cover image Stalin's Prosecutor: The Life of Andrei Vyshinsky

Stalin's Prosecutor: The Life of Andrei Vyshinsky

Arkadii Vaksberg. Grove/Atlantic, $24.95 (374pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1333-7

Chief prosecutor in the murderous Moscow show trials of the 1930s, mild-mannered, cunning Andrei Vyshinsky matched his boss, Josef Stalin, in his lust for power, insatiable vanity and fear for his own safety. Slavishly obsequious to his master, Vyshinsky was a first-rate actor and virtuoso stage-manager who orchestrated countless ``confessions'' from innocent victims. Bolsheviks, eniment doctors and teachers, military men, bureaucrats, intellectuals--all were branded criminals or traitors and sent to death squads or labor camps. Adroitly outlasting Stalin, Vyshinsky went on to become a Soviet delegate to the U.N. His death in 1954 was mourned with solemnity by that international forum. In drawing on KGB files to limn this sinister butcher with dispassionate calm, Vaksberg, a Moscow journalist and vice-president of the Soviet chapter of PEN, fleshes out a dark chapter of Soviet history. A gripping, blood-chilling account. (Feb.)