The New York Times
Young Stalinby Simon Sebag Montefiore
Based on ten years' astonishing new research, here is the thrilling story of how a charismatic, dangerous boy became a student priest, romantic poet, gangster mastermind, prolific lover, murderous revolutionary, and the merciless politician who shaped the Soviet Empire in his own brutal image: How Stalin became Stalin.
Based on ten years' astonishing new research, here is the thrilling story of how a charismatic, dangerous boy became a student priest, romantic poet, gangster mastermind, prolific lover, murderous revolutionary, and the merciless politician who shaped the Soviet Empire in his own brutal image: How Stalin became Stalin.
The New York Times
The Washington Post
We know him as Stalin, or Josef Stalin, but before he settled on this alias he had at least a dozen others, including Koba and Soso. His youthful friends were responsible for most of his monikers, which were sometimes taken of necessity to escape from the Okhrana (secret police) and the local police. No book published in the last 100 years goes into as much detail about the youthful Stalin as Montefiore's does. Unlike Sarah Davies and James Harris's Stalin: A New History, which has a 25-page chapter covering Stalin's youth, Montefiore (Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar) uses many newly available archival records from Stalin's peers to greatly amplify information on the man's early years and his growing attachment to the revolutionary movement. Stalin's early experiences shaped his paranoia for the rest of his life, and his revolutionary experiences reinforced it. Montefiore says, "The machine of repression, the flinthearted, paranoid psychology of perpetual conspiracy and the taste for extreme bloody solutions to all challenges were not just accidents, but glamorized and institutionalized. He was patron of these brutal tendencies but also their personification." Montefiore goes on to refute the notion that Stalin was a double agent of the Okhrana and that he "missed the revolution," ideas that his detractors formulated from flimsy evidence. This accessible book is highly recommended for academic and public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/1/07.]
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Read an Excerpt
PROLOGUE: The Bank Robbery
At 10:30 a.m. on the sultry morning of Wednesday, 26 June 1907, in the seething central square of Tiflis, a dashing mustachioed cavalry captain in boots and jodhpurs, wielding a big Circassian sabre, performed tricks on horseback, joking with two pretty, well-dressed Georgian girls who twirled gaudy parasols–while fingering Mauser pistols hidden in their dresses.
Raffish young men in bright peasant blouses and wide sailor-style trousers waited on the street corners, cradling secreted revolvers and grenades. At the louche Tilipuchuri Tavern on the square, a crew of heavily armed gangsters took over the cellar bar, gaily inviting passers-by to join them for drinks. All of them were waiting to carry out the first exploit by Josef Djugashvili, aged twenty-nine, later known as Stalin, to win the attention of the world.
Few outside the gang knew of the plan that day for a criminal terrorist “spectacular,” but Stalin had worked on it for months. One man who did know the broad plan was Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Party, hiding in a villa in Kuokola, Finland, far to the north. Days earlier, in Berlin, and then in London, Lenin had secretly met with Stalin to order the big heist, even though their Social-Democratic Party had just strictly banned all “expropriations,” the euphemism for bank robberies. But Stalin’s operations, heists and killings, always conducted with meticulous attention to detail and secrecy, had made him the “main financier of the Bolshevik Centre.”
The events that day would make headlines all over the globe, literally shake Tiflis to its foundations, and further shatter the fragmented Social-Democrats into warring factions: that day would both make Stalin’s career and almost ruin it–a watershed in his life.
In Yerevan Square, the twenty brigands who formed the core of Stalin’s gang, known as “the Outfit,” took up positions as their lookouts peered down Golovinsky Prospect, Tiflis’s elegant main street, past the white Italianate splendour of the Viceroy’s Palace. They awaited the clatter of a stagecoach and its squadron of galloping Cossacks. The army captain with the Circassian sabre caracoled on his horse before dismounting to stroll the fashionable boulevard.
Every street corner was guarded by a Cossack or policeman: the authorities were ready. Something had been expected since January. The informers and agents of the Tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana, and his uniformed political police, the Gendarmes, delivered copious reports about the clandestine plots and feuds of the gangs of revolutionaries and criminals. In the misty twilight of this underground, the worlds of bandit and terrorist had merged and it was hard to tell tricks from truth. But there had been “chatter” about a “spectacular”–as today’s intelligence experts would put it–for months.
On that dazzling steamy morning, the Oriental colour of Tiflis (now Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia) hardly seemed to belong to the same world as the Tsar’s capital, St. Petersburg, a thousand miles away. The older streets, without running water or electricity, wound up the slopes of Mtatsminda, Holy Mountain, until they were impossibly steep, full of crookedly picturesque houses weighed down with balconies, entwined with old vines. Tiflis was a big village where everyone knew everyone else.
Just behind the military headquarters, on genteel Freilinskaya Street, a stone’s throw from the square, lived Stalin’s wife, a pretty young Georgian dressmaker named Kato Svanidze, and their newborn son, Yakov. Theirs was a true love match: despite his black moods, Stalin was devoted to Kato, who admired and shared his revolutionary fervour. As she sunned herself and the baby on her balcony, her husband was about to give her, and Tiflis itself, an unholy shock.
This intimate city was the capital of the Caucasus, the Tsar’s wild, mountainous viceroyalty between the Black and the Caspian Seas, a turbulent region of fierce and feuding peoples. Golovinsky Prospect seemed Parisian in its elegance. White neo-classical theatres, a Moorish-style opera house, grand hotels and the palaces of Georgian princes and Armenian oil barons lined the street, but, as one passed the military headquarters, Yerevan Square opened up into an Asiatic potpourri.
Exotically dressed hawkers and stalls offered spicy Georgian lobio beans and hot khachapuri cheesecake. Water-carriers, street-traders, pickpockets and porters delivered to or stole from the Armenian and Persian Bazaars, the alleyways of which more resembled a Levantine souk than a European city. Caravans of camels and donkeys, loaded with silks and spices from Persia and Turkestan, fruit and wineskins from the lush Georgian countryside, ambled through the gates of the Caravanserai. Its young waiters and errand boys served its clientele of guests and diners, carrying in the bags, unharnessing the camels–and watching the square. Now we know from the newly opened Georgian archives that Stalin, Faginlike, used the Caravanserai boys as a prepubescent revolutionary street intelligence and courier service. Meanwhile in one of the Caravanserai’s cavernous backrooms, the chief gangsters gave their gunmen a pep talk, rehearsing the plan one last time. Stalin himself was there that morning.
The two pretty teenage girls with twirling umbrellas and loaded revolvers, Patsia Goldava and Anneta Sulakvelidze, “brown-haired, svelte, with black eyes that expressed youth,” casually sashayed across the square to stand outside the military headquarters, where they flirted with Russian officers, Gendarmes in smart blue uniforms, and bowlegged Cossacks.
Tiflis was–and still is–a languid town of strollers and boulevardiers who frequently stop to drink wine at the many open-air taverns: if the showy, excitable Georgians resemble any other European people, it is the Italians. Georgians and other Caucasian men, in traditional chokha–their skirted long coats lined down the chest with bullet pouches–swaggered down the streets, singing loudly. Georgian women in black headscarves, and the wives of Russian officers in European fashions, promenaded through the gates of the Pushkin Gardens, buying ices and sherbet alongside Persians and Armenians, Chechens, Abkhaz and Mountain Jews, in a fancy-dress jamboree of hats and costumes.
Gangs of street urchins–kintos–furtively scanned the crowds for scams. Teenage trainee priests, in long white surplices, were escorted by their berobed, bearded priest-teachers from the pillared white seminary across the street, where Stalin had almost qualified as a priest nine years earlier. This un-Slavic, un-Russian and ferociously Caucasian kaleidoscope of East and West was the world that nurtured Stalin.
Checking the time, the girls Anneta and Patsia parted, taking up new positions on either side of the square. On Palace Street, the dubious clientele of the notorious Tilipuchuri Tavern–princes, pimps, informers and pickpockets–were already drinking Georgian wine and Armenian brandy, not far from the plutocratic grandeur of Prince Sumbatov’s palace.
Just then David Sagirashvili, another revolutionary who knew Stalin and some of the gangsters, visited a friend who owned a shop above the tavern and was invited in by the cheerful brigand at the doorway, Bachua Kupriashvili, who “immediately offered me a chair and a glass of red wine, according to the Georgian custom.” David drank the wine and was about to leave when the gunman suggested “with exquisite politeness” that he stay inside and “sample more snacks and wine.” David realized that “they were letting people into the restaurant but would not let them out. Armed individuals stood at the door.”
Spotting the convoy galloping down the boulevard, Patsia Goldava, the slim brunette on lookout, sped round the corner to the Pushkin Gardens where she waved her newspaper to Stepko Intskirveli, waiting by the gate.
“We’re off!” he muttered.
Stepko nodded at Anneta Sulakvelidze, who was across the street just outside the Tilipuchuri, where she made a sign summoning the others from the bar. The gunmen in the doorway beckoned them. “At a given signal” Sagirashvili saw the brigands in the tavern put down their drinks, cock their pistols and head out, spreading across the square–thin, consumptive young men in wide trousers who had barely eaten for weeks. Some were gangsters, some desperadoes and some, typically for Georgia, were poverty-stricken princes from roofless, wall-less castles in the provinces. If their deeds were criminal, they cared nothing for money: they were devoted to Lenin, the Party and their puppet-master in Tiflis, Stalin.
“The functions of each of us had been planned in advance,” remembered a third girl in the gang, Alexandra Darakhvelidze, just nineteen, a friend of Anneta, and already veteran of a spree of heists and shootouts.
The gangsters each covered the square’s policemen–the gorodovoi, known in the streets as pharaohs. Two gunmen marked the Cossacks outside the City Hall; the rest made their way to the corner of Velyaminov Street and the Armenian Bazaar, not far from the State Bank itself. Alexandra Darakhvelidze, in her unpublished memoirs, recalled guarding one of the street corners with two gunmen.
Now Bachua Kupriashvili, nonchalantly pretending to read a newspaper, spotted in the distance the cloud of dust thrown up by the horses’ hooves. They were coming! Bachua rolled up his newspaper, poised . . . The cavalry captain with the flashing sabre, who had been promenading the square, now warned passers-by to stay out of it, but when no one paid any attention he jumped back onto his fine horse. He was no officer but the ideal of the Georgian beau sabreur and outlaw, half-knight, half-bandit. This was Kamo, aged twenty-five, boss of the Outfit and, as Stalin put it, “a master of disguise” who could pass for a rich prince or a peasant laundrywoman. He moved stiffly, his half-blind left eye squinting and rolling: one of his own bombs had exploded in his face just weeks before. He was still recuperating.
Kamo “was completely enthralled” by Stalin, who had converted him to Marxism. They had grown up together in the violent town of Gori forty-five miles away. He was a bank robber of ingenious audacity, a Houdini of prison-escapes, a credulous simpleton–and a half-insane practitioner of psychopathic violence. Intensely, eerily tranquil with a weird “lustreless face” and a blank gaze, he was keen to serve his master, often begging Stalin: “Let me kill him for you!” No deed of macabre horror or courageous flamboyance was beyond him: he later plunged his hand into a man’s chest and cut out his heart.
Throughout his life, Stalin’s detached magnetism would attract, and win the devotion of, amoral, unbounded psychopaths. His boyhood henchman Kamo and these gangsters were the first in a long line. “Those young men followed Stalin selflessly . . . Their admiration for him allowed him to impose on them his iron discipline.” Kamo often visited Stalin’s home, where he had earlier borrowed Kato’s father’s sabre, explaining that he was “going to play an officer of the Cossacks.” Even Lenin, that fastidious lawyer, raised as a nobleman, was fascinated by the daredevil Kamo, whom he called his “Caucasian bandit.” “Kamo,” mused Stalin in old age, “was a truly amazing person.”
