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Summary

There have been many biographies of Stalin, but the court that surrounded him is untravelled ground. Simon Sebag Montefiore, acclaimed biographer of Catherine the Great's lover, prime minister, and general, Potemkin, has unearthed the vast underpinning that sustained Stalin. Not only ministers such as Molotov or secret service chiefs such as Beria, but men and women whose loyalty he trusted only until the next purge.
©2003 Simon Sebag Montefiore (P)2004 Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Critic reviews

"A marvellously racy, gossipy study, based on immense research." ( Evening Standard)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Well read, but grim subject matter

This is a well written and performed account of the Stalin era purges.

That said, it is a bit grim and relentless - as you might expect from the subject matter, but unlike (say) ancient history, these events feel closer to home due to their relative recency.
Be warned, that , while not described in particularly gory terms , the real life events outlined are tough to hear about.

John Nettles is excellent at narrating the book and it is well laid out....
...but in the end, the unremitting grimness as yet another person (or million people) is purged rather detracts and you may find yourself, like me, not wishing to listen any more.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Superb and horrifying biography

It is said that history is written by the victors of wars and certainly the crimes perpetrated by Stalin and his repressive regime took years to be revealed. I was aware that Stalin’s policies had caused the deaths of many millions of his citizens and that he easily equalled Hitler in his heinous crimes. However, this outstanding and engrossing biography of Stalin’s reign of terror was a revelation to me as it documented his extreme paranoia and at times bungling incompetence and how he got away with it by keeping his acolytes in a state of fear that they would too would be executed on trumped up charges. I hadn’t realised the sheer scale of reprisals against those who served with him and their families. It must have been a frightening time to be near this despot. It’s depressing that history keeps repeating itself and how how uncurbed power in the end corrupts.

The book is a great listen as pacy as a crime thriller and the narrator is good.
Highly recommended.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Superb

I've listened to this audio book numerous times (4 at the last count.) John Nettles narrates it quite brilliantly and is so thoroughly engaging, it's a pleasure to listen to even on repeat visits.

Highly recommended. It's a shame Mr Nettles doesn't narrate 'The Romanovs.'

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

What an insight into the court of Stalin

An account of the leadership of Soviet Union after Lenin. A ghastly look into the degenerate behaviour of a leader whose impact on the lives of millions of human beings will leave most in awe. Few can understand the complex webs that those in power weave, this book helps to piece together an angle and viewpoint of that era

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The best book on Stalin

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. The audiobook is like a soap opera, the dynamics of stalin and his court and fantastic.

What did you like best about this story?

A real insight into Stalin, the old bolsheviks and the upper echelons of the soviet state.

What does John Nettles bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

An amazing narration. Top notch!

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The greatest real soap opera of our time

Any additional comments?

Cant recommend this book enough, there are alot of characters but this is not overwhelming.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Absolutely loved this book, more of a !!

Montefiore returns to form after his awful fiction book. Fantastic story of Stalin and his magnates brought to life by a brilliant narration by John Nettles.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Masterly

An easy though harrowing way to get familiar with Stalin and his atrocities. An extraordinary tale told with erudition plus panache.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • londonUnited Kingdom
  • 26-09-08

s

A vivid and interesting biography.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Communist, fascist an equality in monstrosity.


Stalin is a monster as deprave and human as Hitler was, they both loved the power and the implementation of their ideas more than humans or individuals.
“Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?”
― Joseph Stalin
“Death is the solution to all problems. No man - no problem.”
― Joseph Stalin
We castigate anyone that wears a brown shirt and use the fascist salute but people still vote for people that consider this man a hero openly; they should be as shameful and repulsive as fascists, to believe in a system that wherever it has been imposed it has brought death and inequality in industrial levels, Communism is a dirty word smeared with death, blood and betrayal of the proletariat in the name of the state and Stalin was one of it prophets and disciples of death unashamedly so.

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
― Joseph Stalin
“Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”
― Joseph Stalin
“People who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
― Joseph Stalin

And the perfect Orwellian example of doublethink:

“...[I]ron discipline does not preclude but presupposes criticism and contest of opinion within the Party. Least of all does it mean that discipline must be blind. On the contrary, iron discipline does not preclude but presupposes conscious and voluntary submission, for only conscious discipline can be truly iron discipline.”
― Joseph Stalin

This is a good book to put the first toe into a cold lake of blood and terror, a mild expose of evil and a restrained in its descriptions if anything it errs with Stalin into seeing it all too much as statistics and not crimes of individual horror.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Excellent portrait

Very well written and narrated. Gives a deep insight into the madness by concentrating on the personal lives of Stalin and his associates with the history going on in the background.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • MR RH LEONARD
  • 30-05-11

Must know

The horror of the Soviet Union under Stalin is something that must be made known. This book has done a lot to bring this reality to the fore. My only criticism is that this is an abridged version and in some ways seemed a bit disjointed. John Nettles renders a good narrative and I will certainly be encouraged to listen to anything else he might read.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kellyanne
  • 28-11-10

Truly enjoyable

I have been listening to this for about 6 hours and am finding it thoroughly enjoyable. The story is woven so as to include both descriptions of Stalin's actions and psyche, as well as those of the individuals surrounding him and the historical period in which they all lived. The result is a rich narrative that really brings the listener (or reader) into that period. Be warned that it is just that, a narrative.

The problem of course is that names of soviet 'celebrities' are thrown about as if the listener is already acquainted with them. Luckily I know most of the names, but I can imagine the story could get unwieldy for those without some background knowledge. Having read any general text on Stalin's rule should serve that purpose.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Neil
  • 29-10-08

Disappointing---apparently poor abridgement

I had read excellent reviews of the book, but was disappointed with this audiobook. The historical material is very interesting and it is excellently read. The problem is that the narrative is rambling and disjointed. Since the book is so well rated, this appears to be a problem with the abridgement. Save your money and wait for an unabridged version!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Inge A
  • 04-09-07

Evil Empire

This book made me think about what Reagan used to refer to as the evil empire.

A lesson in random lunacy put to work, based on excellent research.You wished this was fiction only.

An exciting wellwritten book keeping your attention all the way through.

5 stars

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 21-06-06

A very interesting tale

I'm not really a history or war buff but this had me fixed. The reader helps to keep the pace going.

I enjoyed it.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Mike
  • 05-09-08

Babble

This audiobok has NO structure - I mean no Chapters that dissect it by topic or time. Consequently it quickly becomes just a stream of words many of which are (inevitably) meaningless. This lack of structure unfortunately turns an otherwise excellent Narrator (John Nettles) into something like a software translator.
I do not recommend it to anyone

0 of 1 people found this review helpful