Excerpt from Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Young Stalin

by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Young Stalin
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2007, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2008, 528 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Vy Armour

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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.[7]

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.[8]



NOTES
[1] 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 8.2.2.64, Alexandra Darakhvelidze- Margvelashvili, recorded 21 Feb. 1959. On his role, on cowardly comrades, who did what: GF IML 8.2.1.624.1—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 8.2.1.50.239—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.

Excerpted from Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore Copyright © 2007 by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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