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Unformatted text preview: ALSO BY SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar Potemkin: Catherine the Great’s Imperial Partner To my darling son, Sasha Contents List of Illustrations Stalin Family Tree Maps Introduction List of Characters Note Prologue: The Bank Robbery PART ONE 1. Keke’s Miracle: Soso 2. Crazy Beso 3. Brawlers, Wrestlers and Choirboys 4. A Hanging in Gori 5. The Poet and the Priesthood 6. The “Young Man with the Burning Eyes” 7. Battle of the Dormitories: Soso versus Father “Black Spot” 8. The Weatherman: Parties and Princes 9. Stalin Goes Underground: Konspiratsia 10. “I’m Working for the Rothschilds!”—Fire, Massacre and Arrest in Batumi PART TWO 11. The Prisoner 12. The Frozen Georgian: Siberian Exile 13. Bolshevik Temptress 14. 1905: King of the Mountain 15. 1905: Fighters, Urchins and Dressmakers 16. 1905: The Mountain Eagle—Stalin Meets Lenin 17. The Man in Grey: Marriage, Mayhem (and Sweden) 18. Pirate and Father 19. Stalin in London 20. Kamo Goes Insane: The Game of Bandits and Cossacks 21. The Tragedy of Kato: Stalin’s Stony Heart 22. Boss of the Black City: Plutocrats, Protection-Rackets and Piracy 23. Louse Racing, Murder and Madness—Prison Games 24. “River Cock” and the Noblewoman 25. “The Milkman”: Was Stalin a Tsarist Agent? PART THREE 26. Two Lost Fiancées and a Pregnant Peasant 27. The Central Committee and “Glamourpuss” the Schoolgirl 28. “Don’t Forget That Name and Be Very Wary!” 29. The Escapist: Kamo’s Leap and the Last Bank Robbery 30. Travels with the Mysterious Valentina 31. Vienna, 1913: The Wonderful Georgian, the Austrian Artist and the Old Emperor 32. The Secret Policeman’s Ball: Betrayal in Drag PART FOUR 33. “Darling, I’m in Desperate Straits” 34. 1914: Arctic Sex Comedy 35. The Hunter 36. The Robinson Crusoe of Siberia 37. Stalin’s Reindeer-Propelled Sleigh and a Siberian Son PART FIVE 38. 1917 Spring: Floundering Leader 39. 1917 Summer: Sailors on the Streets 40. 1917 Autumn: Soso and Nadya 41. 1917 Winter: The Countdown 42. Glorious October 1917: The Bungled Uprising 43. Power: Stalin Out of the Shadows Epilogue: An Old Tyrant—in Remembrance of Things Past Stalin’s Names, Nicknames, Bylines and Aliases Acknowledgements Source Notes Select Bibliography Illustrations 1878–1904 Mugshot of Stalin, 19121 School photo, late 1880s2 Stalin’s birthplace in Gori 1 Official photo of Beso, Stalin’s father3 Stalin’s mother, Keke1 Koba Egnatashvili 18 Sasha Egnatashvili 18 Damian Davrichewy4 Stalin in 1893, aged sixteen5 Stalin in 18961 Seminary photo, late 1890s1 Fire at an oil refinery6 Rothschild oil refinery, Batumi 6 Hashimi Smirba6 Group photo in Kutaisi Prison, 19036 Novaya Uda6 Kutaisi Prison6 Stalin’s cell6 Natasha Kirtava6 Olga Alliluyeva3 Olga and her children3 1905–1910 Kamo3 Stalin’s network of street children, 19057 Okhrana agents pose in their street costumes3 Stalin, ca. 1905–65 Trotsky5 Lenin, ca. 19055 Kato Svanidze1 Kato Svanidze, headshot, from gravestone, Tbilisi 3 Daily Mirror extract, 16 May 19078 Russian Social Democratic Labour Party agreement3 Daily Mirror extract, 27 June 19078 Daily Mirror extract, 15 May 19078 Mugshot of Kamo from the police files, ca. 19081 Sergo Ordzhonikidze1 Baku oil fountain5 Nagayev’s Palace in Baku 9 Burning oil wells, Baku, 14 September 190310 Murtuza Mukhtarov and his wife, Liza11 Stalin with Kato’s family beside her dead body, 19071 Alvasi Talakvadze6 Ludmilla Stal11 Stalin1 Stalin when he was arrested in 19101 1910–1917 Stalin with Spandarian in 19151 Backs of postcards12 Front of postcard1 Maria Kuzakova with her son Constantine and his baby3 Mugshot of Stalin when he was arrested in 19111 Stalin’s apartment block in Vienna13 Lenin’s flat in Cracow1 Roman Malinovsky3 Stalin in 19131 Tatiana Slavatinskaya16 Kureika, photographed in the 1930s1 Ostyak tribesman with reindeer on the Arctic Circle14 Alexander Davidov17 Lidia Pereprygina17 Bolshevik exiles photographed at Monastyrskoe in the summer of 19151 Vera Shveitzer14 KGB boss Serov’s memo to Khrushchev in 1956, about the investigation into Stalin’s affair with thirteen-year-old Lidia Pereprygina12 Taurida Palace3 Soldiers in St. Petersburg, February—March 19173 1917–1918 Lenin addresses the crowds from Kseshinskaya’s palace in St. Petersburg, July 19173 July Days coup 3 Nadya Alliluyeva1 Stalin’s bedroom in the Alliluyev apartment3 Lenin1 Smolny and new Soviet government, 19173 The first meeting of the new government15 Lenin’s orders to his guards on access to his office15 Stalin5 Alexandra Kollontai and Pavel Dybenko ca. 19175 Stalin, ca. 19175 The author and publishers offer their thanks to the following for their kind permission to reproduce images: 1. David King Collection 2. Stalin House Museum, Gori 3. Author’s collection 4. Davrichewy Family Collection 5. RIA Novosti 6. Khariton Akhvlediani State Museum, Batumi 7. Georgian Filial Institute of Marxism-Leninism (GF IML) 8. Mirrorpix 9. Getty 10. Roger Viollet / Topfoto 11. Azerbaijan International Magazine 12. RGASPI 13. Lisa Train 14. Dr. Piers Vitebsky 15. Smolny Institute Museum 16. Achinsk Regional Museum (ARM) 17. The Sunday Times (London) 18. Egnatashvili Family Collection While every effort has been made to trace copyright holders, if any have been inadvertently overlooked, the publishers will be happy to acknowledge them in future editions. Introduction “All young people are the same,” said Stalin, “so why write . . . about the young Stalin?” Yet he was wrong: he was always different. His youth was dramatic, adventurous and exceptional. When in old age he reflected on the mysteries of his early years, he seemed to change his mind. “There are,” he mused, “no secrets that won’t be revealed for everyone later.” For me as a historian unveiling his clandestine life up to his emergence as one of Lenin’s top henchmen in the new Soviet government, he was right about the secrets: many of them can now be revealed. There are few works on early Stalin (compared to many on young Hitler), but this is because there seemed to be so little material. In fact, this is not so. A wealth of vivid new material that brings to life his childhood and his career as revolutionary, gangster, poet, trainee priest, husband and prolific lover, abandoning women and illegitimate children in his wake, lay hidden in the newly opened archives, especially those of oftenneglected Georgia. Stalin’s early life may have been shadowy but it was every bit as extraordinary as, and even more turbulent than, those of Lenin and Trotsky—and it equipped him (and damaged him) for the triumphs, tragedies and predations of supreme power. Stalin’s pre-revolutionary achievements and crimes were much greater than we knew. For the first time, we can document his role in the bank robberies, protection-rackets, extortion, arson, piracy, murder—the political gangsterism—that impressed Lenin and trained Stalin in the very skills that would prove invaluable in the political jungle of the Soviet Union. But we can also show that he was much more than a gangster godfather: he was also a political organizer, enforcer and master at infiltrating the Tsarist security services. In contrast to Zinoviev, Kamenev or Bukharin, whose reputations as great politicians are ironically founded on their destruction in the Terror, he was not afraid to take physical risks. But he also impressed Lenin as an independent and thoughtful politician, and as a vigorous editor and journalist, who was never afraid to confront and contradict the older man. Stalin’s success was at least partly due to his unusual combination of education (thanks to the seminary) and street violence; he was that rare combination: both “intellectual” and killer. No wonder in 1917 Lenin turned to Stalin as the ideal lieutenant for his violent, beleaguered Revolution. This book is the result of almost ten years of research on Stalin in twenty-three cities and nine countries, mainly in the