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Robert Conquest obituary

Historian and poet who exposed the full extent of Stalin’s terror during the Soviet era

Among the western historians of the Soviet Union, Robert Conquest, who has died aged 98, had a unique place. In 1989-90 his account of the terror of the 1930s was translated and published in a Soviet journal. At the same time, a half-dozen other Soviet journals were publishing translated material from Conquest’s other books. He was not the first to describe the extent and workings of the Stalin tyranny, but he did so in fine detail. He had become, for a broad Russian readership, the man who told the truth about the terror, and Stalin’s murderous tyranny.

The Great Terror (1968) undermined the “official” Soviet story of conspiracy and treason. Conquest placed the murder in 1934 of the Leningrad party boss, Sergei Kirov, as the key to the mechanism of terror. He returned to this in Stalin and the Kirov Murder (1989), though no smoking-gun evidence has yet been found to confirm Stalin’s role.

Related: Stalin's reputation as a ruthless master of deception remains intact

Related: Profile: Robert Conquest

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