The turbulent political history of the years 1922–9 has not been a favourite theme in recent historiography of the Soviet Union. There have been few archival ‘sensations’ on Stalin’s rise to power and most historians, particularly of the younger generation, have either preferred to re-evaluate the traumatic events of the 1930s and 1940s or increasingly have turned to sociocultural explorations associated with post-modernist methodology. In many ways, then, this chapter presents more difficulties than any other. On the one hand, I do not wish to simply rehash older accounts of Stalin’s fierce battles with his arch-rivals Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin, but on the other there is relatively little new research to assess and critique. In terms of published archival evidence, we do now have Stalin’s letters to Molotov and other correspondence between Bolshevik leaders, plus several other important sources,1 but this constitutes a rather thin documentary base for such a pivotal subject. In this chapter I aim to synthesise the various approaches to Stalin’s ascendancy, incorporating new evidence where appropriate.
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