newly opened archives of Moscow, Tbilisi and Batumi, but also in St. Petersburg, Baku, Vologda, Siberia, Berlin, Stockholm, London, Paris, Tampere, Helsinki, Cracow, Vienna and Stanford, California. Young Stalin is written to be read on its own. This is a study of Stalin’s life before power, up to his arrival in government in October 1917, whereas my last book, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, covers Stalin in power up to his death in March 1953. Both are intimate histories of the man and politician but also of his milieu. I hope they will together form an introduction to the most elusive and fascinating of twentieth-century titans, showing the development and early maturity of the ultimate politician. What missing empathy in Stalin’s upbringing allowed him to kill so easily, but equally what quality equipped him so well for political life? Were the cobbler’s son of 1878, the idealistic seminarist of 1898, the brigand of 1907 and the forgotten Siberian hunter of 1914 destined to become the fanatical Marxist mass-murderer of the 1930s or the conqueror of Berlin in 1945? My two books are not meant to form an exhaustive narrative history covering every political, ideological, economic, military, international and personal aspect of Stalin’s life. That has already been superbly done, in different eras, by two scholars—Robert Conquest, the founding maestro of Stalinist history, with his Stalin: Breaker of Nations and, more recently, Robert Service, with his Stalin: A Biography—and I do not think I could improve on their broader works. I make no apology that my two books are tightly focused on the intimate and secret, political and personal lives of Stalin and the small circle that ultimately came to create and rule the Soviet Union until the 1960s. Ideology must be our foundation as it was for the Bolsheviks, but the new archives show that the personalities and patronage of a minuscule oligarchy were the essence of politics under Lenin and Stalin, as they were under the Romanov emperors—and just as they are today under the “managed democracy” of twenty-first-century Russia. Stalin’s prolonged youth has always been a mystery, in many senses. Before 1917, he cultivated the mystique of obscurity but also specialized in the “black work” of underground revolution, which was, by its nature, secretive, violent and indispensible— but disreputable. Once in power, Stalin’s campaign to succeed Lenin required a legitimate heroic career which he did not possess because of his experience in what he called “the dirty business” of politics: this could not be told, either because it was too gangsterish for a great, paternalistic statesman or because it was too Georgian for a Russian leader. His solution was a clumsy but all-embracing cult of personality that invented, distorted and concealed the truth. Ironically this self-promotion was so grotesque that it fanned sparks, sometimes innocent ones, which flared up into colossal anti-Stalin conspiracytheories. It was easy for his political opponents, and later for us historians, to believe that it was all invented and that he had done nothing much at all—particularly since few historians had researched in the Caucasus where so much of his early career took place. An anti-cult, as erroneous as the cult itself, grew up around these conspiracytheories. The most intriguing rumour remains: was Stalin a double-agent for the Tsar’s secret police? The dictator’s most infamous secret policemen, Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrenti Beria, secretly sought such evidence to use against Stalin in case he turned against them —as indeed he did. It is significant that neither of them, with the absolute researching power of the NKVD behind them, ever found that “smoking gun.” Yet there is a deeper mystery too: every historian has quoted Trotsky’s claim that Stalin was a provincial “mediocrity” and Sukhanov’s that he was just a “grey blur” in 1917. Most historians followed