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Editor's note: We apologise for the audio intrusion in this podcast. The chair's introduction has been removed.

Speaker(s): Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick
Chair: Professor Vladislav Zubok

Recorded on 11 November 2014 at Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building

We know a lot about Stalin but less about the team – Molotov, Kaganovich, Mikoyan and the rest of a group whose membership was roughly but never quite equivalent to the Politburo – that surrounded him for 25 years. They went with him through collectivization, the Great Purges, the Second World War, and the travails of the postwar period, coming through the purges relatively intact but, in the case of Molotov and Mikoyan, barely surviving Stalin’s attempt to oust them in his last years. There can be no doubt that Stalin was the team’s boss, but what was the function of the rest of the team? Were they just yes men? If so, how do we explain their success, as the new “collective leadership,” in achieving a practically blood-free political transition, complete with a consensus reform programme, when he died?

Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick is Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of the University of Chicago and Professor of History at the University of Sydney, where she now lives.

Professor Vladislav Zubok is Professor of International History at LSE.

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