Stephen Kotkin: Stalin, Putin, and the Nature of Power

Stephen Kotkin is a professor of history at Princeton university and one of the great historians of our time, specializing in Russian and Soviet history. He has written many books on Stalin and the Soviet Union including the first 2 of a 3 volume work on Stalin, and he is currently working on volume 3.

This conversation is part of the Artificial Intelligence podcast. If you would like to get more information about this podcast go to or connect with @lexfridman on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium, or YouTube where you can watch the video versions of these conversations. If you enjoy the podcast, please rate it 5 stars on Apple Podcasts, follow on Spotify, or support it on Patreon.

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Episode Links:
Stalin (book, vol 1):
Stalin (book, vol 2):

Here’s the outline of the episode. On some podcast players you should be able to click the timestamp to jump to that time.

00:00 – Introduction
03:10 – Do all human beings crave power?
11:29 – Russian people and authoritarian power
15:06 – Putin and the Russian people
23:23 – Corruption in Russia
31:30 – Russia’s future
41:07 – Individuals and institutions
44:42 – Stalin’s rise to power
1:05:20 – What is the ideal political system?
1:21:10 – Questions for Putin
1:29:41 – Questions for Stalin
1:33:25 – Will there always be evil in the world?