My Uncle, Joseph Stalin

by Budu Svanidze. Putnam, $3.00.
Mr. Svanidze — who is related to Stalin through both his parents and has known his “Uncle Sosso” since infancy — was a Soviet official in Vienna when he took refuge in the West to marry a Hungarian girl who was a Catholic and would not live in Russia. The fact that he has portrayed Stalin sympathetically, as the benevolent uncle, is not in itself a reason for suspecting propaganda or deliberate distortion: other tyrants and mass murderers have had strong family sentiment, enjoyed a joke, and been keen on fishing. Furthermore the book repeatedly reveals, if only by indirection, the monstrous features of the Soviet system; and it ingenuously shows Stalin pulling out of a bad mood and becoming “the old Stalin again” upon deciding that “the Party must be purged.”
The author presents a great deal of intriguing human-interest material about Stalin — his intense feeling for his native Georgia; his is fondness for wine; his competitiveness at games and delight in winning; his relationships with his three wives; his passion for ribbing Molotov; his declining health. We see him cooking his favorite Georgian dish for a party; putting Malenkov through a history quiz; cynically deceiving the Russian people in the matter of Lenin’s body (when the mummy decayed, a statue was slipped into its place). Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, figures prominently in the story; and there are many interesting sidelights on the Soviet bigwigs.