Washington, March 6 (RFE/RL) - Stalin died as he had
lived, a figure shrouded in secrecy and fear, and for more than 40
years most of his secrets -- historical and personal -- remained
Now five years after the collapse of the state he helped build, long
after the fading of the terror he unleashed, a new biography of the
Soviet dictator by Edvard Radzinsky reveals much of what was so
Drawing on secret documents in recently opened government, party and
KGB archives, and interviews with survivors, Radzinsky tells what he
says are the true circumstances of Stalin's birth, his machinations
in the Communist Party, his reign in the Kremlin, and the way he
really died 43 years ago this past Tuesday -- on March 5, 1953.
The 600-page book, entitled "Stalin," goes on sale in English
translation in the United States next month. But Russian readers will
have to wait until the fall.
A spokeswoman for Radzinsky's New York literary agent told RFE/RL
that "Stalin" will be published in Russia after the broadcast of a
television series based on the book.
She says Radzinsky, historian and playwright, as well as a
television personality, hosts the "Mysteries of History" program on
Russia's ORT Channel One and is already working on the production of
the 12-part series on Stalin. It is to be aired on this program
before the book is published in Russia.
Radzinsky's previous book "The Last Tsar" was also published first
in U.S. and received critical acclaim. The Stalin biography promises
to be as successful and perhaps more so.
American reviewers, who received advance copies of "Stalin", have
called it "a tour de force," "masterful," "vivid and astonishingly
intimate," and "a remarkable and gripping biography."
One critic, Carolyn White of Mirabella publications, said the book
transported her to a menacing reality and kept her "spellbound for a
terrifying tale, told in full for the first time."
She says "the frightening current of Stalinist nostalgia in Russia,
in advance of the presidential elections this June, raises
Radzinsky's work of historical genius to immediate import."
A critic for Kirkus reviews says "the book may change the way we
view Stalin and will certainly change many of the interpretations of
Radzinsky, who is in the United States this week giving interviews
to generate advance publicity for his work, says he worked mostly
from files he found in the so-called "President's Archives."
These were controlled, he says, directly by the Communist Party
leadership and preserved in a secret place together with Stalin's
Radzinsky says "this was only right, since by then the history of
the Party, and that of the country, had become Stalin's history."
He says he also spoke with people who knew Stalin personally,
including party officials, government ministers, Stalin's
grandchildren and other relatives.
But the most sensational information, Radzinsky says, came from
Peter Vasilevich Lozgachev, who had served in Stalin's guard and was
present at his death.
Lozgachev told Radzinsky how he discovered Stalin lying on his
bedroom floor in a pool of his own urine. Top government officials,
including future leader Nikita Khrushchev, were summoned by the
guards. But they left Stalin helpless and dying without medical help
for 13 hours.
Radzinsky says Lozgachev confirmed that historical reports of
Stalin's last days had been falsified.
In the book, Radzinsky fills in the gaps, explaining convincingly,
albeit without conclusive evidence, that Stalin was probably poisoned
on orders from Lavrenti Beria, head of the Soviet secret police.
Radzinsky says "if they did not kill him by poison, they killed him
by witholding medical attention."
He documents that in 1953, the year of his death, Stalin strongly
believed that Soviet world domination was close at hand and could be
achieved through a global war.
Radzinsky shows how Stalin had already launched a new anti-semitic
campaign and deduces that it was intended to provoke the West and
raise the curtain on a nuclear third world war. The plan was aborted
with Stalin's death and Radzinsky speculates it could have been one
of several motives for Stalin's Politbureau comrades to hasten his
With new archive material, Radzinsky clarifies much else that has
been rumored and uncertain. He shows how Stalin tried to obscure his
early life and had his friends from those days exiled or killed.
Radzinsky suggests the secret Stalin was trying to keep was that on
Lenin's instructions he was probably working as a double agent,
spying both for the Bolshevik cause and the Tsarist secret police.
Penetrating Stalin's obfuscation, Radzinsky shows Stalin was born on
December 6, 1878, a year and three days earlier than the official
date, and that his mother lived in a palace when he rose to power and
not in a washerwoman's hovel.
Radzinsky also cites documents showing that Stalin personally staged
the show trials of the 1930s and was far more sadistic and
methodically bloodthirsty than Western historians had assumed.
But Radzinsky says Stalin did not poison Lenin, who probably died of
artherosclerosis and did not shoot his second wife, Nadezhda
He says Stalin may have contributed to her suicidal mood with his
infidelities and paranoic personality and they did quarrel hours
before she died. But according to Radzinsky, Nadezhda shot herself,
in part because she was seriously ill and facing major surgery.