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Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon…
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Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

by Simon Sebag Montefiore

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1,233None6,418 (4.1)64
Recently added bydcpoc1985, lucace, CliffBurns, Ajnabi, ahlund, CallumMillard, private library
Legacy LibrariesJuice Leskinen
  1. 10
    Life and Fate by Vassili Grossman (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Ostensibly a novel (and a superb one!), Life and Fate contains so much distilled experience of the Stalin era that it is an essential document for anyone interested in the history - or indeed, of how dictatorships work.
  2. 10
    Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (Ronoc)
  3. 10
    The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia by Orlando Figes (mercure)
    mercure: Both books deal with daily life under Stalinism. Mr. Sebag Montefiore looks at Stalin's inner circle, The Whisperers looks at everybody outside that circle.
  4. 00
    The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt (Ronoc)
  5. 00
    Men in Dark Times by Hannah Arendt (Ronoc)
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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. ( )
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
I started reading Montefiore's two-volume history of Stalin with Young Stalin which comes first chronologically but which he wrote second and which I found absolutely compelling and chilling, because of DieFledermaus's fascinating and comprehensive review last year. There is little I can add to that review, so I'll just note a few comments about my reaction to this book.

Montefiore had access to recently released Soviet archives, and also was able to interview some people who still remembered Stalin, whether because they had been fortunate enough to live to an advanced age or because they had been children of his associates. So even though I knew the broad outlines of Stalin's life from having read the excellent Hitler and Stalin, these added texture to the story. And it is really a story of the magnates (as he calls them) who clustered around Stalin, schemed against their colleagues, tried desperately to stay in Stalin's favor, and endured endless alcohol- and food-filled nights with him -- his court, in other words. It is not a biography of Stalin (and, after a break, because he's a hard man to spend a lot of time with, both in real life and on the pages of a book, I would still like to read a biography that takes advantage of the Soviet archives) and it isn't a history of the tumultuous middle of the 20th century, although history intrudes now and then.

And there, in a nutshell, lies my problem with the book, its strength and its weakness. It is a remarkable accomplishment, and I appreciated the broad outline of what the magnates were like and what happened to them, but I guess I just wasn't that interested in the details of who said what to whom or did what to whom day in and day out (I exaggerate). Things picked up for me a little when the war started, because at least there was a little (!) action. Young Stalin was a real biography of Stalin's early life, and Montefiore integrated the quotations from archives and interview into the story in a very readable way, and I enjoyed (?) that book a lot more than this one. I'm glad I read it, and I certainly learned things I didn't know, but I was glad when it was over.
3 vote rebeccanyc | Jun 30, 2013 |
What makes this book stand out for me is the detail of day to day life in the centre of power of the Stalinist regime at that time. Yes, at times there are an almost overwhelming amount of names that flow towards the reader, but even if you let many of those flow past you like I did on my first read through, what remains is the sense of intimacy with the characters involved.

Interviews with survivors, children of officials and archival evidence provide a shocking picture of how even the most petty of prejudices and spiteful exchanges could lead to terrible consequences for millions of people. As someone who as a youth read with great interest on the 'great scientific experiment' of the soviet union, I can only hang my head even further in adult shame as a picture of policy unfolds, on many occasions driven by nothing much more than the irrational fears and prejudices of a small incestuous clique, that causes untold carnage.

This can be read as an overview of the era with all the usual events of the time covered and Stalin and his cronies attempts at responses, and this it does admirably and thoroughly, but what really chills me is the sheer pettiness in the decisions made. The way that saving face around a meeting table is more important than saving the lives of whole populations or even preparing for a war with the Third Reich. These people really were the same pig headed fools that exist in any organisation today, but given absolute power and a licence to do whatever is required in the name of the greater good. The sad thing is that you can recognize the characteristics of these people, the self denial, the desire to please in order to gain favour. ( )
  Hubster | May 12, 2013 |
What makes this book stand out for me is the detail of day to day life in the centre of power of the Stalinist regime at that time. Yes, at times there are an almost overwhelming amount of names that flow towards the reader, but even if you let many of those flow past you like I did on my first read through, what remains is the sense of intimacy with the characters involved.

Interviews with survivors, children of officials and archival evidence provide a shocking picture of how even the most petty of prejudices and spiteful exchanges could lead to terrible consequences for millions of people. As someone who as a youth read with great interest on the 'great scientific experiment' of the soviet union, I can only hang my head even further in adult shame as a picture of policy unfolds, on many occasions driven by nothing much more than the irrational fears and prejudices of a small incestuous clique, that causes untold carnage.

This can be read as an overview of the era with all the usual events of the time covered and Stalin and his cronies attempts at responses, and this it does admirably and thoroughly, but what really chills me is the sheer pettiness in the decisions made. The way that saving face around a meeting table is more important than saving the lives of whole populations or even preparing for a war with the Third Reich. These people really were the same pig headed fools that exist in any organisation today, but given absolute power and a licence to do whatever is required in the name of the greater good. The sad thing is that you can recognize the characteristics of these people, the self denial, the desire to please in order to gain favour. ( )
  Hubster | May 12, 2013 |
For a while, I was tempted to believe that all people have a little core of good in them. Even Hitler had a few tiny sentimental spots.

Stalin doesn't even have that - he is a beast. A terrifying man, and this biography spares no details about the terrors of life around him. His retainers are also fascinating in their own twisted way. Extremely enlightening(?!) and fascinating book about the nature of modern tyranny. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 29, 2013 |
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Simon Sebag-Montefiore 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. Here is the Stalin story from the inside, full of revelations.… (more)

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