Jeffrey Roberts, "Stalin's Library" - A novel biography of Stalin from the perspective of reading. How did he view Dostoevsky?

Stalin's Library History of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin

Jeffrey Roberts' "Stalin's Library" Summary and Comments - Did intense reading create a dictator? A novel biography of Stalin from the perspective of reading.

We are pleased to present "Stalin's Library," written by Jeffrey Roberts and translated by Yoshihiko Matsushima, published by Hakusuisha in 2023.

Let's take a quick look at the book.

Stalin's library was extremely wide-ranging, including not only the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, but also those of his political enemies such as Trotsky, classics by Bismarck and Machiavelli, Russian literature by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, and Chekhov, and foreign classics by Shakespeare and Cervantes. Stalin's reading range was extremely broad. In addition, Stalin left numerous writings in books that he considered interesting. This book is an attempt to trace Stalin's life and thought through a close examination of his vast library and writings, and to get at the essence of the dictator.

Here is an anecdote. The former Soviet Premier Luzhkov obtained a copy of Machiavelli's "The Monarchy," which was in Stalin's library. The pages were so covered in writing that it looked like a "dictator's textbook. He recounts that when all of Stalin's underlined passages were extracted, organized, and published, the result was Stalin's "Machiavelli in a Nutshell.

Why did an "intelligent reader" shed needless blood? This book takes us into the dictator's library and into the inner workings of his personality and emotions, from his ideas and beliefs to his influence on revolution and war, national politics and diplomacy. A new biography by a British historian.

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Joseph Stalin (1878-1953)Wikipedia.

As mentioned in the book introduction above, this work, "Stalin's Library," is a novel biography of the Soviet dictator Stalin from the perspective of "reading.

About this book and Stalin, the author states at the beginning of the book

A bloody tyrant, a mastermind politician, a paranoid, ruthless bureaucrat, a fanatical ideological follower. All of these personalities Stalin possessed in their typical forms. At the same time he was an intellectual. Between meetings and speeches, he spent endless solitary hours reading, writing, and editing. Writing, whether written or spoken, was his world.

In light of the tremendous misdeeds he committed as ruler of the Soviet Union, it is no wonder that Stalin is treated as a monster. He mercilessly beat his political opponents, betrayed his former comrades, and read tortured confessions with gusto before ordering their execution. He turned a deaf ear to the cries of the innocent and gave rise to the communist underworld by taking a frightening number of lives. It is only natural that he should be regarded as such a person. Anyone with a moral conscience would feel disgust for him. But mere dislike does not explain why and how he did what he did.

This book stares at Stalin through a different lens. He was a dedicated idealist and an activist intellectual. He valued ideas as much as power. He was always disciplined, never relaxed, and continued to read for the revolution right up to the end of his life. His library was born, his collection of books scattered and spun a revived story. We explore how Stalin read his library and what he learned from his reading.

Hakusuisha, Jeffrey Roberts, Stalin's Library, translated by Yoshihiko Matsushima, p. 21-22

Hating him doesn't explain why and how he went to such lengths."

This is a very important point. If we put Stalin away as just a big bad man, that is where our thinking ends.

This is a very stimulating book that looks at Stalin from the perspective of "reading" to find out why he was able to become a dictator and what was behind his success. The author's courage to attack from a minor angle, "reading," which in a sense is not easily associated with dictatorships, is nothing short of amazing. It is very innovative.

I myself know that Stalin was a voracious reader, as I have already mentioned in my blog, Montefiorelli'sStalin: The Age of Youth and Revolution.I knew of him from his biography "Stalin the Reader". However, I was surprised that he was able to write an extensive biography of "Stalin the Reader" on a single title. When I learned of the book's existence, I was astonished. Of course, I immediately bought it.

By the way, the aboveStalin: The Age of Youth and Revolution.describes Stalin's reading as follows

Stalin was a great fan of Victor Hugo's novels, especially1793."discovered. Its protagonist, the revolutionary monk Simurdan, would become one of his prototypes. Hugo, however, was strictly forbidden by the seminary teachers.

