Young Stalin
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Young Stalin

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  1,845 ratings  ·  182 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 2004)
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Adam Floridia
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...more
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...more
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...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?
Jane Routley
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...more
Oct 02, 2008 Terence rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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 (...more
Carl Brush
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
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
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
Moira Downey
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
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
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
Peter King
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
"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...more
Thornike Lelashvili
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....more
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
It is never easy to read about the rise of a tyrant, but such books can enlighten us to the risks every society can run. While Stalin is on of the 20th century's most vicious, we see his type in people like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il.

If one wonders how such people can evolve and find their way to power, this book will be very interesting. It takes us from Stalin's birth to the Russian Revolution.

There may be more details here than the average person might want, but the speed reader can get...more
Excellent book and so well researched - just wanted to jump into another one of his books about the older Stalin. An eye opener on how disorganised the revolution really was and how Stalin seemed to be able to fly under the radar and how he bided his time in Siberia. Also interesting to see that some of the sources were books from family members who would not publish whilst he/they were alive - a dictator with no real saving graces yet with such an interesting childhood. A must for any person wi...more
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...more
Holly Cruise
An interesting, well told, and thoroughly researched work on one of History's most dedicated obscurantists. It was almost as interesting to read the footnotes covering the lengths Stalin went to hide the stories within this book as it was to read the actual events, escapades and outrages themselves.

There is a game attempt to explain how he managed to become such a devastating figure for the countries of the USSR, how his past shaped him, and how the opportunities on offer were seized by a determ...more
Scott Martin
Audiobook. A few years ago, I read the book "Stalin, Court of the Red Czar". I never realized that the author wrote a prequel of sorts, talking about the early years of Stalin (pre-Revolution). This work had the benefit of recently discovered/publicized documents and correspondence which shed a great deal of insight into Stalin's early and somewhat mysterious life. Stalin often took great pains to careful craft the image of his younger years, so the ground truth was hard to come by for decades....more
Mark Gray
An excellent book which presents a truly different perspective on one of the principle characters of the early 20th century
Margaret Sankey
Brilliant attempt to reconstruct the pre-revolutionary life of Josef Stalin--and a useful guess at how his charismatic teenage years as an anarchist and bandit, as well as the Georgian tribal culture and Orthodox religious baggage shaped his later life as an unimaginably more powerful person than could possibly have been guessed while he was robbing banks and careening around before WWI.
More like a 3.5.

"It was only then that Lenin removed his wig, washed off his makeup and emerged as the leader of Russia." That's sort of the book in a nutshell: breezy, melodramatic, enjoyable. I will say the breeziness, given the subject matter, takes a little bit of getting used to.

Most successful in its ability to re-frame the authoritarian monster into a human being frequently tender with children. Also successful in pushing back against "Stalin as thoughtless, thoroughly mediocre goon who m...more
This is an amazing biography on the man that would one day become a monster named Stalin.

We see an intelligent child, become an adolescent rebel, and a poet, gangster and revolutionary in his adult years. It really is facinating stuff, I couldn't put the book down.

The title made me realize I had only thought of Stalin as a murderous tyrant guilty of tens of millions of deaths during his tenure as the Soviet Union’s absolute dictator from 1922 to 1953). Of course, he had to have a childhood and a young adulthood that shaped him into the monster we all know and despise. I was not disappointed. Young Stalin kept me glued to the pages (Kindle pages).
Stalin, as you will imagine, had a very difficult childhood. His father was a beast who beat young Soso (one of...more
“Marx is the son of an ass. What he wrote should be written as I say!”

“Why should we have pity for men? We can always make more of them, but a horse, try to make a horse!”

This book provides us with an intimate look into the early years of the Soviet dictator. The author did a ton of research in historical archives and conducted many interviews to put this book together. Because of this, he brings up a lot of interesting stories and anecdotes about Stalin that you likely wouldn't be able to find...more
Andrew Myerson

Young Stalin is a biography about Joseph Stalin, before becoming the widely feared and hated Soviet Dictator. Young Stalin starts with the robbery of the State Bank in Tiflis, Georgia and ends with Stalin's rise to power in Soviet Russia shortly after the Bolshevik revolution. The book goes into great detail of Stalin's childhood and the development of his personality into a brutal, tyrannical dictator. Beso his alcoholic father and Keke his loving but obsessive mother combined with the...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Fascinating reading and the necessary companion to either Service's or Sebag-Montefiore's biography of Stalin and essential in combination with Service's biographies of Lenin and Trotsky.

Sebag-Montefiore shows that though, yes, Stalin was by far the roughest and most uncouth of Soviet communism's infamous, he was also intellectually on par with both of them, though not at all a theoretician, but very practically minded.
Stalin's superb performance at school, his exceptional work as a poet and his...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...
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar Jerusalem: The Biography Sashenka One Night in Winter: A Novel Speeches That Changed the World

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“Once in power, Stalin’s campaign to succeed Lenin required a legitimate heroic career which he did not possess because of his experience in what he called 'the dirty business' of politics: this could not be told, either because it was too gangsterish for a great, paternalistic statesman or because it was too Georgian for a Russian leader. His solution was a clumsy but all-embracing cult of personality that invented, distorted and concealed the truth. Ironically this self-promotion was so grotesque that it fanned sparks, sometimes innocent ones, which flared up into colossal anti-Stalin conspiracy-theories. It was easy for his political opponents, and later for us historians, to believe that it was all invented and that he had done nothing much at all—particularly since few historians had researched in the Caucasus where so much of his early career took place. An anti-cult, as erroneous as the cult itself, grew up around these conspiracy-theories.” 0 likes
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