Who Killed Kirov?: The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery

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9780809097036: Who Killed Kirov?: The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery

An exciting analysis of Russia's crime of the century, the assassination of Stalin's greatest rival.

The 1934 murder of the charismatic politician Sergei Kirov sparked Stalin's brutal purges, and speculation about it still fascinates the Russians. Who killed Kirov, and why? In Russia, conspiracy theories about Kirov have abounded, and scholars throughout the world have tackled various pieces of the story--but definitive evidence has eluded them. Now Amy Knight has combed the recently opened Russian archives to reconstruct this fascinating crime and analyze its effect on the Russian people. The result is at once an intriguing murder mystery and a major piece of scholarship that sheds new light on the terrors of Stalin.

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Review:

In contrast to the brusque, standoffish Stalin, Leningrad party chief and Politburo member Sergei Kirov was charismatic and approachable--a real muzhnik, or man of the people. His rise through the ranks of the communist party to become the prize orator of Stalin's regime was aided by his popularity and his devotion to the cause. The question of who killed Kirov has perplexed Russian bureaucrats and historians alike since the apparent murder took place in December 1934. Although the Stalin regime immediately accused and brutally killed alleged suspects--and then used the murders as a catalyst for massive purges of its enemies--lack of definitive evidence continues to shroud the case in mystery and keeps it rife with speculation to this day. In Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery, Amy Knight draws on compelling new evidence and presents the most convincing account to date of the Kirov murder and the momentous events surrounding it.

In order fully to understand the murder, according to Knight, the reader must learn what kind of man Kirov was, how he rose to power within the Soviet political system, and how Stalin came to dominate that system. Consequently, she devotes much of the book to Kirov's personal story, his role in forging the Bolshevik regime, and his relationships with key party leaders. Although Kirov's murder and its tragic aftermath remain the narrative's focal point, Knight successfully broadens her readers' understanding of the entire Stalinist era.

A research associate at George Washington University and author of two additional studies of Russian politics, Knight supplements her 270-page study with maps, illustrations, chronologies, a glossary of names, diagrams of the Soviet political hierarchy, and ample notes. Well researched and thoroughly documented, Who Killed Kirov? remains accessible to the general reader. --Bertina Loeffler Sedlack

From the Inside Flap:

On December 4, 1934, the Red Arrow chugged from Leningrad through the freezing dawn to Moscow's October Railway Station. It carried the coffin containing the bullet-scarred body of Sergei Kirov, former Leningrad Party chief, Politburo member, and prize orator of the Stalin regime. Kirov's murder, allegedly by a lone gunman, sparked the brutal purges that characterized the Stalin regime, and speculation about it still fascinates the Russians, much as the assassination of President Kennedy fascinates Americans.

Kirov was charismatic and approachable, so popular that many Russians believed he was the only real threat to Stalin's power. Who murdered him, and why? Stalin, disaffected political opponents, a jealous husband? And if Kirov had lived, would the Soviet Union have become a totalitarian police state, or something quite different? Scholars throughout the world see Kirov as the key to understanding Stalin and for years have argued about various pieces of the story-but the necessary evidence has eluded them. Now Amy Knight has combed the recently opened Russian archives to reconstruct this haunting crime and analyze its impact on the Russian people. The result is at once a breathtaking murder mystery and an important piece of scholarship that sheds new light on Stalin's politics.

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