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In his new book The Stalinist Era (Cambridge University Press, 2018), David L. Hoffmann focuses on the myriad ways in which Stalinist practices had their origins...

In his new book The Stalinist Era (Cambridge University Press, 2018), David L. Hoffmann focuses on the myriad ways in which Stalinist practices had their origins in World War I (1914-1918) and Russian Civil War era (1918-1920). These periods saw mass mobilizations of the population take place not just in Russia and the early Bolshevik state, but in many other nations, too.

In order to place Stalinism in this more comparative context, Hoffmann draws on a variety of primary archival sources. The Stalinist Era also provides a broad synthesis of recent work on  Stalinism, and so interested readers will be able to follow his bibliography to much of the key historical work on the Stalin era in the Soviet Union. Following its treatment of the Russian Civil War, The Stalinist Era takes readers through the NEP (New Economic Policy) period, the “building socialism” era of crash industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture, the Purges of the late 1930’s, the Second World War, and the final postwar Stalin years. Finally, Hoffmann suggests, there are important ways in which Stalinism did not die with Stalin himself.

The Stalinist Era combines an effective synthesis of the entire Stalin period, while at the same time, putting forth a specific and engaging argument that Stalinism mirrors many broader trends in modern nations. Historical writing should encourage comparative thinking, and Hoffmann’s book does exactly that.


Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism.