Man of Steel, Re-forged

Geoffrey Roberts treads through morally hazardous territory portraying Stalin as a great statesman.

Issue: Sept-Oct 2007

Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 496 pp., $35.00.

STALIN'S WARS by Geoffrey Roberts, a professor of history at University College Cork, is in many respects a model of scholarship. It draws on an impressive array of Russian, British and American archives as well as a large number of published documents and secondary sources. It is impeccably organized. The author writes with clarity and authority. He advances a sharply defined and well-supported argument about an important topic, challenging the conventional wisdom and offering a thoroughly substantiated alternative. His canvas is large, but his brushstrokes are precise and vigorous. Stalin's Wars is revisionism of a high order.

In brief, the story that Roberts tells goes like this: Josef Stalin, uncontested leader of the Soviet Union from 1927 until his death in 1953, deserves to be remembered as a great statesman-indeed, as the greatest of the age. Although Stalin made his share of mistakes, especially in the early phases of World War II, he learned from those mistakes and thereby grew in wisdom and stature. Among allied chieftains, he alone was irreplaceable. He, not Churchill and not Roosevelt, was the true architect of victory, "the dictator who defeated Hitler and helped save the world for democracy."

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