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Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsarby Simon Sebag Montefiore
Synopses & Reviews
Fifty years after his death, Stalin remains a figure of powerful and dark fascination. The almost unfathomable scale of his crimes–as many as 20 million Soviets died in his purges and infamous Gulag–has given him the lasting distinction as a personification of evil in the twentieth century. But though the facts of Stalin’s reign are well known, this remarkable biography reveals a Stalin we have never seen before as it illuminates the vast foundation–human, psychological and physical–that supported and encouraged him, the men and women who did his bidding, lived in fear of him and, more often than not, were betrayed by him.
In a seamless meshing of exhaustive research, brilliant synthesis and narrative élan, Simon Sebag Montefiore chronicles the life and lives of Stalin’s court from the time of his acclamation as “leader” in 1929, five years after Lenin’s death, until his own death in 1953 at the age of seventy-three. Through the lens of personality–Stalin’s as well as those of his most notorious henchmen, Molotov, Beria and Yezhov among them–the author sheds new light on the oligarchy that attempted to create a new world by exterminating the old. He gives us the details of their quotidian and monstrous lives: Stalin’s favorites in music, movies, literature (Hemmingway, The Forsyte Saga and The Last of the Mohicans were at the top of his list), food and history (he took Ivan the Terrible as his role model and swore by Lenin’s dictum, “A revolution without firing squads is meaningless”). We see him among his courtiers, his informal but deadly game of power played out at dinners and parties at Black Sea villas and in the apartments of the Kremlin. We see the debauchery, paranoia and cravenness that ruled the lives of Stalin’s inner court, and we see how the dictator played them one against the other in order to hone the awful efficiency of his killing machine.
With stunning attention to detail, Montefiore documents the crimes, small and large, of all the members of Stalin’s court. And he traces the intricate and shifting web of their relationships as the relative warmth of Stalin’s rule in the early 1930s gives way to the Great Terror of the late 1930s, the upheaval of World War II (there has never been as acute an account of Stalin’s meeting at Yalta with Churchill and Roosevelt) and the horrific postwar years when he terrorized his closest associates as unrelentingly as he did the rest of his country.
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar gives an unprecedented understanding of Stalin’s dictatorship, and, as well, a Stalin as human and complicated as he is brutal. It is a galvanizing portrait: razor-sharp, sensitive and unforgiving.
From the Hardcover edition.
A comprehensive biography of the Soviet tyrant and the men and women who surrounded him focuses on the the foundation of human, psychological, and physical supports that encouraged the dictator through the early days of Communism, World War II, and the Great Terror, in a complex portrait of Stalin's inner and outer life. Reprint. 35,000 first printing.
This widely acclaimed biography provides a vivid and riveting account of Stalin and his courtiers—killers, fanatics, women, and children—during the terrifying decades of his supreme power. In a seamless meshing of exhaustive research and narrative ?lan, Simon Sebag Montefiore gives us the everyday details of a monstrous life.
We see Stalin playing his deadly game of power and paranoia at debauched dinners at Black Sea villas and in the apartments of the Kremlin. We witness first-hand how the dictator and his magnates carried out the Great Terror and the war against the Nazis, and how their families lived in this secret world of fear, betrayal, murder, and sexual degeneracy. Montefiore gives an unprecedented understanding of Stalin’s dictatorship, and a Stalin as human and complicated as he is brutal.
About the Author
Simon Sebag Montefiore, who was born in 1965, read history at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. He spent much of the nineties traveling through the former Soviet empire, particularly the Caucasus, Ukraine and Central Asia, covering their wars and turmoil, and writing widely on Russia, Georgia and Chechnya, especially for the Sunday Times, the New York Times, The New Republic and the Spectator. Prince of Princes: The Life of Potemkin was published in 2000 and short-listed for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper and Marsh Biography prizes. The author of two novels and the presenter of television documentaries, he lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The holiday dinner: 8 November 1932. — That wonderful time: Stalin and Nadya, 1878-1932. The Georgian and the schoolgirl ; The Kremlin family ; The charmer ; Famine and the country set ; Holidays and hell: the Politburo at the seaside ; Trains full of corpses ; Stalin the intellectual. — The jolly fellows: Stalin and Kirov, 1932-1934. The funeral ; The omnipotent widower and his loving family: Sergo the Bolshevik prince ; Spoiled victory: Kirov, the plot and the Seventeenth Congress ; Assassination of the favourite. — On the brink, 1934-1936. "I'm orphaned": the connoisseur of funerals ; A secret friendship: The rose of Novgorod ; The dwarf rises; Casanova falls ; The tsar rides the Metro ; Take your partners; Mount your prisoners. — Slaughter: Yezhov the poison dwarf, 1937-1938. The executioner: Beria's poison and Bukharin's dosage ; Sergo: death of a "perfect Bolshevik" ; The Massacre of generals, fall of Yagoda, and death of a mother ; Blood bath by numbers ; "The blackberry" at work and play ; Bloody shirtsleeves ; Social life in the Terror. — Slaughter: Beria arrives, 1938-1939. Stalin's Jewesses and the family in danger ; Beria and the weariness of hangmen ; The tragedy and depravity of the Yezhovs ; Death of the Stalin family: a strange proposal and the housekeeper. — "The great game": Hitler and Stalin, 1939-1941. The carve-up of Europe: Molotov, Ribbentrop and Stalin's Jewish question ; The murder of the wives ; Molotov cocktails: the Winter War and Kulik's wife ; Molotov meets Hitler: brinkmanship and delusion ; The countdown: 22 June 1941. — War: the bungling genius, 1941-1942. Optimism and breakdown ; "Ferocious as a dog": Zhdanov and the Siege of Leningrad ; "Can you hold Moscow?" ; Molotov in London, Mekhlis in the Crimea, Khrushchev in collapse ; Churchill visits Stalin: Marlborough vs. Wellington ; Stalingrad and the Caucasus: Beria and Kaganovich at war. — War: the triumphant genius, 1942-1945. The Supremo of Stalingrad ; Sons and daughters: Stalin and the Politburo's children at war ; Stalin's song contest ; Teheran: Roosevelt and Stalin ; The swaggering conqueror: Yalta and Berlin. — The dangerous game of succession, 1945-1949. The bomb ; Beria: potentate, husband, father, lover, killer, rapist ; A night in the nocturnal life of Joseph Vissarionovich: tyranny by movies and dinners ; Molotov's chance: "You'll do anything when you're drunk!" ; Zhdanov the heir and Abakumov's bloody carpet ; The eclipse of Zhukov and the looters of Europe: the Imperial Elite ; "The Zionists have pulled one over you!" ; A lonely old man on holiday ; Two strange deaths: the Yiddish actor and heir apparent. — The lame tiger, 1949-1953. Mrs. Molotov's arrest ; Murder and marriage: the Leningrad case ; Mao, Stalin's birthday and the Korean War ; The Midget and the killer doctors: Beat, beat and beat again! ; Blind kittens and hippopotamuses: the destruction of the Old Guard ; "I did him in!": the patient and his trembling doctors.
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