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Sakharov devotes more than 1000 pages to constructing an argument that few but the most ardent Stalinists find compelling.

I would like to ask what exactly the passage in bold means. I undrestood it that the argument is found compelling only by few people and these ones are just the ardent Stalinists. But my – may be wrong – understanding is based on the context of the sentence. From from the reading the very phrase I am not sure.

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    It means "few people other than the most ardent Stalinists"—in other words, those who were not the most ardent supporters of Stalin were extremely unlikely to be persuaded by the argument. – Robusto Apr 23 '17 at 16:17
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    It means 'only the most ardent Stalinists find the argument compelling, and they are few in number'. Or, only a few ardent Stalinists find the argument compelling, and they can be characterized as the 'most ardent'. – green_ideas Apr 23 '17 at 16:23
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    But here has the sense except. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 23 '17 at 16:30
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...few people other than the most ardent Stalinists find the argument compelling.

So, those who would find the argument compelling are

  • The most ardent Stalinists
  • And few others

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