Iron Lazar

Iron Lazar

A Political Biography of Lazar Kaganovich

By E. A. Rees

Anthem Series on Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

The first English-language biography of Lazar Kaganovich, one of Stalin’s leading deputies, ‘Iron Lazar’ provides an insight into the political and personal relations of the Stalin group, and examines Kaganovich’s role in shaping policy during the Stalinist regime.

Paperback, 390 Pages


October 2013

£25.00, $40.00

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About This Book

‘Iron Lazar’ is the first English-language biography of Lazar Kaganovich, one of Stalinist Russia’s leading deputies. With its focus on the political and personal relations of the Stalin group, this groundbreaking text offers a previously inaccessible insight into Kaganovich’s role in shaping policy during the Stalinist era.

The study begins by examining Kaganovich’s early political career and his ascent to power – a feat achieved via a distinguished role in the Civil War, which led to his elevation into the party Secretariat in Moscow. By 1930 he, Stalin and Molotov effectively constituted Russia’s ruling triumvirate, and for a period Kaganovich appeared to be the heir apparent to the Soviet Union. He played a crucial role in enforcing agricultural collectivization, in the reconstruction of Moscow, in railway and industrial administration and in carrying out the Great Terror. A very close associate of Stalin, and a major figure in promoting his cult of celebrity and establishing his dictatorship, Kaganovich subsequently fell out of favour.

Rees’s work strives to examine the personal and political dynamics shaping the Stalinist system. He notes that Kaganovich was a colourful figure – an orator as well as a forceful administrator – and that he was the most prominent Jewish figure in Soviet political life in this era. This unique biography charts the way in which these personal characteristics contributed to the development of the Stalinist system throughout Kaganovich’s career, how he was himself transformed by this experience, and the way in which he subsequently sought to rationalize his role.


‘This outstanding study draws on a vast range of published and archival material to provide a comprehensive account of the activities of this major Soviet politician.’ —Robert Davies, ‘Slavic Review’

‘Rees’s study is an excellent political biography of a leader who has all too often been dismissed or disparaged as a caricature.’ — Alison Rowley, ‘Canadian Slavonic Papers’

‘This is the definitive account of Kaganovich’s life. It is authoritative, well-researched, and an important contribution to the literature on the Stalin period.’ — Peter Whitewood, ‘Europe-Asia Studies’

‘This is an impressive book based on broad research and a sense for details. Because Kaganovich had such varied political experience, Rees is able to use his subject’s life as a vehicle to discuss a great number of developments in Soviet history generally. At the same time, Rees is able to give us a unique and compelling portrait of Kaganovich as a person, no mean feat when discussing Soviet politicians who did everything they could to hide their personal lives.’ —J. Arch Getty, University of California Los Angeles, ‘Revolutionary Russia’

‘Voici donc une solide biographie d’un personnage dont on savait toute l’importance dans la mise ne place du stalinisme... L’ouvrage fournit un nouvel éclairage sur ce personnage plus important en fin de compte que le “factotum” et “acolyte” de Stalin qu’il était aussi. Il ne laisse de côté aucune des inflexions des positions politiques de Kaganovic et de ses rapports avec les différents dirigeants… “Iron Lazar” est un très bon exemple d’un genre indispensable, celui des l’histoire des seconds couteaux.’ — Yves Cohen, Directeur d’études à l’Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, ‘Cahiers du Monde Russe’ n° 52/4

‘Lazar Kaganovich was one of the key figures in the Stalin administration – so much overlooked, yet so important. Arfon Rees, in this first exhaustive account, brings Kaganovich to the front of the historical stage. Without men like Kaganovich, Stalin would never have made his own impact on Soviet and world history.’ —Professor Robert Service, University of Oxford, author of ‘Stalin: A Biography’

‘Stalin did not create Stalinism single-handedly. Lazar Kaganovich, a doer more than a thinker or writer, was one of the leaders of Team Stalin. This excellent biography casts fascinating new light on the people that together built one of the great dictatorships of the twentieth century.’ —Professor Mark Harrison, University of Warwick

Author Information

E. A. Rees is a specialist in Russian/Soviet history, and has published three monographs and ten edited volumes on the development of the Soviet political system. Formerly Professor of Eastern European History at the European University of Florence, he is currently a reader in Russian and Soviet history at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham.


Anthem Series on Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

Table of Contents

List of Figures; Introduction; Chapter 1. The Making of a Bolshevik, 1893–1917; Chapter 2. Red Terror and Civil War, 1918–1921; Chapter 3. Building the Monolithic Party, 1922–1927; Chapter 4. Ukrainian Party Boss, 1925–1928; Chapter 5. The Triumph of the Stalin Faction, 1928–1929; Chapter 6. Revolution from Above, 1928–1935; Chapter 7. Stalin’s Deputy, 1930–1935; Chapter 8. Moscow Party Boss, 1930–1935; Chapter 9. Boss of Rail Transport, 1935–1937; Chapter 10. Political and Social Revolution through Terror, 1936–1938; Chapter 11. The Man; Chapter 12. The Despot’s Creature, 1939–1953; Chapter 13. De-Stalinization and Nemesis, 1953–1991; Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography; Name Index; Subject Index


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