There have been many biographies of Stalin, but the court that surrounded him is untravelled ground. Simon Sebag-Montefiore, acclaimed biographer of Catherine the Great¿s lover, prime minister and general, Potemkin, has unearthed the vast underpinning that sustained Stalin. Not only ministers such as Molotov or secret service chiefs such as Beria, but men and women whose loyalty he trusted only until the next purge. Here is the Stalin story from the inside, full of revelations. How the death of Stalin's wife was hushed up - was it suicide? How the Soviet leaders and their families lived and partied inside the Kremlin walls. What happened on the first day of war with Germany in 1941. The fullest account of the meeting between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill that settled the fate of the axis powers. And how the Great Terror in which 10 million died actually happened.
Robert Service (St Antony's, Oxford), former head of Russian history at the School of Slavonic Studies, U. of London: 'Simon Sebag Montefiore has pulled it off. His book succeeds in giving us an intimate picture of daily life in the Kremlin under Stalin. The arrests and killings are not ignored; indeed Montefiore supplies extra chapters and verses on the process by which the Soviet dictator moved against his enemies real and potential. An abundance of the sources are wholly new. The result is a gripping account. Stalin was a vengeful conspirator and a murderous leader. But he was also 'normal' in many ways. He was convivial, solicitous and even flirtatious. When he wanted, he could be quite a charmer. This duality has long been under-appreciated, but it helps to explain why Stalin was admired as well as feared by his associates - and indeed why his power endured. This is a fundamental theme and it is one of Montefiore's that he handles it with excitement and cogency.'