Reviews

The disappearance of the Soviet Union has paved the way to the massive revision of the history of this continent-wide Communist state, in the West as in the countries of former socialist block, especially in the newly independent former Soviet republics.  Because of its crucial impact on twentieth-century world politics, Stalinism has become one of the most revisited chapters of this emerging new Soviet historiography.  At the same time, harsh vocal criticism of Stalin’s period by former Soviet historians, just after the crash of Soviet rule, was often guided by political and populist reaction to change.  A decade later, we face a new wave of interest in Stalin’s years, with less room for populist rhetoric and more interest for in-deep and well-informed analyses.  The book under review can be regarded as one of these more cautious tentative re-examinations of Stalin’s epoch in Soviet Azerbaijan.  Through a reconstruction of the personal history of the Azerbaijani Communist leader of the 1930s-40-s, Mir Ja‘far Bagirov, the author discusses all the well-known core issues of these undoubtedly brutal times.  Without challenging the evident negative realities and general negative  assessments of Stalinism in the Southern Caucasus, the author nevertheless sheds a crude light on some understudied, though widely discussed and controversial issues, like the “to some extent nationalistic nature” of Bagirov’s rule.  Despite some very questionable and sometimes conflicting conclusions, this well-informed book, written with care by a professional historian, can be presented as a valuable contribution to the present development of the historiography of the Soviet period in the federated republics.

Altay Göyüshov, Baku State University
CER: I-3.3.D-244