Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Master of the House

Master of the House: Stalin and His Inner Circle

Translated by Nora Seligman Favorov
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 344
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Master of the House
    Book Description:

    Based on meticulous research in previously unavailable documents in the Soviet archives, this compelling book illuminates the secret inner mechanisms of power in the Soviet Union during the years when Stalin established his notorious dictatorship. Oleg V. Khlevniuk focuses on the top organ in Soviet Russia's political hierarchy of the 1930s-the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party-and on the political and interpersonal dynamics that weakened its collective leadership and enabled Stalin's rise.

    Khlevniuk's unparalleled research challenges existing theories of the workings of the Politburo and uncovers many new findings regarding the nature of alliances among Politburo members, Sergei Kirov's murder, the implementation of the Great Terror, and much more. The author analyzes Stalin's mechanisms of generating and retaining power and presents a new understanding, unmatched in texture and depth, of the highest tiers of the Communist Party in a crucial era of Soviet history.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16128-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxvi)

    In December 1929, Joseph Stalin wrote to his closest comrade-in-arms, Viacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, who was on vacation in the south. “Hello, Viacheslav. Of course I got your first letter. I know you are cursing me in your heart for my silence. I can’t deny that you are fully within your rights to do so. But try to see things my way: I’m terribly overloaded and there’s no time to sleep (literally!). Soon I will write a proper letter [ . . . ]. Once again: I promise to write a proper letter. Warm regards.”¹ A few years later, Stalin fundamentally...

  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
  6. 1 The Stalinization of the Politburo 1928–1930
    (pp. 1-38)

    AFTER LENIN’S DEATH the most important outcome of the power struggle among Bolshevik leaders was the formation of a majority faction within the Politburo that went on to become the Stalinist faction. Once Stalin managed to eliminate almost all of the prominent revolutionary figures who had been a part of Lenin’s circle, he became the strongest figure in the Politburo and began to set the “general line” the party would follow. This was the main sign of the Stalinization of the Politburo. While a number of the traditions and procedures of collective leadership remained in place, from this point forward...

  7. 2 Power in Crisis 1931–1933
    (pp. 39-84)

    THE DEVASTATING CRISIS that became increasingly evident from 1931 proved the criminality of Stalin’s Great Leap policy. Terrible famine, which hit its peak in the winter of 1932–1933, the collapse of agriculture, the failure of forced industrialization, and growing social tensions raised questions about the soundness of the regime and Stalin’s own political viability. The response to the growing crisis offered by Stalin and his comrades-in-arms was intensified repression and terror to the point where state violence threatened the very foundations of the system. And while repression and coercion remained the cornerstones of Stalin’s chosen course, occasionally, under the...

  8. 3 A Facade of Liberalization 1934
    (pp. 85-126)

    THE BRIEF PERIOD between the surge in state terror in 1932–1933 and the new hardening of the general line that followed the murder of Sergei Kirov on 1 December 1934 had many of the features of a thaw, however limited it might have been by the systems that had taken shape over the previous few years. In the opinion of Mikhail Gefter, this brief period offered an opportunity—an opportunity that was missed—to choose, on the one hand, between further bloodletting and a continuation of the same course and, on the other, normalization of the “anti-Fascist democratization of...

  9. 4 Terror and Conciliation 1935–1936
    (pp. 127-165)

    WHETHER OR NOT Stalin was involved in Kirov’s murder, he took full advantage of the opportunities it presented to further his own objectives. Principally, he used it as an excuse to eliminate his former political opponents, the leaders and members of the opposition movements active in the 1920s and early 1930s. Between 1935 and 1938 a large number of oppositionists were destroyed. In almost every case, the accusations of terror leveled against them included allegations of involvement in plans to kill Kirov. Besides serving as a vehicle for settling old accounts, his murder became the starting point for a large-scale...

  10. 5 Stalin and the Great Terror 1937–1938
    (pp. 166-202)

    AN EXTENSIVE BODY of scholarship is devoted to the history of the Great Terror, the mass repression that engulfed all segments of Soviet society in 1937 and 1938. One question central to this scholarship and to the subject of this book has been debated for many years: To what extent was the terror centrally orchestrated, determined by orders from the top, and to what extent did more elemental, spontaneous factors affect the course of events? A number of historians believe that elemental forces played a greater role than is generally recognized. Though not denying the role of the center in...

  11. 6 On the Eve of War: The New Structure of Stalin’s Government
    (pp. 203-245)

    AFTER SEVERAL YEARS of relative stability, there was significant turnover in the membership of the Politburo in 1937–1938, during the period of mass terror. Proportionally the Politburo was not as severely affected as other party-state structures, but the political influence of individual members, even the remainder of Stalin’s old guard, was reduced to a minimum by mass arrests and executions (especially within the nomenklatura). The Politburo’s total dependence on Stalin was a key indicator that Stalin’s personal dictatorship was firmly in place.

    With the new political realities came changes to the fundamental institutions of power. This rearrangement, undertaken during...

  12. Conclusion: Master of the House
    (pp. 246-262)

    BY 1941, STALIN had consolidated his dictatorship and established one of the most brutal regimes that has ever existed in Russia or the world. The factors contributing to Stalin’s successful takeover of power that are often cited by historians and political scientists—the authoritarian traditions of Russian history and the fractured state of Russian society after years of war and revolution—do nothing to change the fact that Stalin’s dictatorship was imposed from above, even if it did have fertile ground on which to grow. Every dictator must carry out a revolution from above. Without this, he (or she) cannot...

  13. Appendix 1: Politburo Membership
    (pp. 263-265)
  14. Appendix 2: Visits to Stalin’s Office by Politburo Members and Central Committee Secretaries
    (pp. 266-272)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 273-302)
  16. Index
    (pp. 303-313)