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Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  5,097 Ratings  ·  310 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 a ...more
Kindle Edition, 850 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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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.
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
Nov 04, 2008 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Dec 30, 2011 Manray9 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia
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.
Nov 02, 2009 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  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
This one gets a solid 5 stars as it was clearly thoroughly reasearched and well-written. It's a history lesson full of information, dates, names and events (so it's not always a smooth read) but it's also an inside look at the man and his effect on those around him. I've read many books centered around this time in history but never once specifically focused on Stalin and his reign. I feel like I have gained so much knowledge of the behind the scenes workings of this man and his politics. A grea ...more
May 10, 2013 Linh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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 a 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! In addition, when Montefiore gets to WW 2, I sensed a
List of Illustrations
Stalin Family Tree
Introduction and Acknowledgements
List of Characters

--Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

Select Bibliography

(The full and extremely extensive references for this book are available in the hardback edition and also on the author's website at: Many of the sources for this work are totally new. However, to make the paperback a manageable and readable size, the author and publisher have decided not to include
Oct 20, 2010 Hobbes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Thomas Strömquist
"Highly recommended fascinating historical book but with a warning: it is not an easy read. Translation of Russian is often hard to interpret and a source of constant needs for re-reading passages. The author does not make it any easier on the reader by his writing style. And last, even though most of the book is well written, parts could have used some editing, often a footnote (and there are plenty) is placed in the text at less than obvious places and leaving off mid-sentence to read an exten ...more
Mar 31, 2007 Tyler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
A chilling view in the life of Stalin and his close associates. Nobody was safe in the presence of Stalin. Simon Sebag Montefiore gives a detailed account of the Court of the Red Tsar.
Jul 10, 2009 Raghu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 31, 2016 Fino rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
And I thought I had a repulsive idea of the horrors of the USSR before? Well, this book certainly made me realize how little I really knew. Stalin was capable of kindness and humor with family and friends and yet boundless, sadistic cruelty. Simon Sebag Montefiore writes a fantastic, detailed and gruesome portrait of one of the most prolific murderers of the 20th C. In about 670 breathless pages, we see the rise of the dictator, the terror of the 30’s, the negotiations with Hitler, the near-succ ...more
Feb 22, 2011 Mae rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 19, 2007 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
This author has yet to let me down, I have loved both books. I've read a bit on this subject, and after a while it can feel like the same thing over and over, but this book managed to be fresh. It was filled with new information. It's one of those just one more chapter, then I'll stop books.
Oct 02, 2013 Bettie☯ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Edward
Mark Gray
Mar 14, 2014 Mark Gray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superb and well researched book following on from the previous book about Stalin's youth . An excellent and absorbing read
Mar 07, 2017 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting book. It provided a lot of insight into the inner circle of one of the most notorious dictators of recent times. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as 'The Romanovs' book by the same author, although I think this is down to the source material and not through any fault of the author.

This book leads you through the life and intrigues of Stalin after he succeeds Lenin. The author skips large chunks of his formative years as a revolutionary (which he details in a separate book call
Frank Stein
Jan 04, 2015 Frank Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to do much better than the Time magazine review of the book, "scholarship as a kind of savage gossip." This book eschews grand strategy and political ideology for personal squabbles and telling anecdotes. One could dispute the importance of all this, and some other historians have, but Montefiore makes a strong case that these fraught entertainments were essential to understanding power and politics in the Soviet Union. Although he does not belabor the metaphor, Stalin did rule a "cour ...more
Jan 19, 2017 Dоcтоr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As History is important, this book is a must read for those interested in Russian and Soviet history.
Feb 09, 2017 Sofia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, cba
I am in awe of this man.
Apr 22, 2008 Kent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2008 Ushore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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:
Carl R.
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Stalin
  • The Great Terror: A Reassessment
  • Khrushchev: The Man and His Era
  • Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives
  • Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s
  • The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
  • Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him
  • Stalin
  • Gulag: A History
  • The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia
  • Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag
  • The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive & the Secret History of the KGB
  • Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy
  • A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army
  • Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945
  • The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939 (Annals of Communism Series)
  • Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis
  • Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944
Simon Sebag Montefiore is the author of the global bestsellers 'The Romanovs' and 'Jerusalem: the Biography,' 'Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar' and Young Stalin and the novels Sashenka and now One Night in Winter. His books are published in over 45 languages and are worldwide bestsellers. He has won prizes in both non-fiction and fiction. He read history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge ...more
More about Simon Sebag Montefiore...

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“Perhaps 20 million had been killed; 28 million deported, of whom 18 million had slaved in the Gulags. Yet, after so much slaughter, they were still believers.” 1 likes
“Old Molotov was asked if he dreamed about Stalin: “Not often but sometimes. The circumstances are very unusual. I’m in some sort of destroyed city and I can’t find a way out. Afterwards, I meet HIM...”1” 0 likes
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