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The Weakness of the Despot

More on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Stephen Kotkin is one of our most profound and prodigious scholars of Russian history. His masterwork is a biography of Josef Stalin. So far he has published two volumes––“Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and “Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941.” A third volume will take the story through the Second World War; Stalin’s death, in 1953; and the totalitarian legacy that shaped the remainder of the Soviet experience. Taking advantage of long-forbidden archives in Moscow and beyond, Kotkin has written a biography of Stalin that surpasses those by Isaac Deutscher, Robert Conquest, Robert C. Tucker and countless others.

Kotkin has a distinguished reputation in academic circles. He is a professor of history at Princeton University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, at Stanford University. He has myriad sources in various realms of contemporary Russia: government, business, culture. Both principled and pragmatic, he is also more plugged in than any reporter or analyst I know. Ever since we met in Moscow, many years ago––Kotkin was doing research on the Stalinist industrial city of Magnitogorsk––I’ve found his guidance on everything from the structure of the Putin regime to its roots in Russian history to be invaluable.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Kotkin about Putin, the invasion of Ukraine, the American and European response, and what comes next, including the possibility of a palace coup in Moscow. Our conversation, which appears in the video above, has been edited for length and clarity.

Please select this link to read the complete article from The New Yorker.

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