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[책의 향기]Beyond the cruel dictator, face the ‘reading fanatic’ Stalin

I idolize Lenin’s books and read them voraciously, but I also read books by his opponents and swear at them.
Gorky and Tolstoy have a close relationship… Taste for Western European classics such as Shakespeare
◇Stalin’s Study/Written by Geoffrey Roberts/Translated by Namseop Kim/543 pages, 31,000 won, Beyond Books

Stalin working in his office. The author of ‘Stalin’s Study’ said, “Stalin was not an original thinker. “What Stalin did all his life was to use other people’s ideas, formulas, and information, and that’s why he read so much.” Provided by Beyond Books

Diligent reading was a part of Mao Zedong’s life. When he went on a long march and withdrew from Yan’an, he did not throw away his books even though he threw away everything else. After he established the communist regime, he collected tens of thousands of books and created a personal library. There is even a book called ‘Mao’s Reading Life’. He read all kinds of books, but especially liked The Complete Works of Lu Xun and The Dream of the Red Chamber.

Stalin's handwritten book classification system.  Provided by Beyond Books
Stalin’s handwritten book classification system. Provided by Beyond Books

Stalin appears to have been an avid reader just as much as Mao. However, unlike Mao, his library of books was scattered after his death due to a downgrading movement by Khrushchev. Nevertheless, about 400 texts in which he wrote short comments remain.

Stalin considered Lenin to be on the level of Galileo and Darwin and read Lenin’s books diligently, but he also carefully read the writings of Kautsky and Trotsky, who could be said to be his adversaries. Of course, in Kautsky’s writings, he used a lot of swear words such as svoloch (a bastard) and rzetz (liar), and in Trotsky’s writings, he added notes such as tak (correct) and metko (correct), but he was wrong about the decisive difference with himself. marked.

With the release of Soviet secret documents, idolization of Stalin and research to understand the real Stalin deepened while avoiding demonization. A native of Georgia, Stalin was a theology student with good grades before turning to revolution in his youth. It wasn’t just madness that made him one of the worst dictators. The fact that he turned from an Orthodox believer to an atheist and became a cruel dictator happened because he persistently pursued his own logic.

Stalin was very interested in history in general, including Herodotus’ ‘History’ among the books he borrowed from the Lenin Library but did not return. He read many books by Russian historian Robert Wippert and guided the writing of Soviet history textbooks using the book’s class struggle narrative as a model.

Stalin highly valued the enlightening role of classical literature. Unfortunately, Stalin’s literary collection was scattered after his death. However, Andrei Gromyko, who was the Soviet ambassador to the United States during World War II, said of Stalin, “He read the works of many other Western European writers, including Shakespeare, Heine, Balzac, Hugo, and Maupassant, whom he especially liked.”

Stalin maintained a close relationship with Gorky and awarded Tolstoy the Stalin Prize. Regarding the film ‘Ivan the Terrible’, written by Tolstoy and directed by Eisenstein, he personally guided him to make it a work based on socialist realism based on his knowledge of history and literature.

Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin were all the same in that they approached the revolution through books. However, Stalin could not read anything other than Russian and had no experience abroad. This is the difference between Lenin and Trotsky, who spoke German well. Looking at Mao Zedong and Stalin, there seems to be no significant difference between reading books avidly and being a good leader. Free and democratic beliefs seem to be acquired through character and moral experience rather than through books.

Editorial Writer Song Pyeong-in [email protected]

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