The publication of Anatolii Rybakov's Deti Arbata (1987) was heralded with much fanfare both in the Soviet Union and abroad. In the novel Rybakov seeks to capture the essence of Stalinism as it affected the day-to-day existence of Soviet citizens, a theme that commands intense interest in the Soviet Union today. Yet it seems unlikely that Deti Arbata would have attracted the attention it has were it not for its lengthy passages devoted to the actions and thoughts of Stalin. The novel's protagonist Sasha Pankratov remains curiously flat, too reminiscent of socialist realist paragons; it is instead Rybakov's Stalin who holds the reader's attention.
Few reliable Soviet histories of the Stalinist period or biographies of Stalin exist. Dmitrii Volkogonov and others are trying to rectify this situation, but literature has attempted to fill the gap and to respond to the national desire for some insight into the mysteries of Stalinism and its creator.