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Departures Podcast with James Ryan and Susan Grant

It is easy to get very comfortable with our surface-level understanding of sweeping historical events. Most of the time it is generally consistent with the facts, except when it isn’t.

When it comes to how we regard the notorious regime of Josef Stalin and this particular period of Russian history, there are more than a few areas which have been analyzed and considered completely outside the context of the time in an ahistorical manner. This kind of thinking not only leads to rather annoying comparisons of Stalin with people like Vladimir Putin, but also deprives us of a fulsome understanding of events, motivations, and decisionmaking by the people involved.

James Ryan and Susan Grant join the podcast to discuss their excellent co-edited volume, “Revisioning Stalin and Stalinism: Complexities, Contradictions, and Controversies,” which is a collection of articles examining the controversies of Stalin’s leadership and questions regarding the cult of personality surrounding him.

“The past must be understood historically,” says Ryan in the interview. “Somebody like Stalin, the Stalinist regime more generally, must be understood historically in its context in its development. And that applies as well to the president today, so these comparisons between Stalinism and Putinism are ahistorical not least because of ideology.”