Young Stalin (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
Historians have often deplored the lack of information available regarding people and events in the Soviet Union, especially about the early life of Joseph Stalin. The gap was filled with myths and speculations, some provided by Stalin’s enemies (Leon Trotsky foremost among them) and some by Stalin himself. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Simon Sebag Montefiore had access to police records and political archives in Russia and Georgia, and to prepare Young Stalin he was able to interview persons previously unreachable or unwilling to talk.
It is surprising that Stalin survived his childhood. He was born with two toes webbed together, suffered numerous bouts of illness, was twice badly injured by carriages racing down the narrow streets of his hilly hometown, and was periodically beaten by his father. These left him with a pock-marked face, a slight limp, and a crippled arm. Nevertheless, he had impressive physical strength and even more powerful psychological skills that made him the center of whatever group he entered.
His mother was important in many ways but not those normally associated with mothering. Her voracious sexual appetite undoubtedly hurt her husband’s self-esteem, worsening his tendency to drink excessively and to beat her. Seeing that her son was exceptionally bright, she determined that he would be more than a cobbler like his father. Believing that he might even become a bishop in the Russian Orthodox...
(The entire section is 1807 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
The Economist 383 (May 19, 2007): 88.
History Today 57, no. 8 (August, 2007): 63-64.
Kirkus Reviews 75, no. 17 (September 1, 2007): 911-912.
Library Journal 132, no. 17 (October 15, 2007): 74.
London Review of Books 29, no. 21 (November 1, 2007): 27-29.
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The New York Times Book Review 157 (November 25, 2007): 21.
The Times Literary Supplement, August 17, 2007, p. 10.
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