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Talk: Joshua Rubenstein: the Last Days of Stalin

A gripping account of the months before and after Stalin’s death and how his demise reshaped the course of twentieth-century history Joshua Rubenstein’s riveting account takes us back to the second half of 1952 when no one could foresee an end to Joseph Stalin’s murderous regime. He was poised to challenge the newly elected U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower with armed force, and was also broadening a vicious campaign against Soviet Jews. Stalin’s sudden collapse and death in March 1953 was as dramatic and mysterious as his life. It is no overstatement to say that his passing marked a major turning point in the twentieth century.

The Last Days of Stalin is an engaging, briskly told account of the dictator’s final active months, the vigil at his deathbed, and the unfolding of Soviet and international events in the months after his death.

Rubenstein throws fresh light on  the devious plotting of Beria, Malenkov, Khrushchev, and other “comrades in arms” who well understood the significance of the dictator’s impending death; the witness-documented events of his death as compared to official published versions; Stalin’s rumored plans to forcibly exile Soviet Jews; the responses of Eisenhower and Secretary of State Dulles to the Kremlin’s conciliatory gestures after Stalin’s death; and the momentous repercussions when Stalin’s regime of terror was cut short.

Joshua Rubenstein has been professionally involved with human rights and international affairs for forty years as an activist, scholar, and journalist with particular expertise in Russian affairs.  

He is a long-time Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University.  Working as an independent scholar, he is the author or editor of ten books, including Soviet Dissidents, Their Struggle for Human Rights and Tangled Loyalties, The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg, a biography of the controversial Soviet-Jewish writer and journalist.  He is the co-editor of Stalin's Secret Pogrom:  The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.  Mr. Rubenstein received a National Jewish Book Award in the category of East European Studies for Stalin's Secret Pogrom.  He is the co-editor of The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov.  He also helped to edit and translate The Unknown Black Book, the Holocaust in the German-Occupied Soviet Territories.  Mr. Rubenstein contributed a concise interpretive biography of Leon Trotsky to the Jewish Lives series at Yale University Press.  He also wrote and edited Shot by Shot: the Holocaust in German-Occupied Territory.  Over the years his various books have been translated into Hebrew, Russian, Italian, Spanish, and Romanian.

Joshua Rubenstein was on the staff of Amnesty International USA for 37 years where many of his responsibilities involved responding to the abuse of human rights in the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation.  In the fall of 1990 and again in the spring of 1991, during two one-month private visits to Moscow, he was asked by the International Secretariat to consult on the prospects for membership growth in Russia.  Mr. Rubenstein met extensively with Amnesty members in Moscow.  His work contributed to the establishment of Amnesty's Information Office in Moscow.  In 1994, he helped to organize and participated in the first national conference of Amnesty members in the Russian Federation, which was held in Saint Petersburg.  

In 2004-2008, Mr. Rubenstein served as Amnesty’s principal representative for a traveling exhibit on the history of the Soviet Gulag.  After two years of planning alongside colleagues from the National Park Service, the International Memorial Society (based in Moscow), and the Gulag Museum (based in Perm, Russia), the exhibit opened on Ellis Island where it drew 5,000 visitors a day for several months.  

This is a Pushkin Club event and all are welcome.