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Young Stalin Paperback – October 14, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Brilliantly researched. . . . 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.” —The New York Review of BooksYoung Stalin 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.” —Men's Vogue“A meticulously researched, authoritative biography. . . . Mr. Montefiore has found the devil in the details, working his way with a fine-tooth comb through previously unread archival material.” —The New York Times“The most complete, accurate account of the tyrant's early years-a fascinating tale of life in the revolutionary underground, drenched in violence, fear and deceit, filled with a rogue's gallery of bandits, double-agents and terrorists.” —The Seattle Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400096138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400096138
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Montefiore paints a very vivid picture of Stalin's youth, providing a comprehensive narrative from his birth in Georgia to his rise to power as a member of the inner circle of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. He shows a youthful Stalin who was variously a seminary student, a star choirboy, a proud Georgian poet and a rabble-rousing Marxist fanatic. He shows his development as an undercover party leader, including his role as an organizer of bank robberies and extortions, and emphasizes his early ruthlessness in organizing the executions of "traitors". He explores the different facets of Stalin's life as a Siberian exile, an escapee, a charming philanderer, and an absentee father. And finally he shows the rising Bolshevik leader: a founder of Pravda, one of Lenin's most trusted lieutenants, ruthless and pragmatic, who could be relied on to do the dirty work, and who was already one of the innermost circle when the Bolsheviks seized power.

Montefiore uses a variety of materials, but especially unpublished memoirs from Stalin's early friends and colleagues newly available in the Georgian communist party archives. Material from these was sometimes used in the official Stalinist biographies, but anything that deviated from the official dull accounts was quietly buried. Montefiore explains that both Stalin and Trotsky were eager to obscure Stalin's early life: Trotsky wished to belittle him as a mere party bureaucrat, while Stalin feared that his unruly past would be an obstacle as he moved towards supreme power.
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Format: Hardcover
This book gave me back my faith in the art of biography, that something new can be found about even the most heavily referenced figures. Although I've read many Stalin biographies, in most of them the Vozhd's early years failed to come into focus. We learned little about the family other than papa Beso's drunken brutality and about mama Keke's resourcefulness and pride.

Yet, even in this most studied of lives, there is plenty of gold to be found by those who know where to look. Montefiore takes us back to the almost Mediterranean splendor of the Caucasus, a land of fierce feuds and vendette, of revolutionary nobles and passionate women, where everything (the weather, the clothing, the food, the tempers) is as un-Russian as can be. Stalin was definitely a Caucasian. He was proud and violent, but also very sharp and able to behave with unexpected generosity. He was extremely bright and amazingly well read. It is easy to see why Stalin was offended by the poet Mandelstam's celebrated line in his "Ode to Stalin", about "His fat fingers" "slimy like slugs". Stalin surely regarded himself as an intellectual and this description as a dim-witted vulgarian could only wound him deeply. In his pictures as a young man he is curiously good looking, and one can imagine the attraction this bright young rebel might have had for all sorts of women. In this Stalin was very unlike Hitler, for whom fleshly pleasures were repellent, and rather like Mussolini who was to the end a ladies' man.

Stalin's friends come alive in this book. Sure, they felt no compunction about cutting an enemy's throat, or blowing up an oil refinery, or bombing a police station, but they were also able to have fun, to drink, to joke, perhaps like many rebels of our day.
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Format: Hardcover
I came away from "Young Stalin" very impressed. The author has done a superb job of constructing Josef Stalin's life story from his birth to his initial rise at the start of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. I can't remember being as impressed with a book's research as I was with this book. There is a wealth of information on Stalin's early life -- a period that has never been written about in such great detail -- tapped from hundreds of new sources and revealed in fascinating text. Even if you're not terribly interested in Stalin's life -- I wasn't -- you will find this book interesting, as Stalin's early life was one adventure after another.

The book begins by discussing Stalin's birth to a tough-minding, loving mother and an alcoholic father in a town in Georgia as dirt-poor as anything imaginable. From there, Stalin excelled in school, and nearly became a priest, but was ironically driven away by excessively strict priests at his school, running right into the arms of the revolutionary beliefs that were taking the world by storm at the end of the 19th Century. It was at this point that Stalin's life really began to take shape. From there, Stalin became a shadowy figure in the underground, specializing in everything from arch-conspirator, to bank robber extraordinaire, to extortionist, to intelligence specialist, to counter-intelligence expert, to even murderer. Using his dark intelligence, over time Stalin became the key problem-solver for Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, helping rid the party of spies -- both real and imagined -- and planning and executing the bank robberies which would fund Lenin and his fledging Bolshevik Party in its early days.
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