The usual story about the dreadful era under Stalin is that it was an economic disaster, that collectivisation led to massive famines and economic hardship. I have addressed the recovery of Stalin as an innovative and dynamic war leader a little earlier – a recovery brought about by war historians rather than political analysts or even Marxists, who shy away from the man with the moustache like Australians from a visit of the English queen.

But that inveterate Stalinist, the Mindless Berlusconi Youth, has directed me to another interesting piece of information: a graph tracing the percentage of world GDP, along with population.

What’s interesting about this graph is not that it comes from a source not particulalry favourable to our man – the Financial Times. It takes little effort to notice the peak under Stalin – 10% of global GDP, second only to the USA. Those war historians have wondered why the USSR was able to recover so quickly after Hitler’s devastating invasion. Perhaps an answer lies here, in the deep reorganisation of industry and agriculture known as collectivisation. It also makes it perfectly clear that 1991 was catastrophic for Russia’s economy, a situation from which it has not recovered, for now it produces a little over 2% of global GDP.