Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

I have finally finished reading the detailed and lengthy account of Joseph Stalin and his years of ruling the USSR. The biography was written by Simon Sebag Montefiore. The author also penned the excellent account of Stalin’s early years in Young Stalin.

Montefiore gives us the key to understanding this leader when he identified how those around Stalin understood him. The key was to understand Stalin’s unique blend of supersensitive discomfiture and world-historical arrogance, his longing to be liked and his heartless cruelty (p. 526).

The book is extremely well researched and the data carefully interpreted.

This account covers the years of Stalin’s rule. The title gives hint to the contradiction of Soviet communism. The Bolsheviks had overthrown the Tsar in favor of “the people.” In the name of the people, Stalin (the Red Tsar) murderously terrorizes the people. Estimates are that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of 20 million of his own people.

The book provides an intimate look at Stalin. In particular, we come to understand who he was and how he interacted with his family and his revolving circle of subordinates. We also learn of his attitudes and actions toward Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Mao Tse Tung. We see how he orchestrated the Soviet Terror which resulted in the deaths of millions. We see how he led a nation from being on the brink of defeat to a shared victory in World War II.

The study of Russian/Soviet history is certainly a profitable pursuit. I would also recommend the reading of Russian writers. In particular, read Leo Tolstoy, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Anatoli Rybakov.

The following video is of the author discussing Young Stalin. It will introduce you to the writer and his methodologies.

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