New Books Network

David Brandenberger

Stalin’s Master Narrative

A Critical Edition of 'The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course'

Yale University Press 2019

New Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network November 22, 2019 Samantha Lomb

In this interview, David Brandenberger discusses his new edited volume (created in concert with RGASPI archivist and Russian historian Mikhail Zelenov) Stalin’s Master Narrative: A...

In this interview, David Brandenberger discusses his new edited volume (created in concert with RGASPI archivist and Russian historian Mikhail Zelenov) Stalin’s Master Narrative: A Critical Edition of ‘The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course’ (Yale University Press, 2019). The Short Course was designed to be the definitive party narrative, but the party purges and Stalin’s own personal preferences led to him stripping out the traditional historical framework of heroes and villains, offering instead theory and an institutional history readers often had a hard time connecting with or understanding.  Brandenberger talks about Stalin’s role in the writing and editing process, why such changes were made, how these changes reflected Stalin’s changing beliefs and changes in party policy. What Brandenberger reveals is quite different from the normal image of Stalin as the center of a cult of personality, always one step ahead of his perceived enemies. Listen in to find out why the Short Course is central to understanding Stalinism and how a critical reading of it challenges existing views on Stalin as a man, theorist and politician.


Samantha Lomb is an Assistant Professor at Vyatka State University in Kirov, Russia. Her research focuses on daily life, local politics and political participation in the Stalinist 1930s. Her book, Stalin’s Constitution: Soviet Participatory Politics and the Discussion of the Draft 1936 Constitution, is now available online. Her research can be viewed here.