Gorky’s Flea and the Great Terror

One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore Century, 2013, 480 pages, $39.95 When Maxim Gorky died in 1936, he left behind a diary with an entry that compared Stalin to a miserable flea that had been magnified many thousand-fold into a giant unstoppable beast. In one stroke, Gorky encapsulated the evil genius behind one of humanity’s darkest periods during the Great Terror of 1937 and 1938 in the Soviet Union. Stalin’s years of terror did more than anything else to discredit communism, even more than the failure of the Soviet economic model. Long before the ghoulish crimes of Mao…

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