- Research Programs
- Regions & Topics
- All Publications
A nation must think before it acts.
Russia votes on March 18 in a presidential election that is, let’s agree, lacking in any competitive tension. In fact, says Stephen Kotkin, Vladimir Putin’s re-election is “preordained, a superfluous, if vivid, additional signal of Russia’s debilitating stagnation.”
Few Americans understand Russia better than Mr. Kotkin, who late last year published “ Stalin : Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941,” the second of an intended three-volume biography of the Soviet dictator Mr. Kotkin describes as “the person in world history who accumulated more power than anyone else.”
President Putin, by comparison, is a dictatorial lightweight. “We wouldn’t want to equate Putin with Stalin,” Mr. Kotkin says. The Soviet Union—which Stalin ruled for three hair-raising decades, until his death in 1953—had “one-sixth of the world’s land mass under its control, plus satellites in Eastern Europe and Northeast Asia.” There were also communist parties in scores of countries, which did Russia’s bidding. “We talk about how Russia interferes in our elections today,” says Mr. Kotkin, “but Stalin had a substantial Communist Party in France, and in Italy, inside the Parliament. And when Stalin gave instructions to them, they followed his orders.”