Customer Reviews for

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Can't put it down!

I first read the author's follow-up to this biography, Young Stalin, and enjoyed it so much I rushed to Barnes & Noble to find the first book. I can't remember the last time a nonfiction book has so captivated me. I disregarded all the other books in my stack "to be r...
I first read the author's follow-up to this biography, Young Stalin, and enjoyed it so much I rushed to Barnes & Noble to find the first book. I can't remember the last time a nonfiction book has so captivated me. I disregarded all the other books in my stack "to be read" and dived right into this account of the court of the Red Tsar. My only disappointment is coming to the end of it.

posted by 1532032 on June 29, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Excellent research, terrible writing...

As a historian it pains me to write this but the writing is terrible. First off the book is written for students of Stalin not as a stand alone biography. You need come to this story with a significant amount of background knowledge on the hundreds of individuals introd...
As a historian it pains me to write this but the writing is terrible. First off the book is written for students of Stalin not as a stand alone biography. You need come to this story with a significant amount of background knowledge on the hundreds of individuals introduced in the work as the author does not present much background on these individuals. He jumps around to different time periods with little regard for the timelines. And the writing is poorly done and not well structured.

posted by 3659286 on September 14, 2011

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  • Posted September 14, 2011

    Excellent research, terrible writing...

    As a historian it pains me to write this but the writing is terrible. First off the book is written for students of Stalin not as a stand alone biography. You need come to this story with a significant amount of background knowledge on the hundreds of individuals introduced in the work as the author does not present much background on these individuals. He jumps around to different time periods with little regard for the timelines. And the writing is poorly done and not well structured.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Can't put it down!

    I first read the author's follow-up to this biography, Young Stalin, and enjoyed it so much I rushed to Barnes & Noble to find the first book. I can't remember the last time a nonfiction book has so captivated me. I disregarded all the other books in my stack "to be read" and dived right into this account of the court of the Red Tsar. My only disappointment is coming to the end of it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I debated heavily on what to give this book. I agree with some o

    I debated heavily on what to give this book. I agree with some of the reviews that note that this is not an easy book to read. One needs to be patient as a large number of persons with their very russian names are thrown at you early on (many who went by different names as is common ) and if you are not used to it one could get confused rather easily. However, don't give up on it. If you are patient and continue reading the names start to come together. By the time I finished this book I felt like the author had successfully done his job. I had a much more complete knowledge of Stalin and those around him. I could go into how horrible I find his regime but anyone that reads this book won't need me or anyone to say a thing. If you are looking for a good book on Stalin and have a bit of patience to get your head around all the names this is a tremendous book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2013

    A page turner but a mild critique of the writing

    ---I AM NOT A SCHOLAR; BUT I DID LIVE THROUGH THIS PERIOD OF HISTORY. I COULD NOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN; I REALLY ENJOYED IT. IT WAS WONDERFULLY RESEARCHED.
    ---I FOUND AWKWARDNESS WITH THE ANTECEDENTS OF SOME PRONOUNS. ALSO, WHEN MONTHS AND DATES WERE REFERENCED, THE YEARS WERE NOT CLOSE BY OR REFERENCED AT ALL.
    ---OTHER THAN THE SLIGHT CRITIQUE ABOVE, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS VERY READABLE BIOGRAPHY!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2012

    Good Read

    I knew very little of Stalin which is why I purchased this book. It is very informative. It can sometimes be confusing with all the characters that are involved and constant footnotes. The footnotes should have been incorporated into the regular text. I think the author did a great job in his depiction of Stalin but I can't exactly agree that Stalin was so much of an intellect as he was more of a bully with mental problems. Needless to say, I think it is a good book to read for the information it contained.

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  • Posted January 26, 2012

    must read!

    absolutely fascinating!!

