Summary and book reviews of Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Young Stalin

By Simon Sebag Montefiore

Young Stalin
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2007,
    496 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2008,
    528 pages.

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Book Summary

A revelatory account that finally unveils the shadowy journey from obscurity to power of the Georgian cobbler’s son who became the Red Tsar—the man who, along with Hitler, remains the modern personification of evil.

What makes a Stalin? What formed this merciless psychopath who was, as well, a consummate politician, the dynamic world statesman who helped create and industrialize the USSR, outplayed Churchill and Roosevelt, organized Stalingrad, took Berlin and defeated Hitler?

Young Stalin tells the story of a charismatic, darkly turbulent boy born into poverty, of doubtful parentage, scarred by his upbringing but possessed of unusual talents. Admired as a romantic poet and trained as a priest—both by the time he was in his early twenties—he found his true mission as a fanatical revolutionary. A mastermind of bank robbery, protection rackets, arson, piracy and murder, he was equal parts terrorist, intellectual and brigand. Here is the dramatic story of his friendships and hatreds, his many love affairs—with women from every social stratum and age group—his illegitimate children and his complicated relationship with the Tsarist secret police. Here is Stalin the arch-conspirator and escape artist whose brutal ingenuity so impressed Lenin that Lenin made him, along with Trotsky, top henchman. Montefiore makes clear how the paranoid criminal underworld was Stalin’s natural habitat, and how murderous Caucasian banditry and political gangsterism, combined with pitiless ideology, enabled Stalin to dominate the Kremlin—and create the USSR in his flawed image.

Based on ten years of research in newly opened archives in Russia and Georgia, Young Stalin—companion to the prizewinning Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar—is a brilliant prehistory of the USSR, a chronicle of the Revolution, and an intimate biography. A thrilling work of history, unparalleled in its scope, full of astonishing new evidence and utterly fascinating: this is how Stalin became Stalin.

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.[1]

Few outside the gang knew of the plan that day for a criminal terrorist “spectacular,” but Stalin had worked on it for ...

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    Costa Book Awards
    2007

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Reviews

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Young Stalin superbly achieves the author's intention: to show the development and early maturity of the ultimate politician. What missing empathy in Stalin's upbringing allowed him to kill so easily, but equally what qualities equipped him so well for political life? Stalin's success was at least partly due to his unusual upbringing that combined a seminary education and street violence; he was that rare combination of intellectual and killer, "half Osama bin Laden, half Tony Soprano .... incredibly complex and subtle, both diabolical and terrifyingly seductive".   (Reviewed by Vy Armour).

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Media Reviews
Library Journal

This accessible book is highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

[A] superb prequel to his Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar...Essential to understanding one of the 20th century's premier monsters and the nation he wrought.

The Washington Post - Ronald Grigor Suny

Montefiore enfolds even what is familiar about Stalin in a vivid narrative rich with new details and sensational revelations.

The New York Times - William Grimes

Mr. Montefiore offers a detailed picture of Stalin's childhood and youth, his shadowy career as a revolutionary in Georgia and his critical role during the October Revolution. No one, henceforth, need ever wonder how it was that Stalin found his way into Lenin's inner circle, or took his place in the ruling troika that assumed power after the storming of the Winter Palace.

Reader Reviews
Greg Cameron

An excellent, if tendentious, book
I experienced something of a split-screen reaction to Simon Sebag Montefiore's book "Young Stalin." First off, I would say that it is a provocative book that will change your view of one of history's great psychopaths forever. I am not in a ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Little Known Facts About Stalin

  • Born Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili in 1878, Stalin had as many as forty names, nicknames, bylines and aliases throughout his life. He did not start to use the name Stalin, meaning man of steel, until 1912.
  • Stalin began writing poetry while at school (mainly in a romantic-pastoral style that was the convention for Georgian poets in the 1890s), and continued to write until his death at age 74 in 1953. The dictator was also a keen gardener, growing lemons, tomatoes, roses and mimosas.
  • Hitler and Stalin both had abusive fathers.
  • Stalin's wife, Nayda, committed suicide at age 31 (1932) and son, Yakov, committed suicide at age 36 (1943).
  • In his early years, ...

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