Hub Masaq's Reviews > Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore
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's review
Jan 17, 12

bookshelves: history, non-fiction, biographical, favorites

What makes this book stand out for me is the detail of day to day life in the centre of power of the Stalinist regime at that time. Yes, at times there are an almost overwhelming amount of names that flow towards the reader, but even if you let many of those flow past you like I did on my first read through, what remains is the sense of intimacy with the characters involved.

Interviews with survivors, children of officials and archival evidence provide a shocking picture of how even the most petty of prejudices and spiteful exchanges could lead to terrible consequences for millions of people. As someone who as a youth read with great interest on the 'great scientific experiment' of the soviet union, I can only hang my head even further in adult shame as a picture of policy unfolds, on many occasions driven by nothing much more than the irrational fears and prejudices of a small incestuous clique, that causes untold carnage.

This can be read as an overview of the era with all the usual events of the time covered and Stalin and his cronies attempts at responses, and this it does admirably and thoroughly, but what really chills me is the sheer pettiness in the decisions made. The way that saving face around a meeting table is more important than saving the lives of whole populations or even preparing for a war with the Third Reich. These people really were the same pig headed fools that exist in any organisation today, but given absolute power and a licence to do whatever is required in the name of the greater good. The sad thing is that you can recognize the characteristics of these people, the self denial, the desire to please in order to gain favour.

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