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.
Berlin. Six million Soviet soldiers were massed for the Vistula–Oder offensive. Two weeks later, Koniev was plunging into the “gold” of industrial Silesia, Zhukov had expelled the Germans from central Poland, and Malinovsky was fighting frenziedly for Budapest. The Second and Third Belorussian Fronts broke into East Prussia, Germany itself, in a fiesta of vengeance: two million German women were to be raped in the coming months. Russian soldiers even raped Russian women newly liberated from Nazi
strength. Zhdanov, only fifty-one but exhausted, knew “he wasn’t strong enough to bear the responsibility of succeeding Stalin. He never wanted power,” asserts his son. He flew back to the seaside to recover near Stalin, where the two called on each other, but then he suffered a heart attack.277 Zhdanov’s illness created a vacuum that was keenly filled by Malenkov and Beria who became so close, they even sent their greetings to Stalin jointly that November, writing “we derive great happiness
wondered how to prevent Beria grabbing control of the secret police. Beria’s plans had been laid long before, probably with Malenkov: since no Georgian could rule Russia again, Malenkov planned to head the government while remaining Secretary. Beria would seize his old fiefdom, the MGB/MVD. Late at night, Mikoyan looked in on the dying man. Molotov was ill but he appeared from time to time, thinking of his Polina whom he hoped was alive in exile. He did not know she was being interrogated in the
“the Master.” Stalin trusted his devoted bodyguard, a brawny, hard-living but uncouth peasant, Nikolai Vlasik, thirty-seven, who had joined the Cheka in 1919 and guarded the Politburo, and then exclusively the Vozhd, since 1927. He became a powerful vizier at Stalin’s side but remained the closest thing to Vasily’s father figure: Vasily introduced his girlfriends to Vlasik for his approval. When his behaviour at school became impossible, it was Pauker who wrote to Vlasik that his “removal to
NKVD began to arrest his specialist non-Bolshevik advisers and he appealed to Blackberry: “Comrade Yezhov, please look into this.” He was not alone. Kaganovich and Sergo, those “best friends,” not only shared the same swaggering dynamism but both headed giant industrial commissariats. Kaganovich’s railway experts were being arrested too. Meanwhile Stalin sent Sergo transcripts of Pyatakov’s interrogations in which his deputy confessed to being a “saboteur.”8 The destruction of “experts” was a