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Young Stalin Hardcover – 3 May 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 425 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1st edition (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297850687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297850687
  • Product Dimensions: 16.7 x 4.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 69,246 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 new book 'The Romanovs: 1613-1918,' a full history of the 20 tsars of the Romanov dynasty over three hundred years, is out in January 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' was a global number one bestseller.
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 four BBC TV series Jerusalem (2011); Rome (2012) and Istanbul/Constantinople - 'Byzantium: a tale of 3 cities' (2013) and now Spain (2015)

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

Product Description


a gripping read.....the book provides a wealth of serious and scurrilous detail, creating a memorable portrait of one of the 20th century's greatest monsters. (Antony Beevor THE DAILY TELEGRAPH)

an outstanding book..... a triumph of research and storytelling. (Victor Sebestyen THE EVENING STANDARD)

'The story Montefiore has told requires the psychological penetration and social omniscience of a great novelist. Dickens once or twice peeps over the biographer's shoulder (Peter Conrad THE OBSERVER)

it is hard to imagine how this account can be improved on. Moreover, the narrative flows with insight and humour: YOUNG STALIN is a prequel that outshines even the COURT OF THE RED TSAR. (Donald Rayfield LITERARY REVIEW)

This picture of Stalin as a young poet is one of the revelations of Simon Sebag Montefiore's macabrely fascinating Young Stalin (Antonia Fraser THE MAIL ON SUNDAY)

Simon Sebag Montefiore's thrilling portrait of Stalin's youth. (Michael Burleigh THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

'on one level, this book does the important work of helping one understand exactly how the phenomena of Stalin and Stalinism came into existence: on another it¿s also a very good story, very well told¿ (Paul Fishmann WATERSTONE'S BOOK QUARTERLY)

The aim of any book is to inform, entertain, and be readable, and this book does so admirably, and frequently with a sense of humour. (Jennie Erdal THE SCOTSMAN)

What Montefiore gives us is a richly and fluently documented study of the chief terrorist in the making. (Robert Service THE SUNDAY TIMES)

This meticulous volume. (Gavin Bowd SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY)

this magnificent 'prequel (Jonathan Mirsky THE SPECTATOR)

Montefiore's wonderfully readable book (Hugh Barnes THE NEW STATESMAN)

'In showing the boy brigand, he illuminates, uniquely, the elements - diverse and contradictory as they are - that fathered the man-monster; one who, even as he ruled absolutely and exercised, liberally, the power of life and death, probably always felt the outcasst about whom he wrote a moving poem.' (Nicholas Fortune THE HERALD)

On practically every page of Young Stalin, there is a reason to smile with satisfaction at the thrust of revelation and often a reason to gasp or even chuckle. The overall impression is of Carlylean energy with the prose torrenting along. (Montefiore) dazzles. As quasi-academic populist biography goes, this is as good as it gets (Christopher Silvester THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

The author cannot be faulted for industry. With help from Russians and Georgians, he has dug up a pile of new information¿. An attractive book¿ what a complex monster. (THE ECONOMIST)

Important and fascinating (Sebastian Shakespeare TATLER)

Following his extraordinary 2004 Stalin biog, the brilliant Montefiore tackles the dictator's youth in Young Stalin (GQ)

an engrossing popular history.. while magnificently entertaining, it reveals the complexity of historical conditions that forge revolutions and their leader.' (Carol Rumens THE INDEPENDENT)

Magnificent! A masterpiece of detail. Montefiore has unearthed documents long lost in Georgian archives, found the descendants of Soso's friends and produced a vivid psychological portrait of this dangerous, alluring, enigmatic man who like Macacity could vanish from the scenes of the outrages he masterminded. This book moves with pace and authority. (Michael Binyon THE TIMES)

A rare treat. A book that commands and deserves our attention. It also succeeds triumphantly in cleaning away much of the grime from the portrait of a man who is no longer an icon of our movement. It is a book of exceptional scholarship ...... written in a gripping and elegant style that combines a novelist¿s flair ¿ with a level of reasoned sustained and unsensational argument that is often demanded of, but seldom realised by, top flight academic historians. (Dr John Callow THE MORNING STAR)

Montefiore's brilliantly researched and readable portrait¿ gives us Stalin with a Mauser in his belt, Stalin the rabblerouser, bankrobber and Marxist conspirator, Stalin the tireless scholar. The picture that emerges is more colourful, more chilling and above all more credible¿ ¿ Anyone who wants to understand the shaping of one of history¿s bloodiest dictators must read this original and thought-provoking book (Catherine Merridale THE GUARDIAN)

The intellectual¿s beach read this summer, a groundbreaking work of thrilling energy and scholastic thoroughness that has turned up a wealth of new material on the early sexual, political and criminal career of Josef Stalin. (Elizabeth Grice THE DAILY TELEGRAPH)

A thrilling account not just of the man but the highly-charged history from which he emerged. Montefiore brings his own superbly novelistic flair to this prequel to his bestselling Stalin biography. (Clare Alfree METRO)

A gripping but dark Boy¿s Own adventure, packed with bombs, violence and treachery. Full of fascinating nuggets (THE FINANCIAL TIMES)

Stalin's story is told with great verve and freshness by Mr Montefiore. It provides real insight into this poisonous personality and will be hard for any other author to surpass (Simon Heffer COUNTRY LIFE)

'this excellent book.' (Roger Lewis THE DAILY EXPRESS)

'Montefiore has found an extraordinary amount of new material that gives human colour to his narrative and he writes with unusual zest. (Paul Anderson TRIBUNE)

a fascinating book and an absorbing read that throws real light on the formation of a dictator. (Carla King THE IRISH TIMES)

A mass of contradictions he (Stalin) is brought to life in this superb biography. (Martin McCauley HISTORY TODAY)

A portrait that defies the clichéd image of the megalomaniacal Georgian peasant (DAILY TELEGRAPH (audiobook review))

Doggedly researched and compelling biography of the poet and ladies man who became a monster. (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

Exuberant study of a monster in the making. (THE SUNDAY TIMES)

Full of the most amazing new information about the early years of the monster. (THE EVENING STANDARD)

[This] substantial book shines a stark light into the murky underworld of Stalin's revoluntary apprenticeship.' (THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

Book Description

Vital prequel to the internationally best-selling biography STALIN: COURT OF THE RED TSAR

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Hooker on 25 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a great biography. It's fast moving, full of action and Montefiore really brings the young Stalin to life as you flick from page to spell-binding page.

You find yourself at turns liking the passion and charisma of the protagonist, and then repelled by his nascent cruelty and emotional coldness.

This book really explodes the myth that Stalin was simply a "grey blur" before he began to seize power in the 1920's. He was a competent, intelligent and experienced revolutionary, who was important to Lenin and popular with the party grass roots. His drive and personal magnetism are awe-inspiring, and Sebag Montefiore's book is an exercise in demonstrating how true greatness is born.

I can't wait to read the author's book on Stalin's later life, "The Court of the Red Tsar".
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82 of 88 people found the following review helpful By George Rodger on 20 May 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A simply superb account of Stalin's early years, with an unparalleled depth of research. I had thought that Edward Ellis Smith's 'The Young Stalin' would be near-impossible to beat, but Sebag Montefiore has made important and revealing discoveries, not just in Moscow archives, but crucially in Georgia too.
For the first time, Stalin's pre-Revolutionary career as a professional revolutionary-cum-gangster, organising robberies - including the famous Tiflis one of 1907 - extortion, arson, piracy and murder is comprehensively laid out. But the author also shows that Stalin's political organisational skills, his importance to Lenin and to the Bolshevik movement - and the reasons for them - have been underplayed by enemies like Trotsky, who called him a 'mediocrity', so we get a more fully-rounded view of the young Stalin than was available previously, and one that helps explain his subsequent rise to power.
The author states that the book is the result of almost ten years of research, and he has truly found astonishing new sources. For example, memoirs about Stalin collected in Russia before the Terror in 1937 were often found to be surprisingly frank, tactless or derogatory - but they were not destroyed. They were simply preserved in the archives, and they have survived.
Stalin's attractiveness to women, and an impressive love-life - even when on the run - is laid out too, right down to the secret 1956 KGB investigation into Stalin's seduction and impregnation of a 13-year old girl during one of his Siberian exiles.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Keith Harrison VINE VOICE on 9 Aug. 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've just read Simon Sebag Montefiore's book, Young Stalin and it is not often that one is forced so radically to alter one's entire view of someone so famous.

I am not saying that I came away from the book struck by how Stalin was actually just a regular guy, or that he was deeply misunderstood and not at all a monster. Anything but: the Stalin presented to us is quite clearly a case of the boy as father of the man.

But I - like just about everyone else in the West, I should say - had always fallen for Trotsky's version of events. I thought that Stalin's early life was that of a grey, dour, methodical man who ground his way to the stop through scheming, opportunism and a mastery of the processes of bureaucracy. I had a view of him as the methodical counterpart to Hitler's sub-artistic, charismatic leader of men: an impression gleaned in large part from Allan Bullock's great study of the pair.

In fact, it transpires that the young Stalin - or Soso, as he was known by many at the time - was by far the more glamourous, artistic and even charismatic. While Hitler daubed postcards, Stalin wrote poetry. And not doggerel: Stalin organised a huge bank robbery in Georgia - one reported around the world at the time - thanks largely to having someone on the inside. That insider helped Stalin because of his love of the young revolutionary's poetry: poetry written as a schoolboy which, nonetheless, was published widely long before Soso became Stalin. He was a beautiful singer, a dedicated and brilliant student, and a talented (if sometimes mercurial) teacher. The later cult of personality had much to work with.

This Stalin - despite the pockmarks of childhood disease, a limp and a crippled arm - leaves a trail of lovers and illegitimate children behind him.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Mr. N. T. Baxter VINE VOICE on 24 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
I was really surprised by my reaction to this book. Like pretty much any sane person I consider Stalin to be one of the great tyrants of history. A brutal murderer; paranoid, violent and cruel. However, reading the story of his early years I often found myself rooting for him in his struggles with the Tsarist police, brutal teachers and violent father.

He comes across, at least to start with, as a romantic character. He was an excellent writer and poet, and was loyal to his friends and his women. He saw injustice and fought against it with all his strength. But over time his brutal upbringing and his resulting lack of trust in others began to take over. In the end the sympathetic traits are consumed by paranoia and hatred, and this book is a wonderful description of how this transformation happened.

A really exciting story and a brilliant case study in the formative events of a unique criminal psychopathology.
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