“Captain” Kamo turned his horse towards the boulevard and trotted audaciously right past the advancing convoy, coming the other way. Once the shooting started, he boasted, the whole thing “would be over in three minutes.”
The Cossacks galloped into Yerevan Square, two in front, two behind and another alongside the two carriages. Through the dust, the gangsters could make out that the stagecoach contained two men in frockcoats–the State Bank’s cashier Kurdyumov and accountant Golovnya–and two soldiers with rifles cocked, while a second phaeton was packed with police and soldiers. In the thunder of hooves, it took just seconds for the carriages and horsemen to cross the square ready to turn into Sololaki Street, where stood the new State Bank: the statues of lions and gods over its door represented the surging prosperity of Russian capitalism.
Bachua lowered his newspaper, giving the sign, then tossed it aside, reaching for his weapons. The gangsters drew out what they nicknamed their “apples”–powerful grenades which had been smuggled into Tiflis by the girls Anneta and Alexandra, hidden inside a big sofa.
The gunmen and the girls stepped forward, pulled the fuses and tossed four grenades which exploded under the carriages with a deafening noise and an infernal force that disemboweled horses and tore men to pieces, spattering the cobbles with innards and blood. The brigands drew their Mauser and Browning pistols and opened fire on the Cossacks and police around the square who, caught totally unawares, fell wounded or ran for cover. More than ten bombs exploded. Witnesses thought they rained from every direction, even the rooftops: it was later said that Stalin had thrown the first bomb from the roof of Prince Sumbatov’s mansion.
The bank’s carriages stopped. Screaming passers-by scrambled for cover. Some thought it was an earthquake: was Holy Mountain falling on to the city? “No one could tell if the terrible shooting was the boom of cannons or explosion of bombs,” reported the Georgian newspaper Isari (Arrow). “The sound caused panic everywhere . . . almost across the whole city, people started running. Carriages and carts were galloping away . . .” Chimneys had toppled from buildings; every pane of glass was shattered as far as the Viceroy’s Palace.
Kato Svanidze was standing on her nearby balcony tending Stalin’s baby with her family, “when all of a sudden we heard the sound of bombs,” recalled her sister, Sashiko. “Terrified, we rushed into the house.” Outside, amid the yellow smoke and the wild chaos, among the bodies of horses and mutilated limbs of men, something had gone wrong.
One horse attached to the front carriage twitched, then jerked back to life. Just as the gangsters ran to seize the moneybags in the back of the carriage, the horse reared up out of the mayhem and bolted down the hill towards the Soldiers Bazaar, disappearing with the money that Stalin had promised Lenin for the Revolution.
 This account of the Tiflis expropriation is based on the many sources listed in this note. On her role and that of others: GF IML 220.127.116.11, Alexandra Darakhvelidze- Margvelashvili, recorded 21 Feb. 1959. On his role, on cowardly comrades, who did what: GF IML 18.104.22.1684.1—26, Bachua Kupriashvili. Kote Tsintsadze, Rogor vibrdzolot proletariatis diktaturistvis: chemi mogonebani (henceforth Tsintsadze), pp. 40—49.
GF IML 8.5.384.3—10, Autobiographical notes by Kamo; GF IML 8.5.380.5—6, Personal File and Questionnaire, filled in by Kamo on day of his death. GF IML 22.214.171.124.239—55, D. A. Khutulashvili (sister of Kamo). The gang; Eliso hides; Stalin head of that organization: Archives of the Hoover Institution of War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford (henceforth Stanford), Boris Nikolaevsky Collection (henceforth Nikolaevsky), box 207, folder 207—10, letter from Tatiana Vulikh; folder 207—11. Tiflis Committee approves robbery: Razhden Arsenidze, interviews nos. 1—3, 103—4, Nikolaevsky box 667, series 279, folder 4-5, Inter-University Project on History of Menshevik Movement.
