Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him

Stalin and His Hangmen The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him Stalin did not act alone The mass executions the mock trials the betrayals and purges the jailings and secret torture that ravaged the Soviet Union during the three decades of Stalin s dictatorship

  • Title: Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him
  • Author: Donald Rayfield
  • ISBN: 9780375757716
  • Page: 363
  • Format: Paperback
  • Stalin did not act alone The mass executions, the mock trials, the betrayals and purges, the jailings and secret torture that ravaged the Soviet Union during the three decades of Stalin s dictatorship, were the result of a tight network of trusted henchmen and women , spies, psychopaths, and thugs At the top of this pyramid of terror sat five indispensable hangmen who pStalin did not act alone The mass executions, the mock trials, the betrayals and purges, the jailings and secret torture that ravaged the Soviet Union during the three decades of Stalin s dictatorship, were the result of a tight network of trusted henchmen and women , spies, psychopaths, and thugs At the top of this pyramid of terror sat five indispensable hangmen who presided over the various incarnations of Stalin s secret police Now, in his harrowing new book, Donald Rayfield probes the lives, the minds, the twisted careers, and the unpunished crimes of Stalin s loyal assassins.Founded by Feliks Dzierzynski, the Cheka the Extraordinary Commission came to life in the first years of the Russian Revolution Spreading fear in a time of chaos, the Cheka proved a perfect instrument for Stalin s ruthless consolidation of power But brutal as it was, the Cheka under Dzierzynski was amateurish compared to the well oiled killing machines that succeeded it Genrikh Iagoda s OGPU specialized in political assassination, propaganda, and the manipulation of foreign intellectuals Later, the NKVD recruited a new generation of torturers Starting in 1938, terror mastermind Lavrenti Beria brought violent repression to a new height of ingenuity and sadism.As Rayfield shows, Stalin and his henchmen worked relentlessly to coerce and suborn leading Soviet intellectuals, artists, writers, lawyers, and scientists Maxim Gorky, Aleksandr Fadeev, Alexei Tolstoi, Isaak Babel, and Osip Mandelstam were all caught in Stalin s web courted, toyed with, betrayed, and then ruthlessly destroyed In bringing to light the careers, personalities, relationships, and accomplishments of Stalin s key henchmen and their most prominent victims, Rayfield creates a chilling drama of the intersection of political fanaticism, personal vulnerability, and blind lust for power spanning half a century.Though Beria lost his power and his life after Stalin s death in 1953, the fundamental methods of the hangmen maintained their grip into the second half of the twentieth century Indeed, Rayfield argues, the tradition of terror, far from disappearing, has emerged with renewed vitality under Vladimir Putin Written with grace, passion, and a dazzling command of the intricacies of Soviet politics and society, Stalin and the Hangmen is a devastating indictment of the individuals and ideology that kept Stalin in power.From the Hardcover edition.

    One thought on “Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him”

    1. I bought Donald Rayfield’s Stalin and his Hangmen six or seven years while I was studying modern Russian history in sixth form at school. I never read it, though, because it was squeezed out by another book published at about the same time – Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore. My present fascination with the writing of Vasily Grossman persuaded me to turn to the long-neglected Raysfield for some additional background information on the nature of the Soviet state and [...]

    2. Leopold von Ranke once said that an historian should write well, but not *too* well -- and Rayfield almost falls into this latter category. Moreover, there is no attempt to hide his absolute contempt for Stalin; he does not refrain from using moral adjectives; and so his book gains readability, but looses a touch of objectivity. Hence, the missing star.That said, this is an outstanding book: readable, intense, clearly authoritative -- Rayfield is fluent in Russian and Georgian, and appears to ha [...]

    3. This a well written and well researched book based on the most recently opened Soviet archives, that reveals in great detail not only what a monstrous regime Stalin's was, but also how much its existance played into the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe.

    4. Very interesting historical read, very slow at times, but leaves you in no doubt about the monster this man was, and the yes-men around him.

    5. Rayfield writes a very personal account of Stalin and those close to him who were primarily responsible for the mass killings that occurred during the early Soviet Union: Felix Dzerzhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrentiy Beria. Going through the personal lives of each of them and how it factored into their overall choices to engage in mass murder, it proves a very gripping account. Written not as a serious academic tome but more in the style of popular histor [...]

    6. Rayfield's careful research focuses on Stalin and the assorted secret police leaders who served him. While Stalin clearly bears chief responsibility for his murderous regime, he found in the likes of Dzerzhinsky, Yezhov, Yagoda, and Beria monsters in their own rights to assist him.

    7. A more revolting account of Stalin's rule than Montefiore's, this book chronicles the murderous career of the Cheka and its many succeeding bodies, as well as its many successful 'hangmen'. Stalin murdered millions of his own countrymen, including his own allies and family, but this book makes clear that in order to be successful evil doesn't just need the good to do nothing, but evil also requires many busy hands to do its work. Stalin cultivated such hands, from the almost-tragic Genrikh Yagod [...]

    8. This was an excellent window into Russian history. It also made an indelible memory of what an absurd life. Stalin constantly cycled through underlings, gaining their loyalty, using them as agents, and eventually discarding them when they began to accumulate too much power. As each of these cycles unfolded, it was shocking to watch a man's rise, his fall, and ultimately his destruction. At the end of his own life, Stalin suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed, face-down in his room. His under [...]

    9. Well done book about a difficult topic. The author's point is that the biggest madmen of the 20th century could not and did not do all their evil alone and the story of their henchmen needs to be told. Rayfield does a commendable job of pointing out how easily we were swayed by the British and American left into thinking of Stalin as a benign, occasionally misguided, idealist and how it was important for us to do so to be able to gird ourselves for the fight against fascism. At times, the book g [...]

    10. I couldn't finish it because I simply lost interest in that particular topic. But for those who are interested I found this book easy to read and interesting with a lot of historical detail. And the key words are 'lot of detail'. This is the kind of book that needs to be read--not just skimmed through. Nearly every sentence provided details of varying importance to the central topic, and so required carefull and consistant reading. As mentioned though I found this book very interesting and easy [...]

    11. Sprawling.Somewhat unfocused. Some sections are not even about Stalin or his hangmen. Too many names and somewhat confusing chronology. The statistics become numbing. It is admittedly a difficult story to tell but it doesn't help that the author is not much of a storyteller. There are some good sections though.

    12. A detailed and horrifying history of the murderous regime of Stalin and his team of executioners, primarily the KGB and its predecessors. Truly an eye opener for anybody who has still an iota of sympathy for "Uncle Joe". As a willing albeit unwitting "ex employee", this book brought me to tears.

    13. I have had a pre-occupation with evil rulers of the 20th century. My opinions may change but I am pretty convinced Stalin "wins" as greatest evil leader of that time period. Definitely worse than Mao, probably worse even than Hitler. This book tells part of the story.

    14. Excellent book on the 20th century's biggest monster, and the men who killed for him. More uplifting Soviet history.

    15. Very informative tome. The language bordered on pretentious but overall a good resource for Russian politics, Stalin in particular.

    16. As a non-historian, I found this quite accessible. Have to confess I onlyl read two-thirds of it, but you get enough of the gist of Stalin, even from that. Extremely well written account.

    17. This is a great look into the mind of Stalin and is murderers that purged Russia of their artist, intellectuals and political enemies. Well worth the read if you like Soviet history.

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