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Winner of the Costa Biography Award
What makes a Stalin? Was he a Tsarist agent or Lenin's bandit? Was he to blame for his wife's death? When did the killing start?
Based on revelatory research, here is the thrilling story of how a charismatic cobbler's son became a student priest, romantic poet, prolific lover, gangster mastermind and murderous revolutionary. Culminating in the 1917 revolution, Simon Sebag Montefiore's bestselling biography radically alters our understanding of the gifted politician and fanatical Marxist who shaped the Soviet empire in his own brutal image. This is the story of how Stalin became Stalin.
Russian historian and author Montefiore presents an exciting, exemplary biography of the nondescript peasant boy who would become the most ruthless leader in Soviet history, a prequel of sorts to his Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. Born in 1878 in the Caucasus of Georgia to an overprotective mother (who had already lost two sons) and a father opposed to education ("I'm a shoemaker and my son will be one too"), Stalin possessed a talent for poetry and mischief. Amidst his mom's trysts (with men she hoped would further Stalin's education), his father's alcohol-fueled violence and the powder-keg environment of the Caucasus, Stalin turned from priesthood training to gang life and petty crime. As he grew, so did his hatred of Tsarist Russia, leading him to meet the initial Bolsheviks, and to more spectacular and violent capers. From the start, Stalin proved a remarkable talent for meticulous planning, a skill that would become vital to the revolutionaries and, later, to his iron-fisted reign. Using recently opened records, Montefiore turns up intriguing new information (like the "Fagin-like" role he played among "a prepubescent revolutionary street intelligence" network), Montefiore captures in an absorbing narrative both Stalin's conflicted character-marked by powerful charisma and deep paranoia-and the revolution's early years with stunning clarity.