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Young Stalin

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  2,818 Ratings  ·  260 Reviews
Based on ten years' astonishing new research, here is the thrilling story of how a charismatic, dangerous boy became a student priest, romantic poet, gangster mastermind, prolific lover, murderous revolutionary, and the merciless politician who shaped the Soviet Empire in his own brutal image: How Stalin became Stalin.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
ebook, 496 pages
Published December 9th 2009 by Vintage (first published 2007)
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Nov 23, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is Stalin before he was “Stalin.” While Montefiore's previous book, The Court of the Red Tsar, covers Stalin’s years in power, here we get a look into his childhood home and abuse, his questionable parentage, his career as a poet (who knew?!), his seminary schooling, his early crimes, arrests, exiles, his multiple girlfriends, his meeting with Lenin, his early rivalry with Trotsky, and his seemingly constant impregnating of teenagers and fathering of children he never met. Both his marriage ...more
One day, when I was outside eating lunch and reading this book, someone asked me who "Stay-lin" (rhymes with Palin) is, and told me that he looks like Johnny Depp. What else can I say?
Adam Floridia
Dec 12, 2008 Adam Floridia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even the preface starts off strong with a brilliantly vivid description of Stalin's first bank heist. That particular narrative reads more like an action novel than a biography.

Similarly, the author portrays Soso's (Stalin's) childhood home of Gori, Georgia as a hotbed of mischief, both major and minor. From all out town brawls to school field trips to witness an execution, the town reminds me of an almost cartoonish depiction of a criminal haven. Furthermore, Stalin's NUMEROUS escapes from capt
This is the best biography I've read in a long time. I didn't know much about Stalin and had only basic knowledge of Russian history before I started, but Montefiore's book leaves me hungry for more.

The book begins with an excellent "hook," describing a sensational bank robbery Stalin perpetrated in Tiflis, Georgia. It's also very well researched, with lots of endnotes and footnotes (but no so many footnotes as to distract from the text). Even better, it's written in such a way that the characte
فهد الفهد
ستالين الشاب زعيماً وشاعراً ولصاً وكاهناً وزير نساء

في عام 2005 م نشر المؤرخ البريطاني سيمون سيباغ مونتيفيوري المتخصص في تاريخ الشرق الأوسط والتاريخ الروسي كتاباً يتناول حياة الطاغية الشهير ستالين بعنوان (ستالين: بلاط القيصر الأحمر)، معتبراً في كتابه هذا ستالين أحد أكثر الشخصيات التي صاغت شكل العالم في القرن العشرين، ولأن الكتاب تناول حياة ستالين منذ الثورة الروسية 1917 م وحتى وفاته 1953 م، وهي السنوات التي عرف من خلالها ستالين، ورسخ فيها صورته الدموية، قام المؤلف بتأليف كتابه الثاني ونشره بعد ث
Oct 02, 2008 Terence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russian history buffs
Oh, the "what ifs" of history - if only Stalin had obeyed his mother's wishes and become a priest (or his father's and become a cobbler). But Simon Montefiore's Young Stalin explores why he didn't.

Young Stalin fills in the period from Stalin's birth in 1878 to the success of the Bolsheviks in 1917, only touched on in Montefiore's earlier biography, The Court of the Red Tsar. The book attempts to explain from whence the brutal megalomaniacal dictator of both Soviet and Western myth emerged, and (
Carl R.
After reading Simon Sebag Montefiore’s The Court of the Red Tsar (Sabout Stalin’s post revolution reign I didn’t want to read more. I think Montefiore’s writing is pedestrian and that he somehow made the story of the man who is arguably history’s most brutal and bloody dictator and of his alliances with the western world’s greatest mid-century leaders less than transporting work. However, I have a neighbor who’s a glutton for this kind of thing, so I fell heir to a copy of Young Stalin, and here ...more
Jane Routley
Sep 19, 2008 Jane Routley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love biographies. When I was a kid there were a series of uplifitng books for children that I loved with titles like "Young Florence Nightingale." This however is not one of them. In fact is was hard for an old lefty like me to realize just what a vicious bunch of scumbags the Bolsheviks were and how in a lot of ways they were very like Al Quieda are now. They even planned to crash a bi-plane full of explosives into the Winter Palace at one stage.
They were proud to be terrorists and happy to k
List of Illustrations
Stalin Family Tree
List of Characters

--Young Stalin

Stalin's Names, Nicknames, Bylines and Aliases
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: In order to make the paperback a manageable and readable size, the author and publishers have decided not to include the notes in the paperback. We hope
Tamara Zargaryan
Время от времени во мне просыпается историк. И тогда этот историк принимается рьяно копаться в одной конкретной теме. В настоящее время такой темой для меня стала Великая Отечественная война (во многом благодаря недавно прочитанной потрясающей книге Джонатана Литтелла «The Kindly Ones»). Я вдруг с удивлением обнаружила, что весь мой довольно крепкий школьный и университетский багаж знаний в этой области теперь уже катастрофически мал. Я, конечно, назову основные даты, смогу рассказать про постул ...more
This seems a very well-researched book. I learned much about this guy both as a person and as a political. I preferred the parts which focused more on the person rather than the politics but clearly, they can't be separated so overall a really interesting read. A really good history lesson as I feel I have a much better understanding now of the politics and the lead-up to Stalin's reign. I plan on moving on to Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar.
Aug 14, 2016 GT rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I'm not an expert in Stalin or Russia, so I appreciated "journalistic" approach to the subject. My impression of Young Stalin, is a person who lived in an abusive household and would fund the Bolsheviks through gangster activities. He is charismatic, driven, writes poetry, and can be popular with the ladies. On the other hand, he can be aloof, heartless, and unemotional.

The book starts with what is known about his childhood and ends with the Bolshevik taking power. Most of the book consists of
Jun 11, 2015 Aneta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I don't often read biographies, I really love historical books. This one read as good as fiction, probably because Stalin's life was better than fiction. He did have the most improbable career and most extraordinary life, with the details of it hard to believe. Life really is stranger than fiction. For people interested in Russian history and contemporary politics- I think it is a must read as the origins of Young Stalin, are the origins of Russia as it is today- and I don't think it is ...more
Bruce Collett
Great information about Stalin that informs us he was one of history's greatest thugs. Very efficient as an administrator, politcal operative, dictator...and truly evil. I appreciate that while giving Stalin a chance at human understanding, Montefiore let's the facts describe that he was such a "bad buy" that there isn't a possible sympathetic conclusion about Stalin's life. It reads to me like The Gulag Archipelago which assumes the reader has lots of Russian/Soviet Union historical novel so ma ...more
A good, close-up look at Stalin from his birth up to age 39 (1917). Montefiore has done a superb job at providing details of his family life, childhood, early life in Georgia, his activities for the Bolsheviks, his imprisonments, time in Siberia, and his involvement in the beginnings of the 1917 Revolution.

In contrast, Stephen Kotkin's 'Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power' covers the same time period with a much wider focus - more on the historical situation and less on Stalin himself. Kotkin
Patrick Peterson
Listened to this on Audio CD. Fascinating. Very well read by James Adams. Paints Stalin as much more intellectual than most describe him. One cause: Trotsky was a powerful writer, who totally misjudged and demeaned Stalin and has had much better press. Another reason, socialists who still love the idea of socialism, find it very hard to justify and explain how the Soviet Union could fall prey to this man Stalin, had to paint him as an evil no-nothing, not a product of the system he, Lenin, Marx, ...more
Aurimas Novikovas
Oct 15, 2016 Aurimas Novikovas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
when you come to think of terror that had been caused to generations before you, it is quite ok to learn the basics of it or what had made someone to kill millions and millions of people. montefiori brings it to you. a historical fiction that makes your skin shiver. obviously one of top 10 books I have taken in my hands.
Frank Stein
Jan 07, 2015 Frank Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book shares many similarities with Montefiore's earlier book, Court of the Red Tsar, which deals with Stalin's later life in power. This book too is gossipy, filled with private inneundo, sexual scuttlebutt, and violent family relationships. Despite dealing with less world-shaking events, it is perhaps even more readable because the overall tenor of the writer goes better with Stalin's more private life in this period.

Stalin (or Soso, his previous nickname which is used throughout the book
Ashok Sridharan
Dec 04, 2016 Ashok Sridharan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Young Stalin is a biography of Stalin from his birth to the October Revolution, covering the first four decades of the life of Joseph Stalin before he became the all powerful dictator of the Soviet Union. This work is a prequel to the author's 2004 magnum opus Court of the Red Tsar, which covers the second half of Stalin's long and eventful life.

Young Stalin is an extensively researched work drawing from several sources, many of them hitherto unpublished. Simon Sebag Montefiore traces the life o
Apr 21, 2012 Drake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who knew that Stalin was once a weatherman? Or that he had webbed toes that he was painfully embarrassed about revealing. Simon Montefiore documents these fine details along with so much more in this wonderful book. But don’t mistake it for a list of trivia about this horrific Soviet leader. Instead, Young Stalin documents a full picture of this complex man, along with the people and events that formed him into the ruthless dictator that he would someday become. Excellently researched, it is a m ...more
Jan 10, 2011 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stalin has been seen as a one dimensional person - mostly a tyrant/dictator. The book offers information never before published from the disintegrating Georgian archives and memoirs or interviews from (the few) survivors. Stalin's personal history was mutated into a huge cult myth during his lifetime and then equally distorted by the west and also by those who denounced him after his death. He was a monster that rose up from questionable and murky origins (we don't even know who his father was.. ...more
Jan 12, 2010 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: soviet-history
Montefiore has given us another fascinating and utterly engaging biography of Stalin, or rather a biographical narrative of his life through the October Revolution (1917).

Montefiore has mined the archives of Russia and former Soviet republics and he has also interviewed surviving acquaintances of Stalin's (One former friend still lives at 109 years!)to present a great deal of material for the first time. His integration of this material as well as his interpretation of it in larger political con
Paul Pessolano
“Young Stalin” by Simon Sebag Montefiore, published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Category – Russian History Publication Date – 2009

This is a deep and meticulous study of the early life of Josef Stalin. It was ten years of research, using the now opened archives and an unprecedented interview of those who were privy to Stalin’s early life that gives this book a place in biographical history.

This is a book that belongs to the true student of Russian History and in particular the life of Stalin. It answers m
Peter King
Feb 08, 2013 Peter King rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a life no fiction writer would dare suggest. Joseph Djugashvelli (Stalin) was the son of single mother (some say prostitute) in Tsiblisi Georgia. By the end of his life he controlled the world's largest ever empire (in terms of land mass) and manipulated the thoughts of more people than anyone else in history. Stalin is the colossus of the twentieth century around which every other leader turned. Infinitely more powerful, successful and evil than Napoleon Bonaparte or Hitler; the master w ...more
Moira Downey
Jul 04, 2013 Moira Downey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched (from a trove of documents released relatively recently--within the last ten years), and deeply engrossing. When telling the personal story of history's great monsters, it can be easy to slip into an almost sympathetic, explanatory mode. Montefiore manages to mostly avoid this pitfall; he relates a childhood that can only be described as deeply traumatic, but never suggests this as an excuse for a youth and young adulthood filled with a litany of hideous behavior. The other thing ...more
May 15, 2012 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: georgia
"There was one big difference between Stalin and Trotsky then: Stalin was a Georgian. (p.66)" This book tells the story of how a drunken cobbler's son from the wild town of Gori in Georgia emerged to be a key figure in the Russian Revolution of 1917. The book looks in fascinating detail at the events which shaped the merciless political tyrant.
Trotsky's dismissal of Stalin as a "provincial mediocrity" had previously been recounted by historians, this biography shows he was anything but and that
Jun 02, 2011 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what I find so fascinating about Stalin. I've always viewed with suspicion people who are Hitler enthusiasts, like they are cruel to animals or have hostages tied in their basements; but maybe that's because it feels like the Hitler story has been so drummed in. The Stalin story seems very murky and less well known. Every time I learn something new I want to tell everyone about it. I had no idea Stalin was so involved in the early revolution. I thought he came along later and took c ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Torsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
წიგნს რამდენიმე მკვეთრად გამოხატული პლიუსი აქვს: 1) არაა დაწერილი არც პრო-ანტი ავტორის მიერ. მონტეფიორე მართლაც მესამე ნაპირიდან უყურებს სტალინს, რაც ვფიქრობ, იძლევა ობიექტურობის გარკვეულ გარანტიას. 2) წიგნი საკმაოდ ჩამთრევია და საინტერესოდ იკითხება. 3) ავტორმა იმუშავა ისეთ არქივებზე, რაც დახურული იყო იქამდე.

ზოგადად კი - "ახალგაზრდა სტალინი" მეორედ წავიკითხე. მაინტერესებდა 3 წლის შემდეგ რა შთაბეჭდილებას მოახდენდა ჩემზე. უნდა ვაღიარო რომ კვლავ ისეთივე ინტერესით და "ერთი ამოსუნთქვით" წავიკითხე.
This was a brilliant, personal biography of Stalin from childhood right through his taking control of the Soviet Union and beyond.

If you are looking for a biography of Stalin in power see this author's The Court of the Red Czar.

This is an excellent piece for those interested in how Stalin became Stalin and it is very detailed in this respect.

Highly recommended for those interested in the origins and history of the Soviet Union and those interested in the fall of Euro-centrism.

A must read boo
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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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“So much of the inexplicable about the Soviet experience—the hatred of the peasantry for example, the secrecy and paranoia, the murderous witch hunt of the Great Terror, the placing of the Party above family and life itself, the suspicion of the USSR’s own espionage that led to the success of Hitler’s 1941 surprise attack—was the result of the underground life, the konspiratsia of the Okhrana and the revolutionaries, and also the Caucasian values and style of Stalin. And not just of Stalin.” 5 likes
“It seems that Russia today—dominated by, and accustomed to, autocracy and empire, and lacking strong civic institutions especially after the shattering of its society by the Bolshevik Terror—is destined to be ruled by self-promoting cliques for some time yet.” 3 likes
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