Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar
Simon Sebag Montefiore
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This widely acclaimed biography of Stalin and his entourage during the terrifying decades of his supreme power transforms our understanding of Stalin as Soviet dictator, Marxist leader, and Russian tsar.
Based on groundbreaking research, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals the fear and betrayal, privilege and debauchery, family life and murderous cruelty of this secret world. Written with bracing narrative verve, this feat of scholarly research has become a classic of modern history writing. Showing how Stalin's triumphs and crimes were the product of his fanatical Marxism and his gifted but flawed character, this is an intimate portrait of a man as complicated and human as he was brutal and chilling.
physical and emotional pain caused my eyes to weep unending streams of tears . . .” Over the next few days, Stalin’s hanging judge Ulrikh sentenced all to “the highest measure of punishment” in perfunctory trials at Lefortovo prison before attending a Kremlin gala, starring the tenor Kozlovsky and the ballerina Lepeshinskaya. Babel was condemned as an “agent of French and Austrian intelligence . . . linked to the wife of Enemy of the People Yezhov.” At 1:30 a.m. on 27 January 1940, Babel was
denounce him to Stalin. The girls were usually taken to the town house where a Georgian feast and wine awaited them in a caricature of Caucasian chivalry. One of the colonels always proffered a bouquet of flowers on the way home. If they resisted, they were likely to get arrested. The film star Zoya Fyodorovna was picked up by these Chekists at a time when she was still breastfeeding her baby. Taken to a party where there were no other guests, she was joined by Beria whom she begged to let her go
in order not to stain his expensive Persian rugs. “You see,” he told his spy Leopold Trepper, “there are only two ways to thank an agent: cover his chest with medals or cut off his head.” He was hardly alone in this Bolshevik view. Until Stalin swooped down to make him his own Chekist, Victor Abakumov was a typical secret policeman who had won his spurs purging Rostov in 1938. Born in 1908 to a Moscow worker, he was a bon viveur and womanizer. During the war, he stashed his mistresses in the
to choose anything she liked. Porcine Vlasik paid the bill, then turned to the children and cried: “Now children! A Pioneer Hurrah for Comrade Stalin”—the Soviet version of “Hip hip hurrah!” One can imagine him punching the air as “the children shouted a harmonious hurrah!” They then drove down to Stalin’s spiritual home in these twilight years, Abkhazia, where he believed the air and the food ensured longevity: “Do you remember how amazed that English writer J. B. Priestley was when he met an
them a night off before. They closed the doors. At midday that Sunday morning, the guards waited for the Boss to get up, sitting in their guardhouse that was linked to his rooms by a covered passageway twenty-five yards long. But there was “no movement” all afternoon. The guards became anxious. Finally, at 6 p.m., Stalin switched on the light in the small dining room. He was obviously up at last. “Thank God, we thought,” said Lozgachev, “everything’s all right.” He would call for them soon.