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  • Posted August 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Enthralling read

    The material on Stalin seems to have been very well researched. An absorbing book. Highly recommended.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2008

    Read this, then stand in Lubianka Square and visit the Cathedral of the Assumption

    Just a brief addition to the other comments - I read this book with great interest shortly before I visited Moscow. Reading this book made my visit to Moscow much more meaningful. The Cathedral of the Assumption was razed on Stalin's order - as was much of the rest of Moscow. They have rebuilt the church and there is a nice museum in the lower level - but only a few pieces of stone are left from the original structure thanks to Uncle Joe. In the Lubianka Beria would entertain desperate relatives as he knew their loved one was being tourtured one floor down. Calling this crowd 'gansters' is actually a compliment. The Russian word that best describes the time period is 'kashmar'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2006

    Could Not Put It Down!

    Don't be intimidated by this book's volume!It is a very quick entertaining, and informative read. It is truly amazing to see the true humanity and persona of the one who unleashed the Great Terror on the Soviet people. I highly recommend this book to anyone interesed in Russian, Eastern European, and military history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2005

    You Will Never Forget This Book

    This is a curiously flawed but still fascinating book. The author's great contribution (if his findings are confirmed by others) is to show that Stalin was more intellectual, more of a committed Marxist-Leninist, more of hard working and organized leader than previously thought. He was not just a cunning, evil peasant-Tsar, though he was that too. The book is a wealth of facts -- many from newly opened archives -- about Stalin viewed 'up close and personal.' It details his sexual life, his surprisingly high brow taste in literature and music, his mania for all manner of movies, the fact that his mother told him she would have been prouder of him if he had become a priest. Like 'I Claudius,' or 'The Sopranos' the quotidian picture of ordinary daily life is mixed up with the most appalling, perverse violence. For example two of Stalin's closest aides' wives- including the wife of his foreign minister - were imprisoned while the aides worked day to day, warmly and loyally. Or when his son was captured by the Germans he had his daughter in law imprisoned and his own grandchild sent to an orphanage -- because he blamed his son for not committing suicide. Every chapter is filled with stuff such as the pediaphilia and other sexually predatory practices of various Stalinist magnates. Beria, for instance, cruised Moscow to pick up groups of teenage girls and rape them willy nilly. But there is something very wrong with the book . The author has an obsessional interest in details (and so the book is satisfying because the facts are so lurid and his command of the material so immense) but he is allergic to painting overall gestalts. Most frustrating is his failure to draw a coherent picture of Stalin's personality which would thread through the book and give it a 'spine.' Instead he lists Stalin's traits and habits. Was Stalin a paraonid personality as is widely believed - the author really doesn't address this question. The same failure to be able to turn on the wide focus lens is shown in not being able to draw summaries of the larger historical contexts for individual historical events. Finally this is the worst edited book I have ever read. The most interesting stuff is in the footnotes (Why not in the text?) and there are typos. In summary this is a flawed but nonetheless impressive bit of popular historical writing. Who for example would ever be able to forget an 'anectode' like this: Stalin was convinced that Hitler would not invade on June 22, 1941 despite many notices that the invasion was coming. The night before the invasion a German communist selflessly swam a river separating the two forces to warn the Russians that the Nazis were going to invade the next morning. The news was sent to Stalin who ordered that this brave German deserter was to be shot. Great guy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2005

    Goodfellas Goes To Russia

    Hands down, one of the most amusing books I have ever read about the Communist regime in Russia. In 'Gulag', one Communist official is aghast at the post-Stalinist thaw, fearful that the people would realize that the country was 'run by gangsters'. It was. This book reads exactly like the movie 'Goodfellas'. The Communists were, quite literally, Mafia thugs who got hold of an entire country. Most of history's governments have been little more than bands of thugs, but the Communists were a breed apart. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2004

    The Best Book on Stalin I Have Ever Read

    The title of my review says it all. Nothing dry or pretentious about this book. The narrative is compelling and fascinating. Stalin, in all his evil machinations, comes to life on these pages. A must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2004

    Stalin: the 'superlative mass murderer'

    Before reading this thoroughly documented and excellent work of history on Stalin and his murderous henchmen, I read 'The Time of Stalin: Portrait of a Tyranny' by Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko who stated on pg 167: 'Stalin's main activity ...his true calling, was murder. No other tyrant, from Nero to Hitler, compares with Stalin in numbers killed.' After reading several books on this bloodthirsty madman by Radzinsky, Conquest, Medvedev, Amis, and especially this one by Montefiore, it's difficult to come to any other conclusion (although Chinese Communist dictator Mao Tse-tung might have him beat for the #1 slot). To quote the front flap: 'As many as 20 million Soviets died in his purges and infamous Gulag.' It seems as if nearly every page is filled with torture, suffering and brutal death. Some accounts send chills down the spine: 'Many prisoners were beaten so hard that their eyes were literally popped out of their heads. They were routinely beaten to death, which was registered as a heart attack.' (pg 246) 'Beria distinguished himself by personally performing the torture of Lakobas's family, driving his widow mad by placing a snake in her cell and beating his teenage children to death.' (pg 250) 'One of Eikhe's eyes had been gouged out and blood was streaming out of it but he went on repeating `I won't confess.' (pg 323) But it's the huge numbers deported and killed during various genocidal campaigns that really stun you: over two million deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan in 1931 (pg 64), four to ten million killed during the Great famine of 1932-33, which Montefiore describes as 'a tragedy unequalled in human history except by the Nazi and Maoist terrors' (pg 85), 1.5 million arrested during the Great Terror and about 700,000 shot. (pg 229) Stalin is quoted as saying during the height of the Great Terror 'Who's going to remember all this riffraff in ten or twenty years' time? No one. Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one...The people had to know he was getting rid of all his enemies. In the end, they all got what they deserved.' (pg 231) Ivan the Terrible was of course one of Stalin's idols. Montifore also notes that the above quote from Stalin is eerily similar to Hitler's comments on the genocide of the Jews, referring to the Turkish mass murder of Armenians: 'After all, who today speaks of the massacre of the Armenians?' Montefiore shows us Soviet crimes against humanity during the Second World War, which seem almost as bad as Nazi crimes. In Poland, for example, 'priests, officers, noblemen, intellectuals were kidnapped, murdered and deported to eliminate the very existence of Poland.' By November 1940, 1.17 million had been deported, 30% of whom perished by 1941. And 50,000 were shot. (pg 313) During the infamous massacre of some 26,000 Polish officers and intellectuals, 4,500 of whom were buried in mass graves at Katyn forest, one of the NKVD killers, Blokhin, put on a butcher's apron and cap then 'began one of the most prolific acts of mass murder by one individual, killing 7,000 in precisely twenty eight nights.' (pg 334) Soviet terror also ravaged the Baltic states: 34,250 Latvians, 60,000 Estonians and 75,000 Lithuanians were deported or murdered. (pg 334) And as the Soviets were closing in on Berlin, Russian soldiers raped an estimated 2 million German women in the coming months; even Russian women newly liberated from concentration camps were raped. As Montefiore states: 'Stalin cared little about this' (pg 479) The Court of the Red Tsar also makes clear that Stalin isn't solely to blame for all of this mayhem and murder, for it was his predecessor, V.I. Lenin, who set up this 'social system based on blood-letting.' Systematic murder started immediately after Lenin's 1917 coup and never stopped until Stalin's death in 1953. Lenin spent his entire adult life praising the bloody Jacobin terror of the French Revolution and boasted that 'A Revolution without firing squ

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2004

    Mean Commie, What's New?

    This book presents many of the tired facts about Joe Stalin. He wore a mustache and drank vodka. Why would one spend thirty bucks for that information. True, there was interesting commentary about his constipation and hair dye, but in this day and age, who really cares?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 1, 2011

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