June 25, 2018
Did you miss part one? Listen to part one of the episode here.
Recorded on January 25, 2018.
“If you're interested in power, [if] you're interested in how power is accumulated and exercised, and what the consequences are, the subject of Stalin is just unbelievably deep, it's bottomless.” – Stephen Kotkin
In part two, Stephen Kotkin, author of Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941, discusses the relationship between Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler leading up to and throughout World War II. Kotkin describes what motivated Stalin to make the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Hitler and the consequences of his decision.
Kotkin dives into the history of the USSR and its relationship with Germany during WWII, analyzing the two leaders' decisions, strategies, and thought processes. He explains Stalin's and Hitler’s motivations to enter into the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact even without the support of their respective regimes. Stalin’s goal was to defeat the West and he saw the pact as an opportunity to do so by driving a wedge between Germany and the capitalist West. Kotkin analyzes Stalin’s decisions leading up to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union and the disinformation Germany was feeding soviet spies to prevent Stalin from moving against Hitler first.
June 7, 2018
Recorded on January 25, 2018
“Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator, creator of great power, and destroyer of tens of millions of lives …” Thus begins this episode of Uncommon Knowledge, which dives into the biography of Joseph Stalin. This episode’s guest, Stephen Kotkin, author of Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941, examines the political career of Joseph Stalin in the years leading up to World War II, his domination over the Soviet Union, and the terror he inspired by the Great Purge from 1936–38.
“Why does Joseph Stalin matter?” is a key question for Kotkin, as he explains the history of the Soviet Union and Stalin's enduring impact on his country and the world. Kotkin argues that Stalin is the “gold standard for dictatorships” in regard to the amount of power he managed to obtain and wield throughout his lifetime. Stalin stands out because not only was he able to build a massive amount of military power, he managed to stay in power for three decades, much longer than any comparable dictator.
Kotkin and Robinson discuss collectivization and communism and how Stalin’s regime believed it had to eradicate capitalism within the USSR even in regions where capitalism was bringing economic success to the peasants, with the potential of destabilizing the regime. This led to the Great Purge, a campaign of political repression that resulted in the exile and execution of millions of people.