*Stalin*, by Stephen Kotkin

by on November 10, 2017 at 3:18 am in Books, History, Law, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

Definitely recommended, the volume covers 1929-1941, I am now on p.234.  Here is one good “that was then, this is now” bit:

Stalin had fixed a covetous eye on Chinese Turkestan, or Xinjiang (“New Territory”).  From January through April 1934, he fought a small war there.  Renewal of a mass Muslim rebellion had spurred Comintern operatives to contemplate pushing for a socialist revolution, but Soviet military intelligence had pointed out that, even though the rebels commanded the loyalty of almost the entire Muslim population (90 percent), a successful Muslim independence struggle in Chinese Turkestan could inspire the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz in Soviet Turkestan or even the Mongols.  Stalin had decided to send about 7,000 OGPU and Red Army soldiers, as well as airplanes, artillery, mustard gas, and Soviet Uzbek Communists, to defend the Chinese warlord.  Remarkably, he allowed Soviet forces to combine with former White Army soldiers abroad, who were promised amnesty and Soviet citizenship.  A possible Muslim rebel victory turned into a defeat.  Unlike the Japanese in Manchuria, Stalin did not set up an independent state, but he solidified his informal hold on Xinjiang, setting up military bases, sending advisers, and gaining coal, oil, tungsten, and tin concessions.  Some 85 percent of Xinjiang’s trade was with the USSR….Chiang Kai-Shek became dependent on Soviet goodwill to communicate with Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi.

Here is excellent New Yorker coverage of the book from Keith Gessen.  You can buy here on Amazon.

1 So Much For Subtlety November 10, 2017 at 6:13 am

Which was pretty much his policy in Mongolia as well. Fighting the Japanese there.

Except that in 1945 he got a feeble minded Roosevelt to agree to formally taking it and Roosevelt fatally weakened Chiang Kaishek by making him agree. But not Xinjiang. I wonder why.

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2 Mel November 10, 2017 at 7:08 am

What is the significance of this historical information to 21st Century Americans?

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3 Jeffrey Ledford November 10, 2017 at 8:20 am

Because learning how totalitarians operate helps us to recognize the methods when used today. We’re too easily fooled.

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4 Butler T. Reynolds November 10, 2017 at 10:04 am

Maybe somebody will read it and decide to throw away his Che shirt.

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5 Joël November 10, 2017 at 3:10 pm

First answer the question: What is the significance of 21st Century Americans?

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6 Nick Nahat November 12, 2017 at 10:43 am

Possibly, an attempted allusion to Russian intervention in Syria?

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7 dearieme November 10, 2017 at 9:31 am

Was the mustard gas used?

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8 dearieme November 10, 2017 at 10:40 am

WKPD: “Soviet planes bombed the 36th Division with mustard gas.”

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9 rayward November 10, 2017 at 9:46 am

From the review by Mark Atwood Lawrence in the NYT: “Kotkin’s most striking contribution, though, is to probe reasons Stalin encountered little opposition as he wrought mayhem on his nation. Careerism and bureaucratic incentives in the Soviet Union’s formidable apparatus of repression had something to do with it, Kotkin writes, but so too did the party’s monopoly on information and the public’s receptiveness to wild claims about the danger of subversion from within. Stalinism was, in this way, as much enabled from below as imposed from above.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/books/review/stephen-kotkin-stalin-biography.html

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10 Israel November 10, 2017 at 10:58 am

How would you compare to Simon montefiores court of the red tsar?

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11 middyfeek November 10, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Am reading this book & Victor Davis Hanson’s book about WW2. The Hanson book is much, much better.

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12 Just Another MR Commentor November 10, 2017 at 1:44 pm

I would imagine reading a book about WW2 by a guy who would like to get WW3 going would be interesting.

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13 Zach November 10, 2017 at 2:01 pm

There could indeed have been another path for the Bolshevik Revolution: the very naïveté, idealism, and lack of guile demonstrated by so many of the Old Bolsheviks remains a testament to their decency.

Yes, and if the naivete, idealism, and lack of guile of the Tsars had won out, there would have been no revolution.

If the naivete, idealism, and lack of guile of the Mensheviks had won out, there would have been no Bolsheviks…

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