On Okhrana investigation/suspicions of coming robbery in Caucasus; 14 and 18 Jan. 1908: Stanford, Paris Okhrana archives, box 209, folder XXB.2, letter on suspects, 13 Feb. 1907. Arrest of Kamo and full biography, 31 Oct./13 Nov. and 27/14 Nov. 1908; and 14 Nov./21 Oct. 1907: Suspect in Tiflis expropriation–Josef/Soso Davrichewy: Stanford, Okhrana box 209, folder XXB.1.
Letter, R. Arsenidze to Boris Nikolaevsky, 8 Jan. 1957, on investigation by Silvester Jibladze and fights with Menshevik about Kvirili expropriation money: Nikolaevsky box 472, folder 2.
Grigory Uratadze, Vospominaniya (henceforth Uratadze), pp. 163—66–Stalin, the main financier of the Bolshevik centre, did not participate personally; pp. 71—72 on giving expro money to Shaumian.
On Kamo’s role: I. M. Dubinsky-Mukhadze, Kamo, pp. 71—84; David Shub, “Kamo.” Obeying Stalin from Gendarme report, R. Imnaishvili, Kamo, section 1, pp. 52—55; the expropriation, p. 59; betrayal of Kamo by Arsen Karsidze, p. 34. Account of expropriation as told by Kamo to his wife: S. F. Medvedeva-Ter-Petrossian, “Tovarish
Kamo.” Jacques Baynac, Kamo, pp. 90—100. Anna Geifman, Thou Shalt Kill, pp. 112-16, 212 and 299, including Kamo killing for Stalin. On psychology of Kamo and terrorists: “Introduction” in Anna Geifman (ed.), Russia under the Last Tsar, pp. 1—14. Jonathan Daly, The Watchful State, p. 67. Radzinsky, Stalin, p. 61. Robert C. Williams, The Other Bolsheviks (henceforth Williams), pp. 113—15.
Pretty girls, Stalin’s iron discipline: Khariton Chavichvili, Patrie, prison, exil, p. 145. Lenin under attack from Mensheviks: Khariton Chavichvili, Révolutionnaires russes à Genève en 1908, pp. 80—83. Stalin and Shaumian in London, permission for expropriation, morning meeting, division of spoils: G. S. Akopian, Stepan Shaumian, pp. 44, 64. Vahtang Guruli, Svodnaya Gruzia no. 152 (225), 24 Sept. 1994, p. 4: SR theory and also Kamo accompanied by daughter of deputy police chief of Shorapani. On Okhrana informer reports that SRs conducted Tiflis expropriation and money stolen by Kamo, Tiflis Okhrana agents “N” and “Bolshaya” on 2 July and 15 July 1907:Vahtang Guruli, Josef Stalin Materials for the Biography, pp. 9—11, in Central Georgian State Historical Archive 126.96.36.199, 21, 23.
Lenin and Krasin create the “Technical Group,” bombs and money: L. B. Krasin, “Bolshevistskaya partiianaya tekhnika,” pp. 8—13.
Lenin and Krasin fight for the money under Menshevik attack: Boris Nikolaevsky, “Bolshevistskiy Tsentre,” Rodina no. 2, 1992, pp. 33—35, and no. 5, pp. 25—31. Kamo on train with girl, policeman’s daughter: Baron Bibineishvili, Za chetvet veka (henceforth Bibineishvili), pp. 92—94.
