- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Lenin the Dictator Hardcover – 9 Feb 2017
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
An excellent, original and compelling portrait of Lenin as man and leader (Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of STALIN: THE COURT OF THE RED TSAR)
Richly readable ... enthralling but appalling (Francis Wheen MAIL ON SUNDAY)
Victor Sebestyen brings the man's complexities to life in Lenin the Dictator, balancing personality with politics in succinct and readable prose ... Sebestyen describes particularly keenly how this ruthless, domineering, often vicious man depended on three women to sustain him (David Reynolds NEW STATESMAN)
The attention to detail is flawless (Alex Larman THE OBSERVER)
The story of the Bolshevik revolution is fascinating in several ways, and Sebestyen does a good job of telling it ... entertaining (Tibor Fischer STANDPOINT)
Can first-rate history read like a thriller? With Lenin the Dictator the journalist Victor Sebestyen has pulled off this rarest of feats. How did he do it? Start with a Russian version of House of Cards and behold Vladimir Ilyich Lenin pre-empt Frank Underwood's cynicism and murderous ambition by 100 years. Add meticulous research by digging into Soviet archives, including those locked away until recently. Plow through 9.5 million words of Lenin's Collected Works. Finally, apply a scriptwriter's knack for drama and suspense that needs no ludicrous cliffhangers to enthrall history buffs and professionals alike (Josef Joffe NEW YORK TIMES)
In this new biography, Victor Sebestyen gives a vivid and rounded picture of Lenin the man ... Sebestyen brings to the task a gift for narrative and for describing his rich cast of characters (Margaret MacMillan THE OLDIE)
Victor Sebestyen does an impressive job of telling Lenin's life story ... it is a highly readable overview (Evan Mawdsley BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE)
In his engagingly written biography the author ... captures all the drama of Lenin's leadership against
a background of imperial collapse, the ravages of war and the building of a dictatorship ... the Bolshevik leader emerges from these pages as a man unencumbered by critical self-awareness, by doubts or by any moral conflict over the extraordinary costs inflicted on others by the pursuit of his revolutionary goals
An enthralling portrait of one of the key figures of the 20th century (MAIL ON SUNDAY Summer Books)
A new life of the creator of the world's first communist stateSee all Product description
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Showing 1-5 of 22 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Having said this, the book is a biography and as such does provide the 'intimate portrait' promised in the title. It also gives an interesting insight into the role of women in the pre-revolutionary years and into Lenin's relationship with his wife. The account does a good job of tracing Lenin's ruthlessness and obsession back to the roots of Bolshevism, characteristics that made him difficult to deal with as a party leader, but proved catastrophic for Russia once he and the party seized power. It was also full of nuggets of information, like the fact that Putin's grandfather was Lenin's cook in the Kremlin and the revelation that one of the first decrees that Lenin drafted personally in 1917 was to improve access to public libraries. Ironically, Krupskaya was then given the job of purging these libraries of 'dangerous' literature.
Overall, I would recommend this book as a good read and a rounded portrait of a man who has been both idealised and demonised in equal measure.
In addition, the author demonstrates the high degree of geographical idiotism, again, making numerous mistakes regarding locations and distances in Petrograd and beyond.
The book follows the conventional linear structure of biographies, starting with Lenin's background and childhood and ending with the cult of Lenin which followed his death. We see him first as the son of a 'noble' – not quite the kind of aristocrat we would think of as a 'noble' in the UK, but more what would pass as upper middle or professional class. As a child and youth he was intelligent, a voracious reader and rather cold emotionally to people outwith his family. Sebestyen suggests that it was the execution of his brother, for attempting to assassinate the Tsar, that instilled in the young Lenin an interest in revolutionary politics and a deep hatred for the bourgeoisie who turned their backs on the family after this scandal.
Much of the book is taken up with Lenin's long years in exile, his personal relationships with his wife and later his mistress, and with those other budding revolutionaries in exile who would later become political allies or enemies. As Lenin's life progresses, Sebestyen discusses his various writings, giving a good indication of the development of his own ideology and the methods he would employ when the revolution began. Lenin is shown as entirely dedicated to the cause, something of a loner, hardworking, and dismissive of many of the intelligentsia who talked a lot but did little to practically advance the revolutionary cause. However, he is also seen as ensuring he steered clear of personal danger, often writing furiously from his safety in exile to encourage those back in Russia to act in ways that would put them in extreme danger from the state.
In truth, I found the long sections about his period in exile began to drag, but I feel that's because I'm always more interested in the political than the personal. So I was glad to get back to Russia as the Revolution dawned. In this section, there's quite a diversity in the depth of information Sebestyen gives. For instance, the account of the reasons for Russia going to war in 1914 feels incredibly superficial, as do the days between February and October 1917 – in fact, Sebestyen more or less skips right over the October Revolution. On the other hand, he goes quite deeply into the matter of Lenin's return on the “sealed train” and the question of how suspicion of German support played out. Clearly Sebestyen has concentrated most on those events in which Lenin had a direct involvement, which makes sense since this is a personal biography of the man rather than a history of the period; and it's actually quite interesting to see how absent he was during some of the major points of the revolution – that personal safety issue again. Overall there's still enough information to allow the book to stand on its own, but a reader who wants to understand the ins and outs of the revolution will have to look elsewhere for a more detailed account.
The same unevenness is shown in the period following the revolution – some events are given more prominence than others. The murder of the Romanovs, for instance, is given in some detail and with a rather odd level of sympathy (terrible, perhaps, but no more so than the starving millions, the people driven to cannibalism, the widespread torture and the 7 million children left orphaned, surely). On the other hand, the account of the civil war is an unbelievably quick run through – it almost feels as if Sebestyen had rather run out of steam by the time he reached this stage. Sebestyen finishes with a description of the cult of Lenin and how his legacy (and earthly remains) were used by subsequent Soviet leaders to bolster their own regimes.
All-in-all, I found this an approachable and very readable account, lighter in both tone and political content than some of the massively detailed histories of the period, but giving enough background to set Lenin's life in its historical context. And it undoubtedly gives an intriguing picture of the contrasts in his personality – a man who seemed to love and engender love from those near to him, but whose friendship could easily turn to enmity when he felt betrayed, and who could show great cruelty in pursuance of his political aims. So despite my criticisms of the superficiality of the coverage of some of the historical events, I feel it achieves its aim of giving us a good deal of insight into Lenin the man. Recommended.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?