What makes a Stalin? Was he illegitimate? Was his mother whore or saint? Was Stalin a Tsarist agent or Lenin's chief gangster? Was his most notorious heist planned during his stay in London? Was he to blame for his wife's death? If he really missed the 1917 Revolution, how did he emerge so powerful?
Born in poverty, scarred by his upbringing, exceptional in his studies, this charismatic but dangerous boy was hailed as a romantic poet and trained as a priest but found his mission as fanatical revolutionary. He became the mastermind of bank-robberies, protection-rackets, arson, piracy and murder yet he was, uniquely, part-intellectual, part-brigand. Surprisingly, he is also revealed as a scandalously prolific lover, leaving a trail of mistresses (varying from schoolgirls to noblewomen) and illegitimate children.
Here is the arch-conspirator and escape-artist whose brutal ingenuity so impressed Lenin that he made Stalin (with Trotsky) his top henchman. The paranoid underworld of Joseph Conrad-style terrorism was Stalin's natural habitat. Montefiore shows how clannish Caucasian banditry and murderous gangsterism, combined with pitiless ideology, qualified Stalin to dominate the Kremlin – and create the USSR in his flawed image.
Based on massive research and astonishing new evidence in archives from Moscow to Georgia, Young Stalin, companion and prequel to bestselling, prizewinning Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, is a chronicle of the Revolution, a pre-history of the USSR – and a fascinatingly intimate biography: this is how Stalin became Stalin.
"A magnificent biography, a masterpiece of detail, a vivid psychological portrait of this dangerous, enigmatic man."Michael Binyon, The Times
"Young Stalin is exhilarating. Montefiore has brought together an astonishing array of often new, often first hand sources, handled with a deft combination of scepticism and selectivity."Robert Conquest, author
of The Great Terror
"Should the life of the
black-hearted ogre be so entertaining? Stalin the bankrobber resembles James Cagney; Stalin the buccaneer has the panache of Errol Flynn. Shamefully irresistible."Peter Conrad, The Observer
"Macabrely fascinating, the early chapters (are) worthy of Alexander Dumas. Stalin's womanising (was) priapic. Riveting if chilling, Stalin's character brilliantly drawn"Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday
"Gripping. Montefiore's research is brilliant. The book provides a wealth of serious and scurrilous detail, creating a memorable portrait of the one of the 20th Century's greatest monsters."Antony Beevor, Daily Telegraph
"A triumph of research and storytelling, a masterly account of the October Revolution, an outstanding book full of surprises."
Victor Sebestyen, Evening Standard