Young Stalin: Simon Sebag Montefiore
This is a curious biopic of the early life of Stalin. What we know about Stalin now seems to bear little relationship to the man before he became the great dictator and the most notorious mass murderer of the 20th century.
In the early days he was an unlikely mixture of the ravenously hungry information-seeker and studious scholar, petty criminal, bank robber and womanizer. He spent nearly 10 years in Siberian exile, but he had used his time to study and create the network of contacts that would see his sudden rise to power during the Revolution of 1917.
Montefiore beguilingly portrays him as a loveable rogue, who excelled in working behind the scenes to further his espoused causes. His activities lay roughly at the level of minor mafia skirmishes, but he proved to be so useful and reliable to people like Lenin that his place within the party was assured. He had the knack and facility to bridge the gap between the educated bourgeois personalities within the party and the workers. He himself was from peasant stock, so many of his early ‘buddies’ in government came out of his own social network from Georgia.
This volume won the Costa Biography Award in 2007, and deservedly so.