From Publishers Weekly
Russian historian and author Montefiore presents an exciting, exemplary biography of the nondescript peasant boy who would become the most ruthless leader in Soviet history, a prequel of sorts to his Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. Born in 1878 in the Caucasus of Georgia to an overprotective mother (who had already lost two sons) and a father opposed to education ("I'm a shoemaker and my son will be one too"), Stalin possessed a talent for poetry and mischief. Amidst his mom's trysts (with men she hoped would further Stalin's education), his father's alcohol-fueled violence and the powder-keg environment of the Caucasus, Stalin turned from priesthood training to gang life and petty crime. As he grew, so did his hatred of Tsarist Russia, leading him to meet the initial Bolsheviks, and to more spectacular and violent capers. From the start, Stalin proved a remarkable talent for meticulous planning, a skill that would become vital to the revolutionaries and, later, to his iron-fisted reign. Using recently opened records, Montefiore turns up intriguing new information (like the "Fagin-like" role he played among "a prepubescent revolutionary street intelligence" network), Montefiore captures in an absorbing narrative both Stalin's conflicted character-marked by powerful charisma and deep paranoia-and the revolution's early years with stunning clarity.
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“[A] meticulously researched, authoritative biography of Stalin’s early years . . . Montefiore offers a detailed picture of Stalin’s childhood and youth, his shadowy career as a revolutionary in Georgia and his critical role during the October Revolution. No one, henceforth, need ever wonder how it was that Stalin found his way into Lenin’s inner circle, or took his place in the ruling troika that assumed power after the storming of the Winter Palace
. . . Montefiore has worked his way with a fine-toothed comb through previously unread archival material in Russia and in Georgia . . . He successfully captures ‘the sheer weird singularity of the man’ and the lethal instincts that propelled him to the summit of power.”
–William Grimes, The New York Times
“The portrait of Stalin that emerges from these pages is more complete, more colorful, more chilling, and far more convincing than any we have had before . . . Montefiore is in a class of his own. As he did for Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar
, he has unearthed an unprecedented range of evidence [and] tracked down an astonishing range of witnesses . . . A brilliantly researched book, which finally dispels the myth of the ‘grey blur.’”
–Orlando Figes, New York Review of Books
“Once again tapping into a rich vein of material from previously closed archives in Russia and Georgia, Montefiore has produced a portrait of the young Stalin that is as complex and morbidly fascinating as his previous work. In this age of terror, it’s also a timely reminder of the terrorist origins of the Bolshevik revolutionaries who would soon unleash mass murder on a previously unimaginable scale.”–
Andrew Nagorski, Newsweek
is brilliantly readable, as intricately plotted and full of detail as a good novel, scrupulously researched, and full of hitherto unknown (or unreported) facts about Stalin’s life.”
–Michael Korda, Men’s Vogue