Stalin was more widely loved than he had any right to expect In his more

Stalin was more widely loved than he had any right to

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Stalin was more widely loved than he had any right to expect. In his more relaxed moods he likedto compare himself with the Allied leaders. His qualities, he told others, included ‘intelligence,analysis, calculation’. Churchill, Roosevelt and others were different: ‘They – the bourgeois leaders –
are resentful and vengeful. One ought to keep feelings under control; if feelings are allowed to getthe upper hand, you’ll lose.’15This was rich coming from the lips of a Leader whose own violentsensitivities were extreme. But Stalin was in no mood for self-criticism. In a confidential meeting withBulgarian communists he derided Churchill forfailing to anticipate his defeat in the Britishparliamentary elections in July 1945 – and Churchill, according to Molotov, was the foreignpolitician whom Stalin respected the most. The conclusion was obvious: Stalin had become convincedof his own genius. He was master of a superpower beginning to fulfil its destiny. His name was asglorious as the victory being celebrated by the communist party and the Red Army. World renownhad settled upon the cobbler’s son from Gori.
PART FIVETHE IMPERATOR
45. DELIVERING THE BLOWStalin’s mind was a stopped clock. There was no chance in 1945 that he would satisfy popularyearnings for reform. His assumptions about policy had hardened like stalactites. He knew what hewas doing. If he had relaxed the regime, he would have imperilled his personal supremacy. Thisconsideration counted more for him than evidence that his mode of rule undermined the objective ofdurable economic competitiveness and political dynamism. Stalin thought strictly within the frame ofhis worldview and operational assumptions. The habits of despotism had anaesthetised him to humansuffering. The man who digested a daily multitude of facts disregarded information he founduncongenial.Only his death or drastic physical incapacitation might have moved the mechanisms towardsreform. He might easily have died in the first half of October 1945 when the condition of his heartgave him problems.1The years were catching up with him. He had had patches of ill health since theRevolution, and the Second World War had levied a heavy toll. At the age of sixty-six he was longpast his physical prime. His cardiac problem was kept a state secret and he took a two-monthvacation;2but this had been nothing unusual for him in the inter-war years. Not even the members ofhis entourage were initiated into the details of his condition – they were simply left to surmise that hewassufferingfromanillnessofpassingsignificance. ApartfromhisphysicianVladimirVinogradov, no one had an inkling of the medical prognosis. Politburo members knew they had todesist from any display of inquisitiveness. It would have been dangerous for Stalin to think they wereaware of his growing frailty. He would instantly have suspected that a coup against him was in the

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