This introductory chapter begins with a description of Stalin's relationship with his entourage in the years after World War II. It tells the story of an aging and distrustful despot who habitually picked on and humiliated his companions, and sought to infect the ruling circle with the suspicions and insecurities that characterized his own mental world. Such actions seem to confirm a widespread perception of Stalin in these years as a vain, capricious, and highly unstable individual, who was bent on petty revenge and short-term personal domination. However, this book argues that Stalin's behavior after the war followed a clear political logic. This was, in part, the logic of a dictator seeking to preserve his power in conditions of old age and chronic ill health. An overview of the succeeding chapters is presented.
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