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Between 1945 and 1953, while the Soviet Union confronted postwar reconstruction and Cold War crises, its unchallenged leader Joseph Stalin carved out time to study scientific disputes and dictate academic solutions. He spearheaded a discussion of "scientific" Marxist-Leninist philosophy, edited reports on genetics and physiology, adjudicated controversies about modern physics, and wrote essays on linguistics and political economy. Historians have been tempted to dismiss all this as the megalomaniacal ravings of a dying dictator. Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars draws on thousands of previously unexplored archival documents to demonstrate that Stalin was in fact determined to show how scientific truth and Party doctrine reinforced one another. Socialism was supposed to be scientific and science was supposed to be ideologically correct. Stalin ostensibly embodied the perfect symbiosis between power and knowledge.

  • Honorable Mention for the 2008 W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies

  • Shortlisted for the 2007 AAASS Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize

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"This is a very accessible and sometimes astonishing study of what happens when politicians attempt to mould the culture and intellectual life of a society to justify their ideologies. . . . It's a fascinating study of a leader who genuinely believed that the credibility of 'scientific' socialism was at stake."--Steve Carroll, The Age

"Ethan Pollock's remarkable book offers a radical and intriguing reevaluation of postwar science debates by suggesting to take seriously Stalin's public call for scientific objectivity and free and open exchange of opinion. Drawing on a wealth of recently declassified archival documents, including internal party memos and Stalin's personal notes, Pollock traces a surprising evolution of the leader's thought about the relationship between ideology and science.... Thoroughly researched, provocatively argued, and occasionally entertaining, Pollock's book reveals a much greater degree of Stalin's personal involvement in both the administrative and the intellectual sides of the postwar debates than previously thought."--Slava Gerovitch, Russian Review

"[T]he value of this work is to reveal with great clarity the unfolding debates and Stalin's role within them. Stalin was no fool, but Pollock rightly notes his 'remarkable intellectual arrogance' and the damage of using political methods to settle scientific debates. This book is yet another example of the consequences of destroying the independent associations of civil society."--David W. Lovell, European Legacy

"In Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars, Ethan Pollock provides a fascinating examination of the ideological controversies that shaped Soviet science during Stalin's last years. . . . He adds considerably to our understanding of the complexities of the debates in philosophy, linguistics, and economics, while his analyses of the cases of biology, physics, and physiology contribute to an already extensive literature. This book is also a contribution to the understanding of Stalin and Stalinism. . . . This book will be of interest to advanced undergraduate students and specialists in the philosophy and politics of twentieth-century science, Soviet history, and the history of Stalinism."--Paul Josephson, Isis

"[Pollock] follows the various debates and ideological conflicts in detail, but his accounts are easy to read and at times almost gripping in the manner of a thriller."--Bob Dent, Budapest Times

"[T]his is a fascinating story that deserves to be included on the reading lists of courses in Soviet history and in the history and sociology of science."--Andrew Jenks, Technology and Culture

"Pollock's prose is succinct, precise and elegant; his argument is cogently developed, subtle, sophisticated and compelling. This excellent and engaging volume will be indispensable reading for all Soviet historians and students, as well as for those interested in the social construction and political control of scientific knowledge."--Nick Baron, Europe-Asia Studies

"Pollock's study is an extremely valuable contribution to the debate on the nature of Soviet Science, but it also deserves a wider readership amongst all those interested in the influence that Marxist-Leninist ideology had over both the Soviet state and Josef Stalin personally."--Michael Froggart, South East Europe Review for Labour and Social Affairs

"The text is gracefully written, the biographical appendix is useful, and the scattering of contemporary photographs helps the reader picture many of the principal actors."--Mark B. Adams, Journal of Modern History

"Pollock has written a fascinating book. . . . [I]t throws a great deal of light on the nature of the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War."--John Baxter, International Socialism