Stalin: The Tyrant as EditorRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: Joseph Stalin, editing
Holly Case is an associate professor of history at Cornell University.
Joseph Djugashvili was a student in a theological seminary when he came across the writings of Vladimir Lenin and decided to become a Bolshevik revolutionary. Thereafter, in addition to blowing things up, robbing banks, and organizing strikes, he became an editor, working at two papers in Baku and then as editor of the first Bolshevik daily, Pravda. Lenin admired Djugashvili's editing; Djugashvili admired Lenin, and rejected 47 articles he submitted to Pravda.
Djugashvili (later Stalin) was a ruthless person, and a serious editor. The Soviet historian Mikhail Gefter has written about coming across a manuscript on the German statesman Otto von Bismarck edited by Stalin's own hand. The marked-up copy dated from 1940, when the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany. Knowing that Stalin had been responsible for so much death and suffering, Gefter searched "for traces of those horrible things in the book." He found none. What he saw instead was "reasonable editing, pointing to quite a good taste and an understanding of history."
Stalin had also made a surprising change in the manuscript. In the conclusion, the author closed with a warning to the Germans lest they renege on the alliance and attack Russia. Stalin cut it. When the author objected, pleading that the warning was the whole point of the book, Stalin replied, "But why are you scaring them? Let them try. ..." And indeed they did, costing more than 30 million lives—most of them Soviet. But the glory was Stalin's in the end....
comments powered by Disqus
- JFK's diary reveals fascination with Hitler, compared to 'legend'
- Secret South Korean Nuclear Weapons Program Created Anxiety in Washington in Mid-1970s
- The President Is Under FBI Investigation. Is This Normal?
- President Trump Praised Both Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay
- Nativism, Violence, and the Origins of the Paranoid Style
- Historians are in demand! (On cruise ships)
- Douglas Brinkley says there’s a "smell of treason in the air"
- Mary Maples Dunn, Advocate of Women’s Colleges and President of Smith, Dies at 85
- Gil Troy says Jews and Israelis are the victims of a “Hate Swarm”
- Eric Foner interviews Matt Karp about his new book on slaveholders