March 31, 2009
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v2.1 Reference

Stalin's Police

Public Order and Mass Repression in the USSR, 1926–1941

Stalin’s Police offers a new interpretation of the mass repressions associated with the Stalinist terror of the late 1930s. This pioneering study traces the development of professional policing from its pre-revolutionary origins through the late 1930s and early 1940s. Paul Hagenloh argues that the policing methods employed in the late 1930s were the culmination of a set of ideologically driven policies dating back to the previous decade. Hagenloh’s vivid and monumental account is the first to show how Stalin’s peculiar brand of policing—in which criminals, juvenile delinquents, and other marginalized population groups were seen increasingly as threats to the political and social order—supplied the core mechanism of the Great Terror.

About the Author

Paul Hagenloh is an associate professor of history in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. He was a Title VIII research scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 2004-5.


The near torrent of works attempting to reconstruct and rectify the historical record of the Stalin era continues, and this one is a worthy example.

- Robert Legvold - Foreign Affairs

Hagenloh has written an important book on Soviet policing between Stalin's rise to power and the advent of WW II. It is a fresh, fascinating study.

- Choice

A very serious contribution to the field.

- Paul Monk - Australian Literary Review

Hagenloh's insightful and provocative examination of the Soviet police—civil ( militsiia) and security (political)—fills a glaring gap in our understanding of the Stalin era... Such a study is long overdue.

- William J. Chase - Russian Review

This is a book that transcends disciplinary boundaries and deserves to be widely read by scholars of criminal justice.

- Matthew Light - Law and Politics Book Review


This is an extraordinary book of cardinal importance to the history of Stalin’s USSR. Based on scrupulous original research in once secret archival documents, Stalin’s Police presents a magisterial and authoritative account of the struggles of Soviet leaders to control and manage their public.

- Peter Solomon, University of Toronto

Stalin’s Police betrays a prodigious amount of work and knowledge and makes a great contribution to the literature on Stalinism and totalitarianism. It also helps us better understand a feature of everyday life under Stalin, namely the sweeps of arrests of targeted segments of the population and attendant insecurity and fear that those sweeps left with nearly all Soviet citizens.

- Mark Von Hagen, Arizona State University

This is an important book, a first-class example of the current scholarship emerging from the detailed use of opened Russian archives of the Stalin era and a fascinating analysis of its machinery of policing and control.

- Mark Galeotti - Europe-Asia Studies

This is an excellent book, and like all good books its assertions (and assertiveness) will spark controversy.

- J. Arch Getty - Slavic Review

An impressive study.

- Melanie Ilic - Revolutionary Russia

An impressively researched and analytically ambitious monograph on the history of Stalinist policing.

- David Priestland - American Historical Review

Hagenloh's sophisticated and well-researched work is valuable reading.

- Alexander Hill - Journal of World History

Provides valuable material and insights.

- Robert W. Thurston - The Historian

Hagenloh's study is a major contribution not only to the history of the Stalinism, but also to the history of the modern state and its uses of violence to pursue social engineering.

- Rosaria Franco - European History Quarterly
Johns Hopkins University Press
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480 Pages
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