on 15 November 2014
Montefiore is a great popular historian and this audio book enabled me to get through a book that I wouldn't have had the time to read thoroughly. Much has been learned since the dissolution of the USSR about Russian archives and about Stalin himself. I learned a great deal about Stalinist Russia, a terrifying period of world history. In this volume, Montefiore does a great service in humanizing Stalin and his inner circle and providing listeners with a manageable overview of recent scholarship on the years following the death of Lenin. I'd once read Trotsky's biography of Stalin and accordingly thought Stalin a mediocrity. Montefiore discounts Trotsky as arrogant and self-centered and the portrait of Stalin that emerge from this history is of a highly-intelligent, ruthless man, perhaps even a psychopath, certainly paranoid. Stalin's purges were senseless, erratic, and largely counter-productive, plunging Russia into a bloodbath of engineered starvation in the Ukraine, terrifying political purges, and military incompetence at the outbreak of the German invasion of Russia in 1941. These days I feel that Stalin, Mao, and Hitler were 20th monsters and that their accomplishments, at least the accomplishments of Mao and Stalin could have been achieved by other party members with far less loss of life, and probably even a better material standard of living for most Russians.
The reader of the volume had an engaging, interesting voice. The only problem I had with this audio-book is the profoundly depressing nature of its content. Essential listening or reading though if one hopes to understand modern Russia.
on 12 June 2011
I have to admit to only purchasing this audiobook as I love listening to anything narrated by John Nettles. I would not normally be interested in this genre (for want of a better word) but because Mr Nettles is narrrating it I purchased it. John Nettles is a fantastic teacher, his narration is flawless, sensitive and informative. By my liking of Mr Nettles narration (here and on other audiobooks) I am learning so much about things I would never even give a moments notice to.
It's a very harrowing story and Stephen Sebag Montefiore has done a remarkable job in researching this subject and then writing it, it is only fitting therefore that someone with a commanding and powerful voice should be narrating, and that someone is the always excellent John Nettles.