Stalin’s Library: A Dictator and his Books

A compelling intellectual biography of Stalin told through his personal library

A Socialist History Society meeting with historian Geoffrey Roberts.

In this engaging life of the twentieth century’s most self-consciously learned dictator, Geoffrey Roberts explores the books Stalin read, how he read them, and what they taught him. Stalin firmly believed in the transformative potential of words and his voracious appetite for reading guided him throughout his years. A biography as well as an intellectual portrait, this book explores all aspects of Stalin’s tumultuous life and politics.

Stalin, an avid reader from an early age, amassed a surprisingly diverse personal collection of thousands of books, many of which he marked and annotated revealing his intimate thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Based on his wide-ranging research in Russian archives, Roberts tells the story of the creation, fragmentation, and resurrection of Stalin’s personal library. As a true believer in communist ideology, Stalin was a fanatical idealist who hated his enemies—the bourgeoisie, kulaks, capitalists, imperialists, reactionaries, counter-revolutionaries, traitors—but detested their ideas even more.

Read an article by Geoffrey Roberts in the Irish Times….

About the Speaker

Professor Geoffrey Roberts is emeritus professor of history at the University College Cork, Ireland and a member of the Royal Irish Academy.
He is a frequent contributor to British, Irish and American newspapers and to popular history journals and he has acted as consultant for various TV and radio documentaries.
Professor Roberts is a leading Soviet history expert, especially its military and foreign policy, Stalin and the Second World War. He has published over 20 books, including his latest, which provides the theme of his talk.
Stalin’s Library: A Dictator and his Books (Yale, 2022).
Stalin’s General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov (London, 2013)
Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953 (Yale, 2008)
Victory at Stalingrad: The Battle That Changed History (Longman, 2002)
The Soviet Union in World Politics: Coexistence, Revolution and Cold War, 1945-1991. (Routledge, 1998)
His work has been translated into 16 languages, namely Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Persian, Portuguese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, and Turkish.
Professor Roberts was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in March 2016, the country’s highest academic honour.

Stalin with Mother (1930) by the Georgian artist Apollo Kutateladze
Stalin with Mother (1930) by Apollo Kutateladze