The Kremlin's Scholar. A Memoir of Soviet Politics under Stalin and Khrushchev

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    The memoirs are dominated by two grand figures of Soviet history, Stalin and Khrushchev. The account of Stalin is riddled with ambiguities. There is an undoubted personal admiration for Stalin, his intellectual and political capacity (Stalin allegedly read 300 pages per day), his simplicity in daily life seen in "an old tunic, patched-up socks, almost constant isolation" (p. 190). At the same time, Shepilov acknowledged the paranoid aspects of Stalin's personality, especially towards the end of his life. Stalin's mechanisms of power are illustrated by Shepilov's account of work on a new book on political economy. Stalin personally chose key people for important tasks and controlled them at key junctures to ensure the desired outcome. In this light, Shepilov's claims that the Great Purges of the late 1930s could have been outside of Stalin's immediate control seem implausible, to say the least (p. 41).

    All Stalin's deficiencies, however, pale in comparison with those of Khrushchev, the bête noire of Shepilov's memoirs. There is plenty of criticism of Khrushchev's policies, particularly in agriculture and foreign affairs. What comes across most pungently is, however, Shepilov's disdain of Khrushchev's personality and leadership style. In this respect, the book is unashamedly biased and remarkable for its omissions as much as for its revelations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Specialist publicationCanadian Slavonic Papers
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


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