Stalin’s totalitarian regimes, but it’s still a source worth looking into for a couple of reasons.
I was drawn to it because of an excerpt from one of the reviews on the back: “… dashes once and for all the claims of blame-America academicians and faux historians that Washington was responsible for the Cold War” – The Washington Times. Basically, the point of the book is that Stalin was devoted to the spread of communism and the Cold War is his fault, not the fault of the West.
Early parts of the book focus on World War II history, particularly Stalin’s dealings with Western leaders. Later, Gellately explores what happened in various Eastern European countries after the war. One comes to realize just how much devastation Stalin is responsible for.
What’s interesting about the way this book is written is that much of it is about who was involved in the new communist governments, how they got established, and what Stalin told them to do; the politics of what was going on at the time. A few short anecdotes are provided to describe the horror of living under a communist regime, and so are statistics on mass deportations, arrests, etc. The book gives us the big picture; it’s not just about the amount of suffering caused by communism. Yet it still drives home the message that totalitarianism is terrible and freedom is precious. One gets the impression that the author is pro-Western liberal democracy, and it is obvious why.
I recommend the book as a good resource on Stalin himself, World War II history, and more. It’s easy and not intimidating to read, as it is mostly written in colloquial language and the chapters are broken up into brief sections. The message is one that pro-America, pro-Western, and anti-socialist readers will like.
I will now share a powerful quote from the book:
Let us not lie to ourselves today by conveniently blaming Stalin for everything. The tragic truth is that Stalin was not alone, that Stalin would not have even existed if it hadn’t been for the little Stalins, the thousands upon thousands of his followers, nameless criminals. – Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian
A reminder that we all have our part to play in what our societies become.