Take Furr's treatment of one of the most important episodes in Soviet history, the Kirov assassination. On December 1, 1934 in the Party headquarters in Smolny, Sergei Kirov, the head of the Communist Party of Leningrad, was shot in the head and killed by a Party member, Leonid Nikolaev.
Kirov was a supporter and friend of Stalin's, (the two had vacationed together the previous summer), and Kirov had been sent to Leningrad at least in part to counteract the opposition elements in the party there. The day after the assassination, Stalin went to Leningrad and took personal charge of the investigation, which ended up implicating the opposition leaders, G. Zinoviev and L. Kamenev, and set off the Moscow Trials and associated repression. In the secret speech, Khrushchev implied that Stalin was behind Kirov's murder.
Furr argues that Khrushchev's insinuation was baseless and that the opposition leaders convicted were in fact part of a murder conspiracy. Furr is right on the first count but fails to prove the second. Moreover, his refutation is superficial and tendentious. Furr's refutation takes up less than two pages and involves quotations from three historians, all of whom dispute Stalin's involvement in Kirov's murder.
One would never know from Furr's account that Khrushchev's implication became the conventional wisdom among such Cold War Sovietologists as Robert Conquest, The Great Terror, and Amy Knight, Who Killed Kirov? The Kremlin's Greatest Mystery. In other words, a serious rebuttal of what Khrushchev implied would involve acknowledging what the Cold Warriors have written in support Khrushchev's view and then refuting or at least disputing it. Furr does not do this. He does not even identify two of the historians he quotes, Pavel Sudaplatov and Alla Kirilina. Furr neither provides their credentials (though strong), nor gives any reason that they are more credible (though they are) than Amy Knight or Robert Conquest. In other words, sometimes Furr has a stronger case than he bothers to make.
Moreover, Furr is highly selective about what he chooses to use from his sources. He fails to acknowledge, for example, that though the three historians he quotes disputed Khrushchev's view, none of them supported Furr's view. That is, none of them believe that the oppositionists convicted in the Moscow trials were guilty of Kirov's murder. For example, Kirilina dismissed Stalin's culpability for the murder but argued that Nikolaev was a lone assassin.
A recent examination of the case by historian Matthew Lenoe (The Kirov Murder and Soviet History ) relied heavily on the recollections of Genrikh Samoilevich Liushdov, one of the lead investigators in the Kirov case, who subsequently defected to Japan, and whose papers were examined by Lenoe in the Hokkaido University Library in Japan. Lenoe provided evidence that Stalin had nothing to do with Kirov's murder, hence proof that Khrushchev lied, but he also supported the lone assassin theory, hence not supporting Furr's view either.
If Furr is right about the Kirov murder, he does not prove it here, and at best one will have to await his forthcoming study of the case. In spite of Furr's claim about "every" Khrushchev revelation being a lie, Furr actually does not dispute much that Khrushchev said about the repression. He does not question that mass repression occurred, that it was directed not just against Trotskyites, Zinovievites, and Bukharinites, but against "many honest Communists"; that the repression involved "the fabrication of cases against Communists," "false accusations," "glaring abuses of socialist legality," "barbaric tortures," and "the death of innocent people"; that 70 percent of the Central Committee elected at the 17th Congress were "arrested and shot" and a majority of the delegates to the 17th Party Congress were arrested; that on January 10, 1939 Stalin sent a telegram to various bodies declaring that "methods of physical pressure" were permissible "in exceptional cases"; and so on.
Thus, while Furr accepts the major facts of the repression, he often quibbles over minor points, and without sufficient evidence, disputes the idea that everyone punished was innocent, and objects to laying the blame for the repression on Stalin (and Beria). Granted that many people besides Stalin carried out the repression and granted that Stalin played a role in ending the 1936-38 repression, the question remains how involved, aware and responsible was Stalin for the repression? If Khrushchev tried to shift total responsibility to Stalin, Furr seems bent on trying to deny Stalin any responsibility. In any case, Furr's reasoning and evidence on this point are dubious.