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

Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore
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Jul 16, 12

bookshelves: my-own-books, nonfiction, used-books
Read in June, 2012

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 the trough, but it failed to keep him happy or to save his life (when he had the stroke, his henchmen and staff were too afraid to actually help him, and there was no competent doctor around, because he had had them all arrested). The power he enjoyed - I don't know, it was so vast he had to remind himself of it daily, mostly by micromanaging his family and "friends". He was so stupid that he has almost caused his country to be defeated during WWII.

His achievements are mostly due to the stupidity, laziness and inertia of other Bolsheviks, and the lack of knowledge and imagination of his Western contemporaries. In other words, dude was lucky. Adolph, on the other hand, was not. As a result Adolph is the Big Bad of history and not Joseph.

The style and treatment of the subject sometimes got on my nerves. There are a lot of statements which lead nowhere and have no follow-up. Some stuff is just ridiculous, for example the author's claim that Stalin's cruelty and paranoia were induced by his second wife Nadya's suicide, or the speculations on inner thoughts of the members of Stalin's court (for example, how can he be sure whether Klim Voroshilov's wife was jealous of the other ladies' outfits or not?) Also, what he says about the Warsaw Uprising is outrageous - that it was staged in an attempt to stall the Red Army's progress. Seriously, dude... And if the book is an attempt to describe Stalin as a human and not a maligned Commie demon, how come Beria or Yezhov don't get the same treatment, but are "monsters" and "beasts"? Even Gorky gets the short end of the stick, while he DID know that he couldn't have written the truth about what was going on during the construction of the Belomor Canal. Yeah... Stalin was a good tsar, only his courtiers were evil. Again, seriously, dude... All right, it's not like this all the time, but still I got this vibe especially at the beginning. Look, Stalin had to snap, they were trying his patience, the ladies acted too familiar, some friends were late for the meetings... see what I mean?

But it was an interesting read all the same, and the author gets one more star for his sympathy for Babel (who in turn made me angry... what exactly was he doing at the Yezhovs'?! Complicated times...)
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message 1: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Sorry. Stalin was a monster. As bad as Hitler.


Tocotin Sketchbook wrote: "Sorry. Stalin was a monster. As bad as Hitler."

I'm glad to see we agree on that.


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