A revelatory account that finally unveils the shadowy journey from obscurity to power of the Georgian cobblers son who became the Red Tsarthe 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 priestboth by the time he was in his early twentieshe 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 affairswith women from every social stratum and age grouphis 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 Stalins natural habitat, and how murderous Caucasian banditry and political gangsterism, combined with pitiless ideology, enabled Stalin to dominate the Kremlinand create the USSR in his flawed image.
Based on ten years of research in newly opened archives in Russia and Georgia, Young Stalincompanion to the prizewinning Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsaris 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 parasolswhile 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 ...
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).
Full Review (1098 words).
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