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Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar Paperback – September 13, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 505 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“An extraordinary book. . . . For anyone fascinated by the nature of evil—and by the effects of absolute power on human relationships—this book will provide new insights on every page.” —Anne Applebaum, Evening Standard (London)

“The first intimate portrait of a man who had more lives on his conscience than Hitler. . . . Disturbing and perplexing.” —Richard Pipes, The New York Times Book Review

“Superb. . . . No Western writer has got as close. . . . A dark and excellent book.” —The New York Review of Books

“Terrific. . . . A deeply researched and wonderfully readable accomplishment—scholarship as a kind of savage gossip.” —Time

“Unprecedented in its intimacy and horrifying in its implications, not merely because it shows that the engineers of one of history’s greatest holocausts were depraved . . . but also because they emerge in these pages as surprisingly normal.” —The Washington Post Book World

“A marvelously well-researched book. . . . Montefiore has written a supremely important book about Joseph Stalin, a biography that other scholars will find hard to equal. This is sure to be one of the outstanding books of the year.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Ultra reader-friendly, lively, gossipy and packaged with revelations about the intimacies and intrigues of Stalin the man and his courtiers. Brilliant.” —Evening Standard Book Page

“A book that had to be written. . . . Montefiore’s biography is far different from anything in this genre. A superb piece of research and frighteningly lucid.” —The Washington Times

“Gripping and timely. . . . Montefiore has illuminated wider aspects of the history of the USSR. This is one of the few recent books on Stalinism that will be read in years to come.” —Robert Service, The Guardian (London)

“Montefiore combines his research among the primary sources and the fruits of his interviews into a focused, gripping story about a man, who, along with Mao, Hitler and Genghis Khan, has to be in the running for history’s greatest mass murderer.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“[A] masterful and terrifying account of Stalin as seen within his close entourage. . . . Seldom has the picture been put in finer focus than by Montefiore.” —Alistair Horne, The Times (London)

“Horrific, revelatory and sobering. . . . A triumph of research.” —John le Carré, The Observer

“I loved the totalitarian high baroque sleaze of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Stalin. . . . One of the 2004 Guardian Books of the Year.” —Simon Schama, The Guardian (London)

“A grim masterpiece shot through with lashes of black humor. . . . The personal details are riveting.” —Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday

“A well-researched and insightful book. . . . The narrative adroitly catches the atmosphere of the time.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“I did not think I could learn anything new about Stalin, but I was wrong. A stunning performance.” —Henry Kissinger

“Montefiore’s deft combination of biography and history brings Stalin alive, so that he becomes as complex and contradictory as any of the great characters in fiction.” —The New York Sun

“If you plan (wisely) to read only one book about Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, let it be Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. Simon Sebag Montefiore, writing with the skill of a novelist . . . has based his highly readable biographical thriller solidly and factually not only on all of the preceding scholarly studies of the Soviet dictator but also upon newly available archival materials.” —The Seattle Times

“A large and ambitious overview—and under-view—of the Soviet leader’s life and epoch, drawn from an impressively wide array of Russian sources.” —The Atlantic Monthly

“Spectacular. . . . An impressive and compelling work, using important new documents.” —The Spectator

“Sebag Montefiore has done a valuable service in drawing our attention to a hitherto little-studied aspect of Stalinism. As his Stalin demonstrates, the personal relationships of those who ran the Kremlin provided an essential dynamic for the development of the Stalinist system. Isolated from the masses, these members of the privileged elite depended on one another for emotional sustenance to an extraordinary degree.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)

From the Inside Flap

Fifty years after his death, Stalin remains a figure of powerful and dark fascination. The almost unfathomable scale of his crimes-as many as 20 million Soviets died in his purges and infamous Gulag-has given him the lasting distinction as a personification of evil in the twentieth century. But though the facts of Stalin's reign are well known, this remarkable biography reveals a Stalin we have never seen before as it illuminates the vast foundation-human, psychological and physical-that supported and encouraged him, the men and women who did his bidding, lived in fear of him and, more often than not, were betrayed by him.
In a seamless meshing of exhaustive research, brilliant synthesis and narrative elan, Simon Sebag Montefiore chronicles the life and lives of Stalin's court from the time of his acclamation as "leader" in 1929, five years after Lenin's death, until his own death in 1953 at the age of seventy-three. Through the lens of personality-Stalin's as well as those of his most notorious henchmen, Molotov, Beria and Yezhov among them-the author sheds new light on the oligarchy that attempted to create a new world by exterminating the old. He gives us the details of their quotidian and monstrous lives: Stalin's favorites in music, movies, literature (Hemmingway, "The Forsyte Saga and "The Last of the Mohicans were at the top of his list), food and history (he took Ivan the Terrible as his role model and swore by Lenin's dictum, "A revolution without firing squads is meaningless"). We see him among his courtiers, his informal but deadly game of power played out at dinners and parties at Black Sea villas and in the apartments of the Kremlin. We see the debauchery, paranoia andcravenness that ruled the lives of Stalin's inner court, and we see how the dictator played them one against the other in order to hone the awful efficiency of his killing machine.
With stunning attention to detail, Montefiore documents the crimes, small and large, of all the members of Stalin's court. And he traces the intricate and shifting web of their relationships as the relative warmth of Stalin's rule in the early 1930s gives way to the Great Terror of the late 1930s, the upheaval of World War II (there has never been as acute an account of Stalin's meeting at Yalta with Churchill and Roosevelt) and the horrific postwar years when he terrorized his closest associates as unrelentingly as he did the rest of his country.
"Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar gives an unprecedented understanding of Stalin's dictatorship, and, as well, a Stalin as human and complicated as he is brutal. It is a galvanizing portrait: razor-sharp, sensitive and unforgiving.

"From the Hardcover edition.


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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
505 customer ratings
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Top international reviews

Adrian J. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful panorama of the Stalin years
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 25, 2018
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Bored of the Rings
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 29, 2016
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Sebastian Palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Georgian gangster or monomaniac ideologue?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 3, 2015
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North Yorkshire
3.0 out of 5 stars The life more than the times
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 30, 2019
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JaguarJon53
5.0 out of 5 stars Master manipulator - Stalin, murder and mayhem
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 16, 2019
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Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Stalin - family man?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 9, 2017
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David Bisset
5.0 out of 5 stars Despot and his companions
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 12, 2017
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Selkie
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of facts, but never boring
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 8, 2018
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David C
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 10, 2018
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Palwebstar
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2017
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Jamshid Nikkhah
4.0 out of 5 stars A monumental book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 11, 2014
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Rev. John M. Bourne
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but awful tale
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 21, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply horrifying
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 12, 2019
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Andy Casey
5.0 out of 5 stars Andy's Review
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 24, 2019
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deepak s fernandes
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisitely detailed -- a must read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 27, 2012
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