Well I am finishing the great big book on Stalin, The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore, a lesson on why the Soviet Union collapse, it was doomed from the beginning. I remember a professor in one of my Political Science classes in University telling us that when Karl Marx wrote his book Das Kapital, he was thinking of industrial Germany not agricultural Russia. What has been depicted in movies and books as a glorious revolution by the people was in fact what we see today in Syria with ISIS. The government of the Tsar collapsed in 1917 when Nicholas II abdicates, the country is at war with Germany and all authority disappears. A group of adventurers styling themselves as revolutionaries “Bolsheviks” take over by simply killing anyone who might have been connected with the Tsarists regime. Russia then falls into a long 10 year Civil War which ends in 1928, after all opponents have been summarily shot, Lenin has died of cancer and Stalin grabs all the power for himself by shooting is old comrades and will launch purges against all manner of imaginary enemies, no one is safe, including his own family and the family of those comrades who managed not to be purged. Stalin’s wife who suffers from mental illness, shoots herself because she cannot live with this monster, his reaction is How could she do this to me, he then proceeds to kill family members who he thinks conspired against him. Millions will die this way in an unending blood bath which will last until 1939.
So how or who is running the country, the industries, the army etc. well no one really, Stalin appoints incompetent people most of whom cannot read nor write but are Commissars in charge of everything and their first job is to shoot any worker or manager who does not produce ridiculous quotas of goods no one wants nor could use because the production is so shoddy. Famine ensues and millions die in vast areas of Russia.
As the war in Europe approaches, Stalin makes a secret pact with Hitler to divide Europe and the World. Stalin is secretly hoping that the Nazis will destroy the capitalists in France and England and will not attack Russia. He will make a more public pact to divide the world in 1945 in Yalta with Truman and Churchill, the beginning of the Cold War. Poland is sacrificed in the deal and 10% of its population will be killed, the country divided and disappear, the ultimate plan was to kill all the Poles, Stalin and Hitler hated them.
The same applies for Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Finland manages to save parts of its territory after a ferocious battle against the Soviets. Because of the purges of Stalin, the Soviet Army has no Senior officers in command, no modern armament, Stalin is still in favour of a 19th century style army with horses and old cannons, unable to understand that Germany has modern weapons and no one uses cavalry anymore and certainly not against tanks and machine guns. The Soviets have no planes, while Germany has a modern air fleet. The few planes Russia has are so poorly built that they are described as flying coffins. Again Stalin does not want to hear about it, his battle is against his own family, relatives and anyone he thinks might oppose him, a death sentence for many. When Hitler finally attacks Russia in 1941, in the first 48 hours despite the quickly advancing German army and aerial bombardments of cities, pleading by army officers like Zhukov to do something, Stalin refuses to believe the war is on, he thinks it is only a provocation by a lone German General, Hitler his friend would never do that to him. It is all conspirators around him who created this mess, he cannot be responsible for this disaster.
At the time of the pact with Nazi Germany, Stalin to please Hitler and later after 1945 for various reasons will purge (kill) all the Jews from the Soviet government, all of whom are committed Bolsheviks from 1905. They form a majority of all senior comrades in most government departments and in diplomacy. His henchmen is Lavrenti Beria who will outlive Stalin by one year and he himself will be arrested and shot by the new Soviet ruler Nikita Khrushchev in 1953. The master executioner was the peasant Vasily Blokhin who was in charge of all high profile execution and torture, he killed thousands and had a special squad to ensure efficiency in mass murders, he will commit suicide in 1955 after being disgraced by the new Soviet Leader.
So this is Josef V.Stalin, a Georgian peasant, who came from a dysfunctional family, poorly educated, suffering from various mental problems, his a reign of crimes, depravity and massacres against his own people, there was no communist ideal, no program, no policies, just a lot of purges of people to ensure that no one would ever topple him. Millions died at the hands of his secret police. If the purges stopped once Stalin died, the idea of a Soviet Union was forever doomed, no one, not Khrushchev, not Leonid Bhreznev, no one was able to reform the government and make social progress. Until it finally collapsed in 1989. In other words 72 years of utter misery and mismanagement, so much for the glorious revolution of the people. Problem is no one bothered to invite the people to their own revolution.
The book is well researched but after a while the reader is nauseated with the utter cruelty and nonsense of such a regime which brought nothing to Russia.
The other book I finished reading was the biography of Queen Marie-Antoinette by Stefan Zweig, a very detailed work, giving us a graphic picture, one I had not encountered before of the last 15 years of the Ancient Regime, the story of a monumental failure of the State, of an incompetent King Louis XVI and a Queen Marie-Antoinette who was unable to understand her role being a selfish, spoiled woman and the dangers around her despite many warnings. Missed opportunities at many crucial moments in history. The old Monarchy is swept away by a Bourgeois uprising again done in the name of the people and arranged or staged managed by the brother of the King, the Duke of Provence and his cousin Duke of Orleans, the problem is they (the people) are not aware of it. Only to be replaced by an Imperial regime under Napoleon I and a restoration of the same old monarchy in 1814. A Republican regime is only born in France in 1871, some 82 years later.
I am now going to read another of Stefan Zweig’s books The World of Yesterday.