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Summary

Winner of the British Book Awards History Book of the Year.

Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize.

This thrilling 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 in captivating detail the fear and betrayal, privilege and debauchery, family life and murderous cruelty of this secret world. Written with extraordinary narrative verve, this magnificent 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. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2003 Simon Sebag Montefiore (P)2019 Orion Publishing Group

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Enlightening and entertaining

Montefiore's extensive research and writings give you an insight into the internal mindset of these great characters and how they worked with each other in the context of the great events of history. The book balanced well the personal events in Stalin and his inner circle's lives to those of wider events happening at the time and how that affected their motivations - very enlightening and entertaining.

İ had the opportunity to read the abridged version which was also good however for those who appreciate depth this is the book for you. The book was very entertaining and enlightening. 5 stars.

4 people found this helpful

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Ooo ‘e was a bugger

If all you knew about Stalin was, he had a moustache and was Russian you’re about to lean you were only half right. I know a lot more now but god it was heavy going. That’s not the fault of the writer and certainly not the narrator, who did an implacable job. I could never have read such a book, with all those Russian names but having the story told to me certainly helped some facts stick. Enlighted me to the horror of those times and how it tied in with more familiar historic world events.
I listened with a sense of achievement as Stalin lie on his death bed realising, I'd got the end of the 27 hour book, only for the bloke to perk up again and on the book went.
The only short comings in the audio book was my own lack of attention as facts figures and dates left me hearing but not listening. I’m glad I’ve completed the book I should probably listen to it all over again now but I think I deserve something lighter for my next listen, maybe Pol Pot or Idi Amin.

3 people found this helpful

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A look behind the curtain

This book gives us a glimpse of life in The Kremlin during Stalin's rule. The book examines the relationships between Stalin and those who served under him, lived with him and helped him to make monumental decisions. This book does not examine or detail Stalin's policies, rather it explains the dynamics between Stalin and others, the interplay between them and the lifestyles they led. Here we find a Joseph Stalin who is anxious about his appearance, thoughtful, analytical and at times consumed by the minutiae of daily life and rivalries. We learn he is charming, educated and intelligent. We discover a learning and pragmatic war leader who probably saved the world from fascism, an achievement that should make us all glad for Stalin's ruthlessness. Whether you admire or loathe Stalin, you will be surprised by the man that emerges and how he developed his man of steel persona.The narrator is excellent and gives an excellent reading. This book is for anyone interested in this idealistic, dangerous and fascinating period of history.

2 people found this helpful

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Great

Right, so, this thing is massive, and other than watching a couple of documentaries about ww2, watching 'Last of the Czars' on Netflix, watching the film "The death of Stalin and listening to a couple of episodes about Stalin's life on the podcast 'Behind the Bastards' I didn't know anything about this period of time in this area of the world.

As such my knowledge was pretty limited and I sometimes struggled to keep track of all the names of the different people as the author goes into great detail about pretty much everyone involved in the story. The audio book comes with a pdf with lists of the different people but it's quite hard to read. That being said it was a very well documented book and was so interesting I completed it in a matter of weeks.

Basically if you're coming into this as a Novice on the era as I was just be prepared to have to stop the book a few times to look up certain people and remind yourself of who they are.
If you've never looked at anything to do with Starlin I'd maybe watch a couple of docs or something first just to give you a little bit of base information before you get started.
But it is great I was never bored and learnt so much. Honestly if I could give it more than 5 stars I would.

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A must listen

A brilliant, insightful and entertaining history of Stalin. This farcical and utterly terrifying era of revolutionary Russia serves as a warning to us all

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A stroke of Genius in every way!

One of the the leading historians on the subject. What a feat! Engaging , poignant , and unabashedly honest portrait of one of the most misperceived villains of history . Utterly brilliant !

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Was this really narrated by a human?

I cannot comment to the content but the delivery sounded robotic.

I will buy a hard copy.

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So gripping and well researched.

A detailed and captivating insight into Stalin’s world of manipulation , backstabbing, brutality and survival all quoting from the recently opened archives. A brilliantly written, gripping page turner. If it was fiction you’d scoff at this horror/ farce being too unbelievable.

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Excellent, enjoyable and full of historical detail

Starting this audiobook I was slightly worried as I had listened to two books by this same author before, the first I enjoyed very much (The Romanovs), although it was somewhat sparse in it's historical detail due to the chosen topic of the book being so vast that it would have been impossible to be very detailed and the second book being a huge disappointment for me (Jerusalem) due to being very biased on it's portrayal of history, politics and especially religion and also having some glaring historical mistakes. Jerusalem was the first audiobook ever that I didn't finish and I think also just any kind of book overall.
However, the book in question, Stalin, didn't disappoint me at all. Pretty much the only negative criticism I have of it is that it should have been longer as there's certainly enough material to go on in this subject matter, especially the early years of Stalin's life were passed pretty quickly with many details missing that I know from other sources. For me this is regardless the definitive Stalin biography, but I think it should have included more of his early life and a bit more of his later history as well.
Don't get me wrong, the book is still quite long compared to an average audiobook at over 27 hours, but I personally love really long books for such interesting topics like for example Ian Kershaw's Hitler biography at over 44 hours. Compared to Ian Kershaw's Hitler, I would say that Montefiore's Stalin is written in a more popular style, it's style is a bit more entertaining and it doesn't have as much analysis of Stalin's personality or the general historical context but when it comes to historical detail and accuracy, I think it's pretty much on par.

The book was narrated extremely well, this is the first time hearing Jonathan Aris's narration for me and I was very impressed. He did very well in reading out documented discussions, especially for Stalin, without feeling overdone or overly "voice acted" while still giving just enough personality to it to make it immersive and not monotonous. The general narration was very well done as well.

Overall, I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in history, biographies and especially for those interested in 20th century history. This one gets 5 stars on all levels from me, I'm very impressed!

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Insightful

A really insightful and well researched book. The narrator brings it to life and engages with the material excellently.

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  • Brendon
  • 05-06-21

LONG, BUT WORTH IT

This gang of thug rogues make Hitlers gang positively tame - literally tame. And Putin loves Stalin? Well, now you know what Putin is.

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  • David R. Butler
  • 09-12-20

So Good!

I read this about 10 years ago and adored it. Was so pleased to see the unabridged audio version come out.

Both the author and the narrator bring the Stalin period to life. The approach to research and the narrative remind me of Doris Kearns Goodwin, but with all the zaniness of the Stalinist courtiers.

Remains a favourite and I know I will listen to this again down the road.