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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
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...
Published on 25 Aug 2008 by R. A. Hooker

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor typesetting makes Kindle edition bad value
Thoroughly enjoyable book but my advice is to buy the paperback rather than the Kindle edition which is full of the usual Kindle typesetting errors.
Published on 14 July 2012 by ed


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Point of View, 22 Oct 2008
This review is from: Young Stalin (Hardcover)
I loved this book. This gave a completely different aspect of Russian history and the key figures of the Bolshevik coup. Too often, the Revolution is taught only from the perspective of Trotsky and Lenin as the great leaders, with Stalin being the shadowy figure who somehow dethroned Trotsky and famously re-wrote and manipulated history. This biography was enlightening and frightening - a masterpiece. i found the writing style fine, in fact very readable. Yes there are a lot of names and events that sometimes need consolidation, but the author can't babysit us. At the times my history wavered, I checked the internet for the facts and to help contextualise.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 27 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Young Stalin (Kindle Edition)
A fine historical piece of research by a master historian and writer.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The making of Russia's future master, 9 Jun 2008
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Young Stalin (Hardcover)
It is well known that Trotsky for a long time fatally underestimated Stalin, whom he thought colourless and plodding. The flamboyant Trotsky was for years more famous than the laconic provincial from Georgia, but if he had familiarized himself with Stalin's early career, he would have realized, as Lenin did, that Stalin was ruthless and efficient. This book documents Stalin's early career in great detail. It shows the charisma, leadership qualities, toughness and ambition that he had displayed from his schooldays onwards; how he was hardened by the brutality of his drunken father and by the violent nature of Georgian society; what a genius he had for organizing strikes, the burning of oil refineries, murderous bank raids and piracy, protection rackets and kidnappings, while himself not taking a direct part. Sebag Montefiore says that Stalin's involvement in some of these crimes has never been conclusively proved; but he has little doubt that they all bore his stamp. Stalin frequently used disguises and aliases, and several times escaped from prison or from exile.

The frequent inefficiencies of the Okhrana and the Tsarist police emerge strongly in this account; but it was not always inefficiency: Stalin had many informers inside the security forces, just as they had many informers inside all revolutionary parties - so much so that some have suspected Stalin himself of at times having been a Tsarist agent, which Sebag Montefiore does not believe. But Stalin did have many people murdered whom he suspected of being agents for the security forces, sometimes perhaps because real agents planted such suspicions in his mind. The worst traitor was Roman Malinovsky, a man whom Stalin trusted implicitly, but who was instrumental in getting him sent to the worst of his exiles in 1913 and then betrayed Stalin's attempts to escape from there also. Malinovsky's treachery was exposed in 1914. Sebag Montefiore says that Stalin's future suspicions of even his closest comrades was rooted in this experience.

The book is a prequel of the author's The Court of the Red Tsar, and, as in that book, Sebag Montefiore pays little attention to ideology. He consistently calls Stalin's followers gangsters, and some of them indeed were no more than that: Stalin certainly made use of the criminal underworld. But he himself and many of his followers (women as well as men) were more than simply gangsters. Of course they believed - as do the followers of Bin Laden today - that the ends justify the most brutal and ruthless means; but the ends were ideological. Stalin fought for Bolshevism when among the Georgian (Marxist) Social Democrats, the Mensheviks were in a majority; he was prepared to challenge (successfully) even his hero Lenin when Lenin thought the Bolsheviks should take part in the elections after the 1905 Revolution. He was not interested in personal enrichment, and the bulk of the proceeds of the bank-raids he organized went to Lenin or to the Bolshevik cause in the Caucasus, keeping back only a little to celebrate each successful heist in a wild party.

We see Stalin becoming the leading Bolshevik inside Russia while Lenin was abroad: he joined the Bolshevik Central Committee in 1912 with special responsibility for Bolshevik policy on nationalities; he edited Pravda (where he sometimes took a different line from Lenin's and indeed turned down forty-seven of articles Lenin sent in!) But then he was sent into exile, and the description of his four years (1913 to 1917) near the Arctic Circle is one of the most graphic parts of the book. In October 1916, with the war going badly, the exiles were conscripted. Before they had left Siberia, the Tsar had fallen, and the Kerensky's government ordered their release, March 1917, and Stalin returned to Petrograd.

