Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar
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Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  3,068 ratings  ·  210 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 848 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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Harry Rutherford
This is a biography of Stalin, focussed on his domestic life and the tightly-knit group of people around him: his own family, and politicians, bodyguards, and their families.

As a piece of history, it's very impressive. It's clearly the result of a huge amount of research by Montefiore: he seems to have personally interviewed just about every living relative of the major figures, quite apart from the endless reading of archives and memoirs that must have been involved. As a casual reader I found...more
Maria
This book was so gruesome that I could barely read a chapter a day. Stalin's fifties are best described as specializing in ignoring truth. An ostrich with its head buried in the sand had nothing on Stalin. His incompetent management of World War II was truly awful, and his disloyalty and manipulation of friends and their families to their deaths was unbelievable. All in all, he personifies the boss no one wants to work for.

Credited with nearly 20 million deaths (I don't think that includes the...more
Katie
Nov 24, 2009 Katie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My dad
Shelves: history
The trouble with a really good book is that eventually you finish it. Even one that's 700 pages long. After that, your life is basically over. That's what's wrong with this one.

We learned precisely jack about Soviet history in school. Aside from the propaganda they ladled out, which was pretty short on recognizable facts. One is left educating oneself, and this is the best the TCL could do on the subject of "show trials" and "Great Terror." I still don't know enough about Russian history, eviden...more
Linh
Để hiểu về chế độ toàn trị, không thể không đọc về Stalin và chế độ do nhà độc tài này tạo nên.

Nếu như Lenin là người khai sinh ra nhà nước Nga Xô Viết thì Stalin chính là người đã mang lại cho nó cái hình hài thực sự và biến nó thành một đế chế tội lỗi từng khuynh loát gần một nửa thế giới. Cuốn sách của Simon Sebag Montefiore mô tả con người Stalin, gia đình và những chiến hữu thân cận của ông ta, hay nói đúng hơn không thể gọi là chiến hữu mà là những kẻ thù và những tay sai. Chính vì thế tên...more
Tocotin
Whew... that was one brick of a book. Well, I have mixed feelings about it. I thought it fascinating when I started, then annoying, then horrifying and fascinating again.

The author is clearly impressed by Stalin and seems to consider him far cleverer than the guy really was. Yes, Stalin possessed a certain kind of intelligence - but it was a mean, extremely short-sighted intelligence of a particularly monstrous cockroach. This sort of intelligence was just good enough to keep him constantly at...more
Tyler
Mar 31, 2007 Tyler rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: one and all
Some of the 20th century's greatest monsters finally get the celebrity gossip treatment they so richly deserve...

A delicious stew of new documents and speculations, Stalin:TCOFTRS is the first actual bio ever produced on Stalin and his inner circle. Its an intensive, often meandering study of the inconsequential, smaller than life moments of an unbelievably private and powerful group. Its also entertaining as hell.

A favorite tabloid-esque nugget: the Stalinist Terror was variously entrusted to...more
Manray9
Montefiore's research is astounding. He had access to the Stalin archives, but also sought out the friends and family members of Khrushchev, Zhdanov, Kaganovich, all the Alliluyevs, Svanidzes and many others. I didn't know Svetlana Alliluyeva was still alive and living quietly in an unidentified location in the U.S. Midwest. It was almost 700 pages and I couldn't put it down.
Hobbes
What sets this book apart is the personal details it includes. It is clearly the product of prodigious research; the author appears to have read every book and memoir that even touches on his subject, and to have interviewed every person that didn't write a book. It gives a real look at the life of those in Stalin's inner circle after his ascension to power and of course, the life of Stalin himself.

Though sometimes touted as a biography, Stalin: tCotRT is most certainly not that. It follows the...more
Raghu
I read this book as Montefiore is a 'Stalin scholar' and because it has been written after the Soviet archives of the Stalin era was thrown open to researchers. The book is exhaustively researched and is pretty lengthy. A lot of the book deals with the 'personal' lives of the Soviet elite during the 1930s and the 1940s. The writing style is a bit laborious and so a substantial part of the book, dealing with Stalinist elite's private lives, is hard to keep reading seriously. However, the book pre...more
Mike
Powerful, shocking and terrible. Anyone interested in politics or history should read this book. It is humbling to think how fortunate we all are who are free to read this that we do not live in the world described. With the slow accumulation of detail and careful analysis it creates an overwhelming impact conveying that this is the truth about an era of lies, about a political system whose external image was carefully and deliberately constructed exclusively of lies. It describes a world in whi...more
Michael
As close as we will get to Stalin.
Horror.... Stalin's circle were often good fathers, jolly friends and good company.
When on Party business they variously took personal part in atrocity and blithely orchestrated the cold blooded murder of millions of their own citizens.
Then they went home to be loving family men, that is until they fell into the meat grinder themselves. I groan with the horror and brutality. Coldly I realise that future monsters will read these lines looking for tips on State sp...more
Holly
A clear-eyed assessment of Stalin's reign. Montefiore is neither an apologist nor a conspiracy theorist, and his assessment of Stalin's crimes struck me as being very well-researched and non-partisan. Though it does sometimes read like the Zagat Guide to Stalin (lots of sentences with a single word in quotes), it was informative and well-structured. Certainly recommended for anyone who would like to know more about this era in Soviet history.
Hadrian
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.
Mark Gray
A superb and well researched book following on from the previous book about Stalin's youth . An excellent and absorbing read
Aaron
I have had this book in my collection but delayed reading it for a couple of years. I brought it on a cruise and finished it in a week. It was extraordinary, terrifying, and kept me engrossed through all 700 pages. I consider Figes, A People's Tragedy to be the greatest book written on the Russian Revolution. I now consider Sebag-Montefiore's book to be the greatest book on the Stalin regime. The research, which became available after the Soviet Era, helped Sebag Montefiore create this amazing b...more
Filip
Just to be clear, this great read is not a biography of Stalin. His early years as a Bolshevik aren't covered, and often more attention is given to the "Soviet aristocracy" families surrounding him, justifying the subtitle "the Court of the Red Tsar".
The book relies on a lot of research and interviews with the last survivors of that period. It paints a horrifying picture of the ruthlessness with which internal politics (the Terror) and external politics (Molotov/Ribbentrop) were conducted. The...more
Ushore
Sep 14, 2008 Ushore rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historians, students
Relying on newly available Soviet archives and the author’s contact with children and grandchildren of some of the main “players”, this book promised to be one of those truly revealing works that appear just a few times every century: a genuine, bona fide scoop. That’s probably why I found the beginning of “Stalin – the Court of the Red Tsar” so abysmal – and the beginning runs to over 100 pages, some nine chapters, or so.

The book starts in classic Hollywood death-of-an-epoch blockbuster mode:...more
Jonfaith
Christmas time is a tricky time for my friends and relatives. Only the intrepid make moves to buy books, films and music without my preapproval. My friend Ed bought me a book, a memoir, which I had previusly found for a quarter and considered myself cheated at that price. I returned his book and selected this among the meager offerings at the local independent book store; I should qualify that the independent stores across the river are not provincial nor meager but the one here is, despite my b...more
Steve
I don't know. I may need something lighter -- and soon!

Update: I may write some more on this later. At times fascinating, heartbreaking, but also at times boring read. Montefiore has all kinds of juicy gossip, due to the opening up of old Soviet archives. He takes the new material and attaches it to the history of the period. It works well -- up until WW 2, and then he has to cover a lot of big events quickly -- and this in a 650 page book! When Montefiore gets to WW 2, I sensed a creeping admir...more
Ian Miller
The book is essentially a biography/history of Josef Stalin from the time of Lenin's death to Stalin's death, with a few notes on what followed. At just under 700 pages, it is not exactly brief, nevertheless it is tightly written, and no words are wasted, and nothing pointless is written. It has what for me was an incredible amount of detail, and it gave me a picture of events that changed my preconceived views considerably. I knew before I started that Stalin was a mass murderer, and I assumed...more
Kent
I don't envy the historian his job. It must be excruciatingly tedious to wade through government archives, personal letters, diaries, unpublished memoirs, minutes of bureaucratic meetings, departmental reports, military inventory lists, etc., in search of the telling detail. The dreariness of the task might account for the arduous, musty tone of so much academic writing. Happily, Simon Sebag Montefiore does not write like an academic. Sadly, Simon Sebag Montefiore is a really bad writer.

A niggli...more
Carl Brush
Anyone who approaches Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Stalin hoping for light to be cast into one of history’s darkest corners may be as disappointed as I was. Mostly, Montefiore confirms the popular image of Stalin as a ruthless slaughterer of millions. I didn’t know the numbers (28 million or so) or the full cast of characters, but I came away after 650 grueling pages feeling not particularly knowledgeable about how he attained and kept power. Maybe there’s not that much to know. Montefiore’s Stalin...more
Esther
Superb. Not sure tackling an 800 page tome on brutal Stalin was necessarily the best reading choice for polar vortex ridden January, but I could at least have some empathy with those exiled to Siberian prison camps. Nice mixture of the political and the personal detail. At times it would have been farcical if it wasn't so cruel. Torturing and killing all your best military generals just before WW2, letting your anti-semitic paranoia lead to many top jewish doctors and scientists being killed and...more
Elizabeth
I was hoping this book would be more general interest; it presumes more knowledge of Soviet history than I have. But with the help of Wikipedia, I was able to get up to speed. The accounts of Stalin's power and the Terror (capital T indeed) are frightening. Stalin's assessments of Hitler and views on the war are interesting, but it is odd thinking of these two men fighting one another--which one was more paranoid and evil. It's a hard choice.
The book allows the reader to see Stalin as a man as...more
Alex Fabish
One of the most thorough, well researched and readable histories I’ve come across. The book deliver’s exactly what it says, a history of Stalin’s court and does so in extreme detail, drawing from a wide variety of sources. The author’s pacing and humorous comments are top notch.

The downside of this book is that the content is so focused, that it rarely attempts to put many of the events into broader perspective, sticking only to the intrigues of Stalin’s inner circle without delving into how th...more
Gainerm
In this dense political biography - one could, of course, argue that it would be impossible to write anything but about one of the 20th century's most thoroughly political figures - Montefiore makes good use of the now-reclosed Russian government archives to create a portrait of an obsessive, manipulative Joseph Stalin who could simultaneously charm and terrify both commoners and world leaders alike. We get a detailed look at the dictator's many facades - poet, general, movie critic, father, pol...more
Mae
It was a slog, but more than worth it. I can't believe the amount of research that went into this biography and the abundance of information that was available. Everyone's diaries, transcripts of Politburo meetings, interviews with living witnesses. It almost reads like a dense novel but it's stranger than fiction.

Practically a blow-by-blow of 25 years of Stalin and the Bolshevik elite, including dialog, personal affairs, and state secrets locked up until well after the collapse of the Soviet U...more
David
A fascinating and terrifying account of a monster and his cronies, who managed to cause more suffering than just about anyone else in history. His young wife killed herself early on, which Montefiore identifies as a key turning point in the downward spiral of his character, but it was hardly a good excuse. His one redeeming feature in terms of political history is that he faced and defeated another monster, Hitler. The world is better off without the Soviet Empire, and the whole book is a lesson...more
Michael
CAMDEN TIMESHARE ①

driven by diminished circumstances, resort to plastic, vicissitudes of fate, I'm screeching to my GR fan club rather than accomplishing anything useful with my days and ways. should I pursue a screech 19 year old slightly chavvie Luton girl in hopes to landing a UK residency? I think not. think I'm probably not going to be selected by an even more chavvie 33 year old gang-connected local beauty, from Devonshire. it's just the way the dice roll.

instead, I'm surrounded by French...more
Chris
What can one say about someone like Stalin? His thinking and actions defy classification, and at times description. He emerges as an intelligent and charismatic thug: the kind you never want to meet.

Montefiore takes the best approach for such a huge topic: he writes it as a narrative, including personal details that help to explain Stalin's character.

These details are strangely revealing. For example, there is an account of Stalin defecating in plain view of his men for fear of stepping into th...more
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Simon Sebag Montefiore is the author of the prize winning books Jerusalem: the Biography' and Young Stalin and the novels Sashenka and now One Night in Winter. His books are published in over 40 languages and are worldwide bestsellers. He read history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, where he received his Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD).

The novel One Night in Winter is out now i...more
More about Simon Sebag Montefiore...
Jerusalem: The Biography Young Stalin Sashenka One Night in Winter: A Novel Speeches That Changed the World

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