At night, the "black spot" patrolled the hallways, constantly checking to see if the lights were out, if they were reading, or indulging in other self-defeating vices. As soon as he was gone, the students lit their candles and resumed reading.

Soso (*blog author's note: Stalin) was typical: "He read so much that he hardly slept at all, his eyes were shaky and he was pale. When he began to cough," Iremashvili "took the book from his hand and blew out the candle. [omitted)

The young Stalin was even more influenced by Russian writers who created a sensation among radical youth - Nikolai Nekrasov's poetry and Chernyshevsky's novel What to Do.

The latter's protagonist, Rakhmatov, became for Stalin the prototype of the resolutely ascetic revolutionary. Like Rakhmatov, Stalin came to regard himself as a "special man."

Soon after, Stalin was seized "on the steps of the school" while reading another forbidden book, for which he received "extra time in the lockup and a severe reprimand by order of the principal.

He "worshipped Zola." His favorites in this Parisian author's novels are.Geluminaire."He was. He read Schiller, Maupassant, Balzac, and Thackeray's City of Vanity in translation, Plato in the Greek original, and Russian and French history.

He then passed these books around to other students. He adored Gogol, Saltykov-Shchedrin, and Chekhov, and memorized their works. And he "could recite them by heart.

He admired Tolstoy, but was "bored by his Christianity." In later years he would write "ha ha ha" alongside Tolstoy's meditations on redemption and salvation.

Dostoevsky's masterpiece on revolutionary intrigue and betrayalEvil Spirits."I marked a lot of books in one of the

These books were brought in secretly, tucked under the surplices of the theology students. Stalin later joked that some of these books had to be "taken" (shoplifted) from bookstores for the revolution.
Some line breaks have been made.

Hakusuisha, Simon Seberg Montefiori, translated by Yukishige Matsumoto, Stalin: Youth and the Age of Revolution, P121-123

The young Stalin's fearsome appetite for reading can be seen here. He continued to read well into his later years, and his education rivaled that of even the best cultured people.

In this book, "Stalin's Library," we will learn more about Stalin's reading from here. We will take a closer look at the impact of reading on his chronology.

One of the most memorable points for me was Stalin's views on Dostoevsky. As a student of Dostoevsky for the past several years, this was a point I could not miss.

This is an important clue to how Stalin viewed Dostoevsky, so we will read it carefully, although it is a bit long.

Dostoevsky and Gogol

Stalin also considered Fyodor Dostoevsky to be a harmful writer to the Soviet youth. In January 1948, Stalin told Yugoslav communist Milovan Giras that Dostoevsky was both a great reactionary and a great writer. This was not the first time that Dostoevsky appeared in Stalin's conversation with Giras. In April 1945, after hearing complaints about the disorderly behavior of the Red Army in Yugoslavia, Stalin asked, "Of course, you have read Dostoevsky, haven't you?" He asked.

You see how complex the human soul, the human heart, is? Well, think about it. Think about a man who willingly fought thousands of kilometers from Stalingrad to Belgrade, among the corpses of his comrades and loved ones in his devastated homeland. How could such a man react normally? What is the fuss about having fun with a woman after going through such horrors? You were idealizing the Red Army ...... The Red Army is not an ideal. What matters is that it is fighting the Germans.

Stalin's daughter Svetlana was a student of literature. She recalls of her father, "My father was not interested in poetry or deeply spiritual art. Still, he once told me about Dostoevsky that he was "a great psychologist. Unfortunately, I never asked him what he meant.Evil Spirits."Was it the profound social psychology of the Or was it theCrime and Punishment."Was it about the analysis of human behavior as seen in the

Dmitry Shepilov, Zhidanov's deputy, was summoned to the Oval Office one day by Zhidanov. Stalin was concerned that Soviet critics were ignoring Dostoevsky's philosophy on politics and society. Zhidanov told him so and repeated Stalin's words for Shepilov to hear.

