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Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar Hardcover – 10 Jul 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 693 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; First Edition edition (10 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842127268
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842127261
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 5.1 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Sebag Montefiore's bestselling and prize-winning books are now published in over 45 languages. His next major history book will be 'The Romanovs: 1613-1918,' a full history of the nineteen tsars of the Romanov dynasty over three hundred years, to be published in 2016.
He has won literary prizes for both fiction and non-fiction. His latest novel, 'One Night in Winter' won the Best Political Novel of the Year Prize and was longlisted for the Orwell Prize. His thriller-love-stories set in Russia -'One Night in Winter' and 'Sashenka' - are both out in paperback.
Amongst his history books: 'Catherine the Great & Potemkin' was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper, and Marsh Biography Prizes. 'Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar' won the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards. 'Young Stalin' won the Costa Biography Award (UK), the LA Times Book Prize for Biography (US), Le Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique (France) and the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). 'Jerusalem: The Biography' won Jewish Book of the Year Prize (USA) and was Sunday Times number one non-fiction bestseller (UK).
Montefiore read history at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge University where he was awarded his Doctorate of Philosophy. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor at the University of Buckingham, Dr Montefiore is the presenter of 3 BBC TV series Jerusalem (2011); Rome (2012) and Istanbul/Constantinople - 'Byzantium: a tale of 3 cities'...

To follow the author on twitter: @simonmontefiore. For more information:

Product Description


The publicity for this has been fantastic and it is still selling like a train, currently no. 6 on THE SUNDAY TIMES & no. 1 on EVENING STANDARD bestseller lists. The following pieces have run: an interview with Simon and his wife Santa in VOGUE (July issue); an article on Stalin's women in the SUNDAY TIMES News Review (29 June); a piece on Stalin's houses in the DAILY TELEGRAPH(8 July); a piece on his research in THE FINANCIAL TIMES (5 July); a book digest in THE DAILY MAIL (8 July) and an article in BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE (August issue). The TV programme, STALIN: THE TERROR, which Simon was the historical consultant on was shown on BBC 2 25 July. The reviews have been amazing: 'This is an extraordinary book..... he has succeeded in bringing alive a group of characters who for too long have seemed too dull to merit much historical investigation, and provided a glimpse of what life was really like behind theKremlin walls.... 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, THE EVENING STANDARD 'Montefiore's new material is important, because it allows for a far more rounded portrait ofStalin....... Montefiore provides rich detail of daily life and family relationships in a world of human values turned inside out.'Antony Beevor, THE SUNDAY TIMES 'his masterful and terrifying account of Stalin.... seldom has the picture been put in finer focus than by Sebag Montefiore. It is partly through his diligent interviews with the children of survivors and his admirable combination of history and gossip that one sees the awful banality, the brutal crudity of the men who carelessly sent so many millions to their senseless deaths'Alistair Horne, THE TIMES 'Grimly brilliant'Andrew Marr, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 'This is a thoughtful book of first-class scholarship as well as transfixing narrative of a vast nation walking head-first into a meat-grinder........ anyone reading this book will feel profound gratitude to Montefiore for a fascinating investigative analysis of the pathology behind the greatest and most senseless sustained blood-letting in world history.'Andrew Roberts, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 'this grim masterpiece'Antonia Fraser, THE MAIL ON SUNDAY 'Its extraordinary revelation of the evil - the complete amorality - at the heart of the dictator's court will change the way historians approach the great historical questoins about the Stalinist regime.Orlando Figes, THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'Montefiore's superb book'Tim Abrahams, THE SUNDAY HERALD 'spectacular..... an impressive and compelling work'Philip Mansel, THE SPECTATOR 'Magisterial.... Sebag Montefiore's book is well-written; he evidently has a superb grasp of Russia'Lesley Chamberlain, THE INDEPENDENT 'Thanks to Simon Sebag Montefiore, there is no longer the slightest justification for thinking of Joseph Stalin as anything other than a moster'Roy Hattersley, THE OBSERVER 'Gripping and timely.... This is one of the few recent books on Stalinism that will be read in years to come.'Robert Service, THE GUARDIAN 'A riveting portrait of the man and his ruling circle.'Marc Lambert, THE SCOTSMAN 'An astonishingly good and important book.'Simon Heffer, COUNTRY LIFE 'this magnificent portrait of the dictator'Richard Overy, LIT REVIEW Simon was on THE TODAY PROGRAMME (BBC Radio 4) on 8 July, THE THE ARTS SHOW (BBC Radio Scotland) on 11 July, SUNDAY PROGRAMME (GMTV) on 13 July, THE MORNING SHOW (BBC Radio 5 Live) on 18 July, together with BBC RADIO BRISTOL and BBC RADIO LEICESTER. On Saturday 19 July he was on LOOSE ENDS (BBC Radio 4) on 23 July BBC BREAKFAST NEWS (BBC 1),27 July BREAKFAST WITH FROST (BBC 1) and their were lots of previews for theBBC programme. We had a great launch party on 8 July with numerous diary stories. Simon has done a number of excellent events and sti

Book Description

The thrilling biography of Stalin - an international bestseller

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Murray on 27 Aug. 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is both a confirmation and a revelation as it looks into the politics and intrigue at the court of the Red Tsar. Stalin is shown to be the paranoid, manipulative, tyrannical ideologue history has portrayed him as and additionally it is revealed how through cunning and political mastery this blood stained fanatic manages to get hold of and retain an ever increasing grip on power. We are also told the stories of the various toadies and their families who danced with the devil as they jousted for influence, prestige and survival. The courtiers in this bleak drama are nearly as evil and ruthless as their master or else simultaneously revering of and intimidated by him. The pulsating core spreading the poison is Stalin himself as he proceeds to kill all his enemies, real or imagined, and it has to be remembered that all the friends and acquaintances he sent to the torture chambers and death were merely the top of a pyramid of millions. Like Hitler, the man is driven by the logic of his delusions and he probably managed to kill more people. The fawning sycophants both encourage and act upon his malicious instructions as they denounce and threaten each other with levels of menace apportioned to their current state of favour with the tyrant. Such favouritism was usually short lived after which it was a battle for survival that was rarely won. As this jostling went on in the bear pit these cold-hearted bureaucrats were enacting the cruel, pitiless will of Stalin on the long suffering population of the Soviet Union.
There are many tales about the monstrous Yeshov and the chilling Beria, who was not a committed communist at all, and how unrestrained they could indulge in their sadism and depravities. Both came to bad ends.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Antonio on 26 Aug. 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the most enjoyable book I've read about Stalin so far. It is more readable than Volkogonov and Ulam, not as speculative as Radzinski, more detailed than Conquest and Bullock. For the nonacademic reader it distills all the knowledge about the Vozhd, and adds to this store by judicious use of newly released archives and interviews with a few survivors from the Stalinist era, and with the descendants of key member's of the red court. It also condenses (sometimes not as successfully as one would have hoped) recent books about some of these key members, such as Taubman's on Stalin, Knight's on Beria and Kirov, Jansen's on Yezhov, Sergo Beria's on his father, Molotov's conversation with Chuev, inter alia. So, if you want to know all that's key about the Soviet Union in the Stalinist era, this is the book to read. This is not just a book about personalities, but also a real history book, Just because it's fun doesn't mean it's not history.
Sebag Montefiore's contention is that leadership in the Soviet Union was fairly collegiate up to the time of the suicide of Stalin's second wife in 1932, and that all the key drivers for the Great Purge in 1937-1938 were already in place before Kirov's assassination in 1934. After that, Stalin's power grew absolute, never more so than a few days after operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union (22 June 1941), and in fact he decided virtually everything, squirreling away in his vast memory all key facts that would allow him, years or even decades earlier, to launch yet another purge or send yet another apparatchick to meet the firing squad. But even at the very end, Stalin had to think carefully before demoting his powerful barons, such as Zhdanov, Malenkov, Bulganin, Khruschev or Beria.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul Donovan on 11 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Rather than offer a conventional biography of Stalin, Montefiore has chosen to go down a more complex route with "The Court of the Red Tsar". Montefiore's text focuses not just on the individual, but on the "magnates" that surrounded Stalin and their interaction with him. It extends beyond the immediate circle of politburo members to include their families, and other individuals (for instance Stalin's bodyguards), and gives a compelling and well-researched insight into the way in which power was wielded in the Soviet Union during this era. The subtitle "Court of the Red Tsar" is highly illustrative - for Stalin alluded to his public persona on occasion as that of a "Tsar", and spoke of Russia's need for such a figure. The "courtiers" and intrigues also bear many similarities to the Romanov court the Bolsheviks replaced.
Montefiore's has benefited from the opening up of official records from this time, which has enabled him more certainty than some of the earlier generations of Kremlinologists were able to achieve. He has also been able to interview surviving members of Stalin's circle (inevitably, mainly the children or grandchildren of those in power), and had access to unpublished biographies from the period. Of course, the fall of the USSR has facilitated this - even under Gorbachev, this sort of discussion would not have been terribly forthcoming.
Montefiore has a writing style that is accessible to the general reader, and also provides a helpful "cast of characters" and family tree for Stalin (important with the complexity of relationships among the early Bolshevik grandees). His coverage of purges of the "Terror" of the 1930s and of Stalin's handling of the Nazi invasion is particularly well written.
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