The Stalin Cult A Study in the Alchemy of Power Jan Plamper

Yale-Hoover Series on Authoritarian Regimes
Publication date:
17 Jan 2012
Yale University Press
352 pages: 254 x 178 x 25mm
62 b-w + 21 color illus.

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Between the late 1920s and the early 1950s, one of the most persuasive personality cults of all times saturated Soviet public space with images of Stalin. A torrent of portraits, posters, statues, films, plays, songs, and poems galvanized the Soviet population and inspired leftist activists around the world. In the first book to examine the cultural products and production methods of the Stalin cult, Jan Plamper reconstructs a hidden history linking artists, party patrons, state functionaries, and ultimately Stalin himself in the alchemical project that transformed a pock-marked Georgian into the embodiment of global communism.

Departing from interpretations of the Stalin cult as an outgrowth of Russian mysticism or Stalin's psychopathology, Plamper establishes the cult's context within a broader international history of modern personality cults constructed around Napoleon III, Mussolini, Hitler, and Mao. Drawing upon evidence from previously inaccessible Russian archives, Plamper's lavishly illustrated and accessibly written study will appeal to anyone interested in twentieth-century history, visual studies, the politics of representation, dictator biography, socialist realism, and real socialism.

Jan Plamper is Dilthey Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

"Plamper has written a superbly documented, truly original and engrossing analysis... Plamper offers a gripping and persuasive explanation... an impressive art book."—Vladimir Tismaneanu (University of Maryland), International Affairs

"Plamper’s account represents the most rigorous and lucid analysis of the Stalin cult, not just in art but also in Soviet culture as a whole, by any historian to date. It will be essential reading not only for Soviet historians, but also for all those interested in the genesis and evolution of Stalinism, a key phenomenon of the modern politics that Plamper analyses so eloquently in this remarkable book."—Polly Jones, Times Higher Education

"Plamper’s section on art is thorough and revealing." George Walden, Times literary Supplement

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