Shostakovich and Stalin : The Extraordinary Relationship Between the Great Composer and the BrutalDictator
by Solomon Volkov
Release Date: 23 March, 2004
The book seems somewhat padded with "backstory" and questionable Darwinianism, e.g., Shostakovich v. Stalin as ineluctable successor to Pushkin v. Tsar Nicholas I. Or it may be that the publishers simply opted for too narrow a title, creating an expectation of a closely focused account restricted as near as possible to the marqueed characters. Volkov does not so limit himself; Stalin's grip on all the arts is explicated, music being but one of his concentrations.
The simplistic view of Stalin as ignorant thug is certainly easier to live with than the lately emerging portrait of a man of no mean intelligence, taste, and aesthetics who was nonentheless a swine of an almost inconceivable murderousness.
This picture of authoritarian absolutism over all media is well worth the read, especially when we ourselves are never short of bombastic blusterers ready to impose their situational moralities on everyone else for the sake of a few votes back home.
Volkov, happily, is no discount Freudian, and leaves it to the reader to ponder what delights--outside of the strict demands of "socialist realism"--Stalin derived from the squirming and survival techniques of those he didn't summarily dispatch.