THE COURT OF THE RED TSARSimon Sebag Montefiore's biography of Joseph Stalin
more than managed to live up to the praise heaped upon it - and considering those throwing bouquets included such eminent figures as Robert Conquest
, Robert Service
and Richard Pipes
, that's saying a lot. I give it five stars.
Despite having read about the great dictator almost ad nauseum, I can honestly say there was something new for me in every chapter including research just recently unearthed from the shadowy Soviet archives. For example we learn from material originally deleted from Stalin's official doctor's report that he may have possibly been poisoned by Warfarin, a blood thinner that would have brought on the massive stroke that debilitated Stalin on the eve launching another massive purge of the nomenklatura that would have certainly finished off Beria, Molotov, Malenkov, Voroshilov and perhaps what was left of Soviet Jewry.
We read the unvarnished brutality of the deaths Stalin dealt out to victims, high and low, in minute detail as well as his maudlin sentimentality, icy callousness, sociopathic charm and gallows humor. Montefiore sheds light on the rythm and nuances of power relations that swirled and eddied even in the moments of Stalin's most absolute tyranny and is at pains to show Stalin at the times when he was left checked and frustrated by circumstance or by his underlings.
One of the best books in the field of Soviet history that I have read in years.