Stalin: A Very Brief History by Mark Black

Last year, after my US politics theme, I moved onto a bit of a World War II theme going on in my reading through Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series. First, I read the D-Day instalment in July and then in November I moved onto this instalment on Stalin.

Before reading this, I only really knew the very basics about Joseph Stalin: which is that he was one of the leaders of the Soviet Union, who switched to the Allied side during WWII to defeat Nazi Germany, but whose regime could be argued was just as bad if not worse with its mass repressions; ethnic cleansing; deportations; secret police; gulags; hundreds of thousands executed and millions killed by famine. What I really learnt from reading this is more of Stalin’s back story, like where he came from (Georgia); how he came to be part of the Communist part, rise through the ranks and managed to assume power after Lenin’s death; and the policies he went on to implement.

This is another clear, fast paced and concise history, which is broken down into bite-size chapters on: the reign of terror; the creation of ‘Stalin’; revolution; his rise to dictator; what life was like within his USSR; his role in WWII; his role post-war; the Iron Curtain; and his death and subsequently, the toll he left behind. This style made this a very easy read and would be even more helpful for a reader, who knew little to nothing to learn quickly the main events and essential facts; but if  you have read or know a fair bit about World Ward II and Joseph Stalin then I doubt you will learn anything new from this.

Overall, I thought Stalin: A Very Brief History was another quick and interesting read on another lazy Sunday morning. I will continue with my World War II theme with Black’s The Berlin War instalment. Okay read.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: Have you read this? Have you read any other books about WWII and/or Joseph Stalin?


This was book #2 for Nonfiction November 2019.

13 thoughts on “Stalin: A Very Brief History by Mark Black

  1. This sounds like an another interesting read. I know very little about Stalin either and these brief histories sound like clever and refreshing ways to discover history.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Lynn, these are a quick and refreshing way to get to know a topic you don’t know anything about and are interested to try topics out. Sounds like this one might be good for you, too. 🙂

  2. While I haven’t done much non-fiction reading about the war, I did visit the WWII museum in New Orleans, Louisiana awhile back. It’s an incredible place that I highly recommend.

    I like the sound of these “Brief Histories” as a way to get the basics.

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