Memoir of boys working for Stalin and other comrades by D. Chachanidze: GF IML 188.8.131.52. Joint operations and assassinations with Anarchists and no mention of arrest at time of expropriation: Tsintsadze, p. 111. Kamo confides in Davrichewy that Stalin in charge, viceroy furious, Stalin’s operations; Stalin opens era of the holdup, Gori connection, Kamo kills for Stalin: Josef Davrichewy, Ah! Ce qu’on rigolait bien avec mon copain Staline (henceforth Davrichewy), pp. 237—39, 174—77, 188—89. Stalin in Tiflis engaged in preparations, in Baku by 17 June, quote from L. D. Trotsky, Stalin on roof by G. Besedovsky, expulsion from Caucasus Regional Committee but supported by Lenin and CC: Alexander Ostrovsky, Kto stoyal za spinoi Stalina? (henceforth Ostrovsky), pp. 259—62. The other insider in bank/mail, G. Kasradze introduced to Kamo and Kasradze later interrogated by N. Jordania and admitted role in expropriation thanks to Stalin: GF IML 184.108.40.206.
That day on Yerevan Square: Roy Stanley De Lon, Stalin and Social Democracy,
1905—1922: The Political Diaries of David A. Sagirashvili (henceforth Sagirashvili), pp.
183—86. Candide Charkviani, “Memoirs,” p. 15, on Kamo and Kote. Robert Service,
Stalin, p. 163. Okhrana on Kamo spending all July with Lenin at dacha: Edward
Ellis Smith, The Young Stalin (henceforth Smith), pp. 200—206. Boris Souvarine,
Staline, pp. 93—110. Essad Bey, Stalin (henceforth Essad Bey), p. 82. L. D. Trotsky,
Stalin, pp. 96—100. Miklos Kun, Stalin: An Unknown Portrait (henceforth Kun), pp.
On Tiflis: Stephen F. Jones, Socialism in Georgian Colors (henceforth Jones), pp. 160—67. Razhden Arsenidze, “Iz vospominaniya o Staline” (henceforth Arsenidze). Boris Bazhanov, Stalin, p. 107. A. V. Baikaloff, I Knew Stalin, p. 20. Arrest of Djugashvili, known as teacher of workers and said to be always holding himself apart: GMIKA 116, Report of Chief of Kutaisi Province Gendarmerie to the Police Department, 9 Apr. 1902. Armenian Review no. 2 (3), 7 Sept. 1949, p. 114. Martov libel case: RGASPI 558.2.42. Kun, pp. 81—84; Pravda, 1 April 1918; Vperod, 31 March 1918. Stalin’s role: interviews with Voznesensky, 20 Sept. 1907, and 10 June 1908, and with Comrade Koba ( J. Stalin), 19 Mar. 1908: RGASPI 332.1.53: 15 (2) O2. 23 (10), 1905—1910, TSL Organized Committee to Investigate Tiflis Expropriation. Stalin on the bank robbery: GDMS 87.1955-368.11—13, Alexandra “Sashiko” Svanidze-Monoselidze: Kamo’s sword. The other inside man: GF IML 220.127.116.11.214—15, Kote Charkviani, in which the memoirist, recording his memoirs in 1936, specifies how Stalin and Kamo groomed Gigo Kasradze, who was the brother-in-law of the priest’s son Kote Charkviani. International newspapers: Moskovskie Vedomosti, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21 June 1907. Isari, 14 July 1907. Le Temps, 27 June 1907. Daily Mirror, 27 June 1907. The Times, 27 and 29 June 1907.
 In 1903, the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party split into two factions, the Bolsheviks under Lenin and the Mensheviks under Martov, who fought one another but remained part of the same party until 1912 when they formally divided, never to reunite. Lenin organized and led a secret three-man cabal called the Bolshevik Centre to raise money using bank robbery and organized crime rackets.
 Berlin: Ostrovsky, pp. 256—59. I. V. Stalin, Sochineniya, 13:122 Stalin to Ludwig; also Smith, pp. 198—99.Trotsky, Stalin, pp. 96—107.