Claiming seniority, he resumed the editorship of Pravda and was the most dominant Bolshevik until Lenin arrived in Russia three weeks later; then he aligned himself with Lenin's determination to fight the Provisional Government. In July, afer a failed Bolshevik uprising, Kerensky's government struck at the Bolsheviks. Trotsky, Kamenev and other leaders were imprisoned; Lenin and Zinoviev went into hiding. Stalin, for some reason left at liberty, was once again briefly in charge. In September the imprisoned leaders were released when Kerensky needed their help against General Kornilov; and then began the struggle inside the Bolshevik Party between Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin on the one hand who now wanted an immediate uprising, and `the Waverers', Kamenev and Zinoviev on the other who thought it too dangerous. But Lenin had his way, and the Bolsheviks seized power. Sebag Montefiore enjoys himself describing some of the farcical elements of the take-over: `the reality of October was more farce than glory. Tragically, the real Revolution, pitiless and bloody, started the moment this comedy ended.'
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11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, 12 April 2009
This review is from: Young Stalin (Paperback)
It was Marx who said that men make their own destinies but not in circumstances of their own choosing. This I guess should be the starting point of any biography of a historocal figure.

There are two errors one can make when writing a biography; one is to focuse on the individual to such an extent that the social and polticial environement which shaped that individual is sidelined. Such books typicaly end up with a history which is absurd. The second approach is to focus too much on history that the individual gets lost. This book belongs to the first catoegory.

There is far too much attention to establishing the Bolsheivks as bank robbers and gangsters and not enough detail on Tzasirism, and Stalins fanatical committment to Marxism. This book is not in the same league as Kerhaw's excellent biography of Hitlers early years. It is readable but do not expect to gain much insight into the Russian experiment with Socialism, or into one of the most interesting figures of recent times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 31 July 2014
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This review is from: Young Stalin (Paperback)
Well informed, balanced and engaging.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 30 Aug 2014
By 
T. Leunig "Dr Tim Leunig" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Young Stalin (Kindle Edition)
A great and an informative read
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 16 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Young Stalin (Paperback)
interesting read
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Young stalin, 11 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Young Stalin (Kindle Edition)
Interesting man what was he thinking ,I have given 4 stars a very good read now I have to read the red tsar
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting read, 8 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Young Stalin (Paperback)
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
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stalin the Wonder Boy - With One Mighty Bound He Was Free!, 25 Dec 2009
By 
John Fitzpatrick (São Paulo, Brazil) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Young Stalin (Paperback)
If you fancy a good adventure story, written at a galloping pace, then this is for you. If you fancy a serious biography, then it is not.

The chapter headings will give you an idea of what to expect e.g. "Louse Racing, Murder and Madness - Prison Games", "Two Lost Fiancées and a Pregnant Peasant" etc.

Young Stalin is presented as a daring gangster, running crime in the Caucasus, organizing and taking part in bank robberies, hijacking ships, ordering murders, a master of disguise, constantly escaping the Inspector Clouseau-like cops hounding him.

How about this: "Once when police surprised a meeting there, he hid within the wide skirts of a female comrade. At another gathering, surrounded by Cossacks, Stalin pulled on a dress and escaped in drag."

Even when he is captured and sent into exile, Stain manages to escape almost immediately but not before seducing every girl and woman in sight and leaving a trail of illegitimate children.

The author claims to have uncovered "new" material. Maybe he has but the value is questionable. What about this: "On the way to Tomsk, somewhere near Vologda, Stalin encountered Boris Nikolaevsky, the Mensheviks' Baku investigator. Soso (i.e. Stalin) gave nothing away but borrowed Nikolaevsky's treasured blue tea mug, which he then pinched." The Epilogue in which the writer rounds off the lives of many of those mentioned is also a waste of space.

Finally, can I put on record my distaste for the self-indulgent "Acknowledgements" we readers have to put up with nowadays? This writer not only makes gushy references to his family, friends and colleagues but even thanks his personal "trainer" whose website he mentions.
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Young Stalin
Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Paperback - 1 May 2008)
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