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On Stalin’s Team:
The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics
Sheila Fitzpatrick

Honorable Mention for the 2016 PROSE Award in Government & Politics, Association of American Publishers

Hardcover | 2015 | $35.00 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691145334
384 pp. | 6 x 9 | 30 halftones.
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Stalin was the unchallenged dictator of the Soviet Union for so long that most historians have dismissed the officials surrounding him as mere yes-men and political window dressing. On Stalin’s Team overturns this view, revealing that behind Stalin was a group of loyal men who formed a remarkably effective team with him from the late 1920s until his death in 1953.

Drawing on extensive original research, Sheila Fitzpatrick provides the first in-depth account of this inner circle and their families, vividly describing how these dedicated comrades-in-arms not only worked closely with Stalin, whom they both feared and admired, but also constituted his social circle. Readers meet the wily security chief Beria, whom the rest of the team quickly had executed following Stalin’s death; Stalin’s number-two man, Molotov, who continued on the team even after his wife was arrested and exiled; the charismatic Ordzhonikidze, who ran the country’s industry with entrepreneurial flair; Andreev, who traveled to provincial purges while listening to Beethoven on a portable gramophone; and Khrushchev, who finally disbanded the team four years after Stalin’s death. Among the book’s surprising findings are that Stalin almost always worked with the team on important issues and that after his death the team managed a brilliant transition to a reforming collective leadership.

Taking readers from the cataclysms of the Great Purges and World War II to the paranoia of Stalin’s final years, On Stalin’s Team paints an entirely new picture of Stalin within his milieu—one that transforms our understanding of how the Soviet Union was ruled during much of its existence.

Sheila Fitzpatrick is professor of history at the University of Sydney, professor emerita at the University of Chicago, and the author of many books on the Soviet Union, including The Russian Revolution, Everyday Stalinism, Tear Off the Masks! (Princeton), and a memoir of Moscow in the 1960s, A Spy in the Archives.


"Though there have been a number of fine studies of Stalin and his henchmen in the past few years, On Stalin’s Team offers new insight into the complex group dynamics that sustained his political power for so long."--Rachel Polonsky, Times Literary Supplement

"[A] superb group portrait of the dictator’s closest lieutenants at a pivotal moment in history."--Joshua Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal

"[On Stalin’s Team is] a well-researched study of the social and political lives of the men who supported, encouraged, and abetted Stalin."--Kirkus

"Fitzpatrick offers a new analysis here, with an emphasis and explanation of the team of advisors that surrounded, supported and later survived Stalin for over 30 years. . . . Well worth reading."--Library Journal, starred review

"Sheila Fitzpatrick’s impressive new study is a welcome addition to the debate . . . this is a rare and highly accomplished piece of scholarship, and an accessible volume that I would recommend to expert colleagues, students and non-historian friends alike. . . . Fitzpatrick shows herself to be a master storyteller as well. Readers will laugh out loud at accounts of exchanges between squabbling Bolshevik leaders that bring their vivid personalities to life, and will be drawn into the simmering drama as lively characters leap from the pages. . . . Fitzpatrick’s innovative approach situates Stalin firmly in his personal milieu for the first time, helps to elucidate how he actually exercised power through his team, and offers a compelling sense of the personalities and relationships at play in the Soviet elite that will prove invaluable in interpreting party and government records via their human context."--Lara Cook, Times Higher Education

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Table of Contents:

Explanatory Note vii
Glossary ix
Introduction 1
ONE The Team Emerges 15
TWO The Great Break 43
THREE In Power 64
FOUR The Team on View 89
FIVE The Great Purges 114
SIX Into War 143
SEVEN Postwar Hopes 171
EIGHT Aging Leader 197
NINE Without Stalin 224
TEN End of the Road 255
Conclusion 269
Acknowledgments 279
Notes 281
Biographies 317
Bibliography of Works Cited 333
Index 349

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Sheila Fitzpatrick:

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