Trotsky’s line that Stalin was so greyly mediocre that he failed to perform in 1905 and 1917, becoming, in Robert Slusser’s words, “The Man Who Missed the Revolution.” Yet, if this was so, how did the “mediocrity” seize power, outwit talented politicians such as Lenin, Bukharin and Trotsky himself, and coordinate his programme of industrialization, the savage war on the peasantry and the ghoulish Great Terror? How did the “blur” become the homicidal but super-effective world statesman who helped create and industrialize the USSR, outplayed Churchill and Roosevelt, organized Stalingrad, and defeated Hitler? It is as if the pre-1917 mediocrity and the twentiethcentury colossus cannot be the same man. So how did one become the other? They are in fact absolutely the same man. It is clear from hostile and friendly witnesses alike that Stalin was always exceptional, even from childhood. We have relied on Trotsky’s unrecognizably prejudiced portrait for too long. The truth was different. Trotsky’s view tells us more about his own vanity, snobbery and lack of political skills than about the early Stalin. So the first aim of this work is to reveal the true record of Stalin’s rise, as unblemished as possible by either the Stalinist cult or the anti-Stalin conspiracy-theory industry. There is a tradition of biographies dealing with the early careers of great statesmen. Winston Churchill wrote of his own youth and there have been many works on his early career. The same goes for many other historical titans, such as both presidential Roosevelts. Young Hitler has become an industry, though no work comes close to the outstanding first volume of Ian Kershaw’s Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris. On Stalin, in a field of thousands of books, there have been just two serious Western works on his pre-1917 years: the excellent political-psychological Stalin as Revolutionary by Robert Tucker (1974), written long before the new archives were opened; and a Cold War work of anti-Stalin conspiracy-theory by Edward Ellis Smith (1967), who argues that Stalin was a Tsarist agent. There have been more in Russia, mainly journalistic sensationalism. However, the outstanding work is Alexander Ostrovsky’s magisterial, indefatigable Kto stoyal za spinoi Stalina? (Who Was Behind Stalin?) (2002). My own work is indebted to all three. So much of the inexplicable about the Soviet experience—the hatred of the peasantry for example, the secrecy and paranoia, the murderous witch hunt of the Great Terror, the placing of the Party above family and life itself, the suspicion of the USSR’s own espionage that led to the success of Hitler’s 1941 surprise attack—was the result of the underground life, the konspiratsia of the Okhrana and the revolutionaries, and also the Caucasian values and style of Stalin. And not just of Stalin. By 1917, Stalin knew many of the characters who would form the Soviet elite and his court in the years of supreme power. The violence and clannishness of the Caucasians, men like Stalin, Ordzhonikidze and Shaumian, played a special role in the formation of the USSR at least as great as the contributions of the Latvians, Poles, Jews and perhaps even Russians. They were the essence of the “Committeemen,” who formed the heart of the Bolshevik Party and were likely to support Stalin against intellectuals, Jews, émigrés and particularly the brilliant, haughty Trotsky. Such types took to the brutality of the Civil War (and to the liquidation of the peasantry, and to the Terror) because, like Stalin, indeed alongside him, they had been raised in the same streets, had shared gang warfare, clan rivalries, and ethnic slaughter, and had embraced the same culture of violence. My approach avoids much of the psycho-history that has both obscured and oversimplified our understanding of Stalin and Hitler. As I hope this book shows, Stalin was formed by much more than a miserable childhood, just as the USSR was formed by much more than Marxist