"Give me back the Berlin Wall, Give me Stalin and St. Paul . . ."
In a recent New York Times article, Jennifer Siegel reviews the book "'Stalin,' by Stephen Kotkin" (November 26, 2014), and we receive a new, surprising view of the man:
Kotkin paints a portrait of an autodidact, an astute thinker, "a people person" with "surpassing organizational abilities; a mammoth appetite for work; a strategic mind and an unscrupulousness that recalled his master teacher, Lenin" . . . . Kotkin has given us a textured, gripping examination of the foundational years of the man most responsible for the construction of the Soviet state in all its brutal glory.Kotkin was a colleague of mine at U. C. Berkeley when we were graduate students there, and though we weren't close enough to be friends, we were friendly, taking some history of science courses together and also working as teaching assistants for survey courses in history, which meant that we taught discussion seminars and graded papers and exams. He and I were just left of center in those days - a position that looked right-wing to Berkeley Leftists. We are probably just right of center these days. We have one other thing in common - we both married Korean women.
I can't say that I knew him well, but I'm glad for his success as a historian.