Stalin : The Court of the Red Tsar

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There have been many biographies of Stalin, but the court that surrounded him is untravelled ground. Simon Sebag Montefiore, acclaimed biographer of Catherine the Great's lover, prime minister and general Potemkin, has unearthed the vast underpinning that sustained Stalin. Not only ministers such as Molotov or secret service chiefs such as Beria, but men and women whose loyalty he trusted only until the next purge. ' impressive and compelling work' Philip Mansel, Spectator 'This magnificent portrait of the dictator' Richard Overy, Literary Reviewshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 720 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 56mm | 619.99g
  • Orion Publishing Co
  • Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 2 maps
  • 0753817667
  • 9780753817667
  • 51,963

Review Text

A real treat for anyone interested in the history of the 20th century, this scholarly biography is both accessible and meticulously researched. Montefiore sets out to chronicle the life of the 'Red Tsar', his family, friends, and colleagues, and the result is a fascinating account liberally illustrated with black-and-white photos. In addition to the text over 100 pages are devoted to source notes and a comprehensive index. Brief and helpful footnotes give extra, often illuminating, information and the book is divided chronologically into ten parts, each with several brief chapters. The Stalin family and their friends come to life through thumbnail sketches, first-hand reports and letters. Fortunately for researchers Stalin did not use the telephone when he was on holiday and thus written information has been preserved. Extraordinarily, while organizing massacres and transportation on the political front the dictator was capable of a lively and loving home life. Stalin's second marriage was stormy, but his emotional response to his wife's apparent suicide shows how affected he could be by his personal life. His relationship with daughter Svetlana reflects the behaviour of a doting father. When she showed signs of early maturity he was overprotective, perhaps only too aware of the promiscuous behaviour of some of his Party colleagues. The Party members lived well, although not luxuriously by modern standards. Stalin enjoyed the power of giving large gifts such as cars to the faithful. Montefiore makes clear the ironies of the Revolution. The monarchy had been replaced by an elite who sprang from the people. However, the people benefited little, especially the peasants who were expected to starve to provide the means to develop an industrial society. Stalin and his colleagues systematically destroyed small farms, by killing, deporting and collectivising. All this was totally impersonal and led later to the elimination by quota of suspected traitors. Following the death of Kirov, for so long Stalin's friend, suspicion and denunciation became rife. Many who had been closest to the leader were brought to trial and execution in a wave of Party paranoia which continued till Stalin's death in 1953. The Party controlled press, radio and certain influential writers, and critics of the system or of individual Party members were swiftly dealt with. On the personal level Stalin showed generosity and often compassion. In his postscript Montefiore makes the point that many of the people he interviewed in 2002 remembered Stalin with admiration and affection. Whatever history finally has to say about Stalin and those who surrounded him, it cannot be denied that he inspired and captured the imaginations of many. This is not always a comfortable read but it is enthralling and compelling. (Kirkus UK)show more

Review quote

'Crammed with grimly revealing anecdotes and hitherto unheard testimony, this is a book that anatomises, with vivid insight and compelling readability, the corruptions of absolute power and the psychology of those who wield it. SUNDAY TIMES 'There is unlikely ever to be a more engrossing account of the life of Joseph Stalin than his huge biography.' -- Charles Osborne SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'As intellectually perceptive as it is horrifically enthralling the book is packed with insights into this ostensibly avuncular paranoid... prodigious in his research, Montefiore tells the grisly story with style and elegance.' -- Christopher Hirst THE INDEPENDENT 'Daily accounts from the breakfast table to the Politburo provide an incisive portrait of the inner workings of a brute's mind.' THE HERALD 'This isn't just a gripping slice of history, but an extraordinary psychological study of a murderous dictator who 'Knew He Was Right.' Here is more love, death and intrigue than you find in any thirller.' INDEPENDENT MAGAZINE 'a marvellously racy, gossipy study, based on immense research.' THE EVENING STANDARD 'Simon Sebag Montefiore's writing is caustic and superb and he wears his rigorous scholarship with style.' DAILY TELEGRAPH 'This is not simply another book about Stalin. It is a horrifying, hypnotic and at times, darkly amusing account of the lives of the families who ruled the Soviet Union... this page turner captivates and repels in equal measures.' THE OBSERVER 'This book should help purge any lingering nostalgia for the USSR.' IRISH TIMES 'there are plenty of political histories of the Stalinist era, but what makes Simon Sebag Montefiore's grimly fascinating book so special is the intimate protrait he sketches of the Soviet dictator's close circle of family and friends.' MAIL ON SUNDAYshow more

About Simon Sebag Montefiore

Simon Sebag Montefiore read history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he received his Doctorate of Philosophy. His books are published in over forty languages. CATHERINE THE GREAT AND POTEMKIN was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. STALIN: THE COURT OF THE RED TSAR won the History Book of the Year Prize, British Book Awards. YOUNG STALIN won the Costa Biography Award (UK), the LA Times Book Prize for Biography (USA), Le Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique (France) and the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). JERUSALEM: THE BIOGRAPHY won the Jewish Book of the Year Prize (USA). He is also the author of two acclaimed novels, SASHENKA and ONE NIGHT IN WINTER. Dr Montefiore's next major history book will be THE ROMANOVS: RISE AND FALL, 1613-1917. He has presented BBC television series on the Holy Cities of Jerusalem, Rome and Istanbul. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor at Buckingham University, he lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children. Visit his website for more information, join on Facebook and follow him on Twitter more

Rating details

5,130 ratings
4.19 out of 5 stars
5 43% (2,208)
4 38% (1,966)
3 15% (766)
2 3% (143)
1 1% (47)
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