As Dostoevsky sees it, there is something demonic and perverse inside each of us. Whether materialist, atheist, or ...... oh, the dreaded ...... socialist, the demonic triumphs and makes us criminals. What a hopeless philosophy! ...... No wonder Gorky called Dostoevsky the "Satanic genius" of the Russian people. Dostoevsky's masterpieces are, with astonishing power, depict the crude behavior of the oppressed, the wounded, the powerful, and the many. But for what? To incite the oppressed and wounded to fight against evil, oppression, and cruelty? Far from it. Dostoevsky calls for the abandonment of struggle. He seeks humility, acceptance, and the virtues of Christ. In his view, there is no other way to save Russia from the catastrophe of socialism.

As with all memoirs, Shepilov's story must be taken with caution. But how Stalin evaluates the writer will determine the political tide. The year 1952 marked 100 years since Gogol's death. In the Soviet Union, there was a major retrospective of his life and work. At a commemorative meeting at the Bolshoi Theatre in March 1952, the guest of honor said that Marx, Lenin, and Stalin recognized Gogol because he was "a great ally with his sharp satire in the struggle against the forces of darkness and hatred, against all forces threatening peace on earth. On the same day, Pravda published a commentary presumed to be Stalin's opinion. Soviet literature anticipates the new communist ethic. It is charged with the mission of depicting life in all its variety and of unrelentingly exposing the stagnation and backwardness that are hostile to the people. We need a new Gogol, a new Sichedrin. The speech delivered by Georgy Malenkov at the 19th Party Congress in October 1952 followed the commentary in Pravda. The draft of the speech had been carefully worked out by Stalin. We need Soviet Gogol and Shchedrin. We will burn with the flames of satire all the undesirables, corruptions, and perishables that hinder our progress."
*The bolded words are from Stalin.

Hakusuisha, Jeffrey Roberts, Stalin's Library, translated by Yoshihiko Matsushima, p332-335

."Dostoevsky calls for the abandonment of struggle. He seeks humility, acceptance, and the virtues of Christ. In his view, there is no other way to save Russia from the catastrophe of socialism."

I was surprised to read this passage. Stalin, after all, deeply understood Dostoevsky. He also clearly recognized the threat to the ideology of Marxism. That is why Stalin was afraid of Dostoevsky.

And it was in the commentary right after that.How Stalin evaluates writers determines the political tide."The word "Dostoevsky" is also very important. The word "reinterpretation" is also very important because in the Soviet Union, Dostoevsky was reinterpreted by the Soviet ideology. I have already written about this in my blog, KudryavtsevRevolution or God: Dostoevsky's Worldview."You can see the process in detail at

Even before his death, Dostoevsky clearly rejected communism and revolutionary struggle. This has also been previously discussed on this blogDostoevsky, who criticized communist and socialist revolutionaries.We talked about this in the article

If Dostoevsky, who was clearly opposed to such communism, passed through the hands of Soviet ideological interpretation, he would become a revolutionary who affirmed the assassination of the Russian emperor. For more on this, see.''History and Culture of the Russian Orthodox Paleo-Ritualists'' - Dostoevsky an Atheist and Revolutionary? A Consideration of Misunderstandings about Dostoevsky."It is a very deep-rooted problem, as discussed in the article on

I have been sidetracked from the book "Stalin's Library" for quite some time, but it was particularly memorable for me, having studied Dostoevsky for the past several years.

Now that we have talked about this at length, it may have come as a surprise to many of you that the dictator Stalin was a voracious reader. What is told in this book is quite stimulating. It is an interesting work that allows us to look at history from a fresh angle.

Why not pick one up?

The above is "Jeffrey Roberts' "Stalin's Library" - A novel biography of Stalin from the perspective of reading. How did he view Dostoevsky?" The above is "Jeffrey Roberts' Stalin's Library.

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