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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Myself and Stalin

A couple of days ago Sharon and I were in Sochi, Russia. On our whole cruise I was most interested in going ashore in Sochi as there was a tour that took in Stalin’s summer dacha.

Early last decade I read a biography of Stalin. At that time my personal reviews were much shorter. I wrote:

32. - 122.) Stalin by Edvard Radzinsky – An excellent biography which penetrates the most ruthless man in the history of the world. From his humble origins in Georgia to unquestioned authority as the new “tsar” the book clearly explains his actions and motivations. As he rose he carefully watched the actions of other leaders. “Bit by bit, we learn” was the chilling quote that explained how Stalin developed the principle that any action was permitted as he pursued the “Great Dream” of socialist world domination. No man has brought about the deaths of more people. Compassion was foreign to Stalin. (Oct. 21/02)

He was also a poet and a writer.

The dacha was a vivid historic experience. It is a deep green. The guide said Stalin was worried about it being easily visible from the air and vulnerable to being bombed.

It is set in a lovely location amid the pines above Sochi and looks out over the Black Sea.

Our guide said you could book his bedroom as the dacha is part of a hotel. I am not sure that room is available but I read online that there are 18 rooms you can book to stay in overnight for about $450.00 per night with meals included in the room rate. I think there are too many ghosts haunting the dacha for me to want to stay there.

In the restored or preserved rooms there is fine woodwork. The keyhole to his private chambers is covered on both sides so no one could take a peek.

There is a room with a full size snooker table. Because of his withered left hand a special extra weighted cue was made for Stalin. It was passed around for us to balance with a regular cue. It was much heavier.

There is a small but deep indoor oval pool beside his bedroom.

Most interesting was the area where his desk is located. It is startling to walk into the room and encounter a life size wax statute of him sitting behind the desk. (He was 5' 4".) A slight chill went through me as I contemplated him sitting at this desk at night going through the lists prepared for him and checking off who lived and died.

We were allowed to have a photo taken beside Stalin. Sharon took the above photo of myself and Stalin. I felt very much a part of history.
Others made funny gestures for their photos. Considering who Stalin was and what he did those gestures felt disrespectful to the millions of his victims.


  1. Bill - What an interesting place that dacha must be! And what a sense of history one must get from the place. You were fortunate to be able to see it. Thanks for sharing what it's like. I think I agree with you about the ghosts though; I don't think I'd want to stay there...

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I hope you can get to Sochi. Going to the dacha is a genuine historic experience.

  2. I wouldn't let Hitler off the hook for being the worst person in history. More than 60 million people died in WWII. They wouldn't have died without the Nazi drive to conquer Europe, aided by other Western European leaders. The USSR lost tens of millions of people, many of them civilians outright murdered or starved and frozen to death, as in the Nazi sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad, along with the program of exterminating Jewish people, Roma and other peoples. Just in Ukraine alone, 4 million were killed, 1 million Jews, the rest members of the Resistance and other people opposed to the Nazi occupation. And then there's Asia.

    1. Kathy D.: I am not sure on whether Hitler or Stalin is worst in terms of people killed. Each was wicked and evil. I think there is no doubt Stalin made more personal decisions on who lived and died than anyone else in history.

  3. Replies
    1. Scott: Thanks for the comment. It was a good trip.

  4. Bill, I enjoyed reading about your history trip to Stalin's dacha. In one of life's many ironies, one dictator's help was sought to remove another dictator from power. In some ways Hitler's crimes overshadowed those of Stalin; if Hitler had his concentration camps, Stalin had his gulags. They were both evil.

    1. Prashant: Stalin's crimes were obscured for a long time. I am not sure we yet know all the terrible things he ordered and/or allowed. There have been many unusual alliances in history to wage war.

  5. Fascinating Bill, what an interesting trip. And what a great title for a post!

  6. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I had a very good time on the trip. There were lots of people from the still United Kingdom on the ship.

  7. I'm absolutely flabbergasted about this discussion about Hitler. Beginning in the early 1930s, political opponents to Nazism were jailed. After the Reichstag fire, all of the democratically elected parliamentarians who opposed Nazism were jailed. Many did not survive. They were the first to go to Dachau.
    Not only were there concentration camps where millions of Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians, gay people, political opponents, children, people with disabilities, etc., were brutally killed, but whole villages were murdered. People were put alive into graves. 1.5 million were starved or frozen out in Leninigrad in the siege; 1.5 million who fled died.
    Political opponents were killed all over Europe, even people who protested mildly.
    What about inside Germany with Sophie Stoll and other student activists? What about union members? Gay people? People with disabilities, including developmental.
    What about people who resisted in Europe, in many countries. If they were caught, they were dead.

    In the Netherlands, workers in 7 cities went out on strike to protest deportations of Jews. Then the Nazis shot some protesters to stop the opposition, although it went on clandestinely.

    As someone who knows people who lost entire families in Europe, who were Jewish, and also knows someone whose uncle was in the Dutch Resistance and was caught and murdered, I have heard the pain of these losses. I grew up hearing them, having a friend at the age of 5 whose parents looked haunted. They had numbers branded on their arms.

    The New York Times reported that in Germany there were a total of 800,000 political prisoners, meaning a lot of opposition. Most of those prisoners did not survive. And that went on all over Europe.

  8. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I am not disagreeing with you on Hitler. The post was about Stalin not Hitler. Thus my focus has been on Stalin.

  9. I was disagreeing with the sentence that Stalin was "the most ruthless man in the history of the world." I was saying that let Hitler off the hook in terms of European-wide repression, terror and murder.

  10. Your entire trip sounded so great, Bill. The visit to the dacha must have been very interesting.

    1. TracyK: It was a fine trip. We met a lot of people from California on the cruises. You would find the dacha intriguing.