ideology. Yet the formation of Stalin’s character is particularly important because the nature of his rule was so personal. Furthermore, Lenin and Stalin created the idiosyncratic Soviet system in the image of their ruthless little circle of conspirators before the Revolution. Indeed much of the tragedy of Leninism-Stalinism is comprehensible only if one realizes that the Bolsheviks continued to behave in the same clandestine style whether they formed the government of the world’s greatest empire in the Kremlin or an obscure little cabal in the backroom of a Tiflis tavern. It seems that Russia today—dominated by, and accustomed to, autocracy and empire, and lacking strong civic institutions especially after the shattering of its society by the Bolshevik Terror—is destined to be ruled by self-promoting cliques for some time yet. On a wider plane the murky world of terrorism is more relevant than ever today: terrorist organizations, whether Bolshevik at the beginning of the twentieth century or Jihadi at the start of the twenty-first, have much in common. In 1917, Stalin had known Lenin for twelve years and many of the others for over twenty. So this is not just a biography but the chronicle of their milieu, a pre-history of the USSR itself, a study of the subterranean worm and the silent chrysalis before it hatched the steel-winged butterfly.1 List of Characters FAMILY Vissarion “Beso” Djugashvili, cobbler, father Ekaterina “Keke” Geladze Djugashvili, mother STALIN, Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili, “Soso,” “Koba” GORI Yakov “Koba” Egnatashvili, Gori wrestling champion, merchant, possible father Ivan “Vaso” Egnatashvili, son of Yakov, lifelong friend of Stalin Alexander “Sasha” Egnatashvili, son of Yakov, courtier of Stalin, “the Rabbit” Damian Davrichewy, police officer of Gori and possible father Josef Davrichewy, son of Damian, Stalin’s childhood friend, political bank robber, and later pilot, spy and memoirist in France Josef Iremashvili, childhood friend in Gori and Tiflis Seminary, Menshevik memoirist Father Christopher Charkviani, Gori priest, protector and possible father, and his son, Kote Charkviani Peter “Peta” Kapanadze, Gori and Tiflis Seminary, priest and lifelong friend Giorgi Elisabedashvili, Gori friend, Bolshevik Dato Gasitashvili, Beso’s cobbling apprentice THE SCHOOLMASTERS Simon Gogchilidze, Stalin’s singing teacher and patron at the Gori Church School Prince David Abashidze, Father Dmitri, “Black Spot,” priestly pedant at the Tiflis Seminary and Stalin’s hated persecutor THE GIRLS Natalia “Natasha” Kirtava, landlady and girlfriend in Batumi Alvasi Talakvadze, protégée and girlfriend in Baku Ludmilla Stal, Bolshevik activist and girlfriend in Baku and St. Petersburg Stefania Petrovskaya, Odessan noblewoman, exile, mistress and fiancée in Solvychegodsk and Baku Pelageya “Polia” Onufrieva, “Glamourpuss,” schoolgirl mistress in Vologda Serafima Khoroshenina, mistress and partner in Solvychegodsk Maria Kuzakova, landlady and mistress in Solvychegodsk, mother of Constantine Tatiana “Tania” Slavatinskaya, married Bolshevik and mistress Valentina Lobova, Bolshevik fixer and probable mistress Lidia Pereprygina, thirteen-year-old orphan seduced by Stalin in Turukhansk and mother of two children by him, fiancée COMRADES, ENEMIES AND RIVALS—TIFLIS AND BAKU Lado Ketskhoveli, Gori priest’s son, Stalin’s Bolshevik mentor and hero Prince Alexander “Sasha”Tsulukidze, rich aristocrat, Stalin’s Bolshevik mentor and hero Mikha Tskhakaya, founder of Georgian SDs (Social-Democrats), early Bolshevik, Stalin’s patron Philip Makharadze, Bolshevik and Stalin’s sometime ally Budu “the Barrel” Mdivani, actor and Bolshevik terrorist, Stalin’s ally Abel Yenukidze, early Bolshevik, friend of Alliluyevs, Svanidzes and Stalin Silibistro “Silva” Jibladze, ex-seminarist, Menshevik firebrand Lev Rosenblum, “Kamenev,” well-off Tiflis engineer’s son, moderate Bolshevik Mikhail “Misha” Kalinin, peasant, butler, early Bolