Hobbes's Reviews > Stalin

Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore
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Oct 20, 2010

really liked it

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 life of Stalin, but more as an MC than true center. There is only brief descriptions of events that precede Stalin as the supreme ruler of Russia. The majority of the book focuses on the time between Stalin's taking of power and the middle of the second world war. Even then it is not a historical recounting of events. It does hit the highlights but clearly the focus is on the kind of lives those in Stalin's court were leading.

There's certainly speculation from the author (who, to his credit, almost always labels it as such) but for the most part this books supplies a ceaseless parade of quotes from the men and women themselves. Little details about their lives and style of living. It's not macabre or lewd though many of the prominent characters engaged in egregious violence and perverse lifestyles, so much as it is intensely personal. Details about Stalin's comments on books he would edit, or mentions of children's games occurring while Ukraine was starved to death. Vacations to the South and personal vendettas.

Having a background in Soviet history would be helpful before reading this work, but not necessary. It will not, however, substitute for a true history of the time: that's just not how it was written. It is, none the less, a fascinating read.
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