Conversations with Stalin

Publisher: Penguin Books
Author: Milovan Djilas
Pages: 136
Language: English
Cover: Soft
49.00 PLN
Milovan Djilas was one of four senior members of Tito's government until his expulsion from the Yugoslav Communist party in '54 & eventual imprisonment on political charges. He wrote Conversations With Stalin in '61, between arrests. The book is a diary of his three voyages to Moscow in '43, '44 & '48. Djilas, memories no doubt leavened by hindsight, titles the three meetings "Raptures", "Doubts" & "Disappointments". As these names indicate, the book chronicles his growing disillusionment with Soviet-led socialism. Djilas was an educated man, a sophisticated thinker & a writer. So that when we read passages in the "Raptures" section such as, "My entire being quivered from the joyous anticipation of an imminent encounter with the Soviet Union", it seems clear he was not the naïf that he makes himself out to be. Rather, given his circumstances at the time that he was writing, he was heightening the sense of his early fascination with all things Soviet so that his later disenchantment is all the more palpable. The book fascinates with its detail. He travels to Moscow as a foreign dignitary to discuss Yugoslav-Soviet policies. He must cool his heels for days before he's finally summoned to meet Stalin. Then the meetings are typically all night dinners with copious drinking & byzantine political subtext to the conversation. Stalin dominates the discussion so thoroughly that when he insists that the Netherlands was not a member of the Benelux union, nobody dares correct him. Djilas recognizes traits of greatness in Stalin, his ruthlessness & farsightedness. He describes these not out of regard or respect, but because they are precisely the qualities which make Stalin evil. "Every crime was possible to Stalin, for there was not one he had not committed." As doubts begin to creep in, he records the development of his own cynicism. "In politics, more than in anything else, the beginning of everything lies in moral indignation & in doubt of the good intentions of others". His portraits of Krushchev, open-minded & clever; of Molotov, Stalin's taciturn lieutenant; Dimitrov, the powerful Bulgarian kept on Stalin's string; Beria, sinister & drunk; & a host of other prominent figures make this book required reading for those interested in the era. The descriptions of machinations surrounding Yugoslav-Albanian-Bulgarian politics & his unflattering characterization of Croatian hero Andrija Hebrang are of great interest to students of Balkan history.