Stalin and Shakespeare
On 23 September 1936, a small notice appeared in an obscure Tasmanian newspaper announcing that Stalin was learning English in order to read Shakespeare. To paraphrase Hamlet, what was Shakespeare to Stalin? What did he signify to Stalin in 1936 and throughout Stalin’s reign? Why did the Soviets feel compelled to advertise this connection and in a location as far away as Tasmania? Examining Stalin’s biography, reading habits, and Soviet politics -- which endowed culture with pre-eminent weight and power --, this paper analyses the obfuscations, biographical legends, and other obstacles to a discovery, and to an understanding, of Stalin’s relationship with the Bard.