 Arsenidze, p. 220–young men followed Stalin. GF IML 8.5.384.3—10, Autobiographical notes by Kamo. Stalin’s magnetism by Kamo’s sister Dzhavaira Khutulashvili: Kun, p. 75. Kamo’s face: Sergei Alliluyev and Anna Alliluyeva, Alliluyev Memoirs, pp. 220—21. Role of girls, etc.: GF IML 18.104.22.1684.1—26, Bachua Kupriashvili.
 GDMS 87.1955-368.11—13: Alexandra “Sashiko” Svanidze-Monoselidze.
 Davrichewy, pp. 174—77, 188—89, 237—39. Charkviani, “Memoirs,” p. 15–Kamo truly amazing.
 The distances in this urban village are tiny. The seminary, Stalin’s family home, the Viceroy’s Palace and the bank are all about two minutes’ walk from the site of the bank robbery. Most of the buildings in Yerevan (later Beria, then Lenin, now Freedom) Square that feature here remain standing: the Tilipuchuri Tavern (now empty of any princes or brigands), the seminary (now a museum), the City Hall, the HQ of the Caucasus Command, the State Bank and the Viceroy’s Palace (where Stalin’s mother lived so long) are all unchanged. The Caravanserai, Pushkin Gardens, Adelkhanov Shoe Warehouse (where Stalin had worked) and the bazaars are gone.
 On the balcony as the bombs explode: GDMS 87.1955-368.11—13, Alexandra “Sashiko” Svanidze-Monoselidze.
Meet the Author
Simon Sebag Montefiore is a historian of Russia. Potemkin: Catherine the Great's Imperial Partner was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper and Marsh Biography prizes in Britain. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar was awarded the History Book of the Year Prize at the 2004 British Book Awards. Young Stalin won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the Costa Biography Prize (UK) and the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). His books are world bestsellers, published now in 35 languages. He is the author of a new novel, Sashenka. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Montefiore lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children. For more details, visit: www.simonsebagmontefiore.com
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Like his book "Court of the Red Czar", this book is an excellent view into Stalin's life. Although only a student of history and especially Russian history, I have not found this much fantastic information about Stalin all in one place. It was so interesting to learn about Stalin's relationship with his parents, his relationships with so many women, and his times in exile. It provides not only insight to how Stalin himself was molded and how he thought and behaved, but also the beginnings of others around him who would play a major part in the revolution. I particularly liked the annecdotal information about the Russian and Georgian cultures in which Stalin lived. I loved this book!...as much as I loved The Court of the Red Czar, and both are on my "Re-Read" list for certain!
Yes, he mercilessly slaughtered millions of innocents, but, like all dictators, he was a human being. This meticulously detailed and researched book carefully constructs Stalin's dysfunctional childhood, love of chaos and violence, the cultural and political traits and events that combined to allow such a man to take power. It can be dense reading at times, but definitely push on through. Its a very enlightening look at one of histories worst leaders.
Very interesting early life of a very important person in the 20th century.
Who knew that Stalin was once a weatherman? Or that he had webbed toes that he was painfully embarrassed about revealing. Simon Montefiore documents these fine details along with so much more in this wonderful book. But don’t mistake it for a list of trivia about this horrific Soviet leader. Instead, Young Stalin documents a full picture of this complex man, along with the people and events that formed him into the ruthless dictator that he would someday become. Excellently researched, it is a must-read for anyone interested in Stalin’s life. Now that the former-Soviet records have been released, Montefiore has shuffled through all the rumors, attempting to untangle the truth about this former dictator. He manages to avoid most of the torrid speculation and sticks to the bare facts. Beginning with the 1907 Tiflis bank robbery, Montefiore traces the origins of this budding terrorist. It covers all the major details of Stalin’s youth—everything from his broken family to his rebellious years at a religious school. The book documents his transformation from a budding poet and priest into the rabid revolutionary who ran protection rackets and robbed banks to finance the revolution. Quite a fascinating evolution of one of the world’s most notorious figures. More than anything, Montefiore presents these facts in a reader-friendly manner, managing to avoid the rambling and bloat that bogs down many historical books. Not only is Young Stalin a fascinating presentation of the early dictator, but it is well written and assessable to those lacking an in-depth understanding of Russian history. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in knowing more about this ruthless dictator and the forces that came to form him.
I am a high school sophomore and I chose this book for my research project. I really enjoyed reading this book. This book gave me all the information on Stalin's early life accurately. At first l thought this book would be just like norml biography book, giving the information on something violence, but l was wrong about it, this book was about his family. It is not just a war book, it's family, drama, and love. As an international student who learned English as a second language, found this book not too difficult to read because his writing was clear and easy However, the part that confused me was the prologue. Event though I translated every word,I still couldn't understand it. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Stalin. l really wish the author could write more about Stalin when he was in power, his role in World War or even about the Great Purge so that could help me more with my project questions. After read this book, l found that Stalin's life was very interesting l from the start to the very end of his life.
I attend high school as a Sophomore and I was required to read this book for a project. Young Stalin is an impressive masterpiece . I like most of the book. However there are a few parts in the book that are hard to understand . I love how the book has a lot of information about Stalin and his early life . This book contains much information about Stalin .It helped me work through my whole project on Stalin. This books is definitely an amazing biography . My favorite thing about this book is that it is very specific and contains accurate information about how his parents were and how his childhood was like. What I disliked about the book was that many events became confusing and it was getting harder to understand . The biography is filled with Stalin's person life although, it lacked in information about his death. Reading about Stalin's wives was interesting to me. He attracted so many women even though he was a mass murder. Reading about Stalin's children is pretty bizarre too. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in impressive biography. The book is worth the time.
I am a high school sophomore and I chose to read "Young Stalin" for my research project. The book overall was really interesting but I feel like I just had too much detail. Once in a while it was hard for me to keep up with the book because I didn't understand some things. The book wasn't all bad. I really liked the detailed information of his childhood and early life. Although we all know he was a horrible person for causing the deaths of so many people, it was actually really interesting to see how the book explains where he came from and the type of family that he come from as well. It was very sad to see how much his mother and him suffered because of his drunk father. He had a very tough childhood and the book helps the reader demonstrate why he might have been the person he was. Another thing I didn't like about the book was author mostly talked about his personal life and not so much of his life as a political life and his dictatorship. I think it would have been better if he talked about his whole life as a kid, teen, young adult, and as a full grown man. I wasn't the biggest fan of this book but I did learn a lot more about Joseph Stalin as a person not the evil dictator.
I am a high school sophomore and I chose to read this book for my project. I found this book to be interesting and easy to engage in but had some parts that were very difficult to understand.It did help me collect very important information, especially about his family origins. It was very detailed and descriptive and I found the cliff notes to be very helpful, giving insight to Russian history and tradition. It did give me some very interesting fun facts about Stalin,but often went off topic. Some of the information given was very contradicting as well. Some of the information given was constantly being questioned and they mentioned a bunch of conspiracies that confused me. Another reason why I did not find the book easy to read was because it written as if it were written like a research project and also written as if it were a fictional book. The book often made many citation notes to many resources the author used, but sometimes it would give small excerpts of stories mixed in with it, often including figurative language.Besides, that there was also information that was very irrelevant to the topic. The book mostly depicted Stalin’s personal life, and not much about his career, so that is one of the reasons why it was difficult to find information about his occupation. I recommend this book to those who need details of Stalin's life.
Great review of the formative years of one of the most brutal psychopaths in world history.
I was put off by the anti-communist blather then I realized that there was also some neutral impartial research facts. Stalin received very high, the highest marks when he was in school and his poems were published. The anti-Stalin and pro-Stalin is dealt weith by giving both sides with some commentary. It is readable. It seems that there were sources that were never used which is hard to believe.
Even if your communist, how can you be pro-Stalin. He killed millions.