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Young Stalin [Paperback]

Simon Sebag Montefiore
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

1 May 2008

Stalin remains one of the creators of our world - like Hitler, the personification of evil. Yet Stalin hid his past and remains mysterious. This enthralling biography that reads like a thriller finally unveils the secret but extraordinary journey of the Georgian cobbler's son who became the Red Tsar. What forms such a merciless psychopath and consummate politician? Was he illegitimate? Did he owe everything to his mother - was she whore or saint? Was he a Tsarist agent or Lenin's chief gangster? Was he to blame for his wife's premature death? If he really missed the 1917 Revolution, how did he emerge so powerful?

Born in poverty, exceptional in his studies, this charismatic but dangerous boy was hailed as a romantic poet, trained as a priest, but found his mission as fanatical revolutionary. The secret world of Joseph Conrad-style terrorism was Stalin's natural habitat, where he charmed his future courtiers, made the enemies he later liquidated, and abandoned his many mistresses and children. Montefiore shows how the murderous paranoia and gangsterism of the criminal underworld, combined with pitiless ideology, taught Stalin how to triumph in the Kremlin.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 442 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; Reprinted Edition edition (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753823799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753823798
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Sebag Montefiore is a novelist and historian whose prizewinning books are international bestsellers, published in over 40 languages. 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 in the USA and was Sunday Times number one non-fiction bestseller in Britain. Titans of History was published in 2012. He is the author of the acclaimed novels, Sashenka and One Night in Winter. His next history, The Romanovs: Rise+Fall 1613-1917, will be published in 2016.
He read history at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge University where he received 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 tv series Jerusalem (2011); Rome (2012) and now the new series on Istanbul/Constantinople/Byzantium...

Contact the author or follow him on Twitter: @simonmontefiore. For more information see:

Product Description


¿this terrific and terrifying biography of the years to 1917.¿ (THE INDEPENDENT)

It shares with its predecessor (STALIN THE COURT OF THE RED TSAR) the virtues of fine prose, empathy with a rich range of characters and narrative of great ability. (Ross Leckie, THE TIMES)

brilliantly readable history of Stalin¿..Sebag Montefiore's re-creation of the world in which his subject's picaresque career unfolded is wonderfully detailed and convincing, and the portrait he paints of an egotistical monster in the making is unforgettable. (Pick of the Week in THE SUNDAY TIMES)

this lively and accomplished account of Stalin's "gangsterish", pre-revolutionary youth, which draws on material from newly opened archives. (THE GUARDIAN)

bring[ing] to life the unnerving 'young man with the burning eyes' (THE OBSERVER)

This colourful account¿is a gripping read as well as faultlessly scholarly (THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

this zippy prequel (EVENING STANDARD)

gripping account¿¿. An excellent companion to Montefiore's previous bestseller (BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE)

a thrilling portrait of Lenin's chief gangster and successor. (DAILY EXPRESS)

Book Description

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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing 25 Aug 2008
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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80 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 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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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vivid, exciting, disturbing tale. 9 Aug 2007
By Keith Harrison VINE VOICE
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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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. N. T. Baxter VINE VOICE
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ripping Yarn!
Rarely can a factual history book have been quite so beguiling as this. Without ever losing the impartiality required of a serious historian Simon Sebag Montefiore presents an... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Brian S. Meredith
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Portrait of Fascinating Monster
This superb (part) biography manages the impressive feat of being both pacey and comprehensive. I was concerned it might be just a footnote to Montefiore's account of Stalin's... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Ian Brawn
3.0 out of 5 stars It's o.k.
I find the book very heavy reading, as I suspected it would be. I was hoping for something easier to digest
Published 28 days ago by Anthony Lewis
1.0 out of 5 stars I expect a book jacket
I expected a book jacket and one was not provided. The book quality itself was good, but I chose this company based on their blurb that the jacket would come with it. It didn't. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Learie Foster
4.0 out of 5 stars Young stalin
Interesting man what was he thinking ,I have given 4 stars a very good read now I have to read the red tsar
Published 1 month ago by angela ballard
5.0 out of 5 stars Young Stalin - brilliantly written, an engaging masterpiece
those who think reading about history will be boring should read this book. It brings a piece if history, which to this day still affects our lives, in such a way that the reader... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bluesbreaker
3.0 out of 5 stars A diffcult read
I found this book to be not written in a clear manner. The repetition of hard to pronounce Russian names makes it difficult to follow the action. Read more
Published 2 months ago by dorothyjean
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting read
A page turner if there ever was one. A lot of of information, in a very easy to read style. Have re-read this book, just for the sheer enjoyment
Published 3 months ago by sean
5.0 out of 5 stars Cuts through the Stalin clichés and stereotypes
Well I thought I had read enough Russian history to understand Stalin but clearly I hadn't. This book cuts through the Stalin clichés and stereotypes we all have in our... Read more
Published 4 months ago by P. J. Dunn
5.0 out of 5 stars The harsh, adventurous and bloody early life of the Greatest Dictator...
This book sets out the early life of Joseph Stalin better than maybe any other book around. Born in the brutal clannish, gangster fuelled Georgian town of "Gori", one of the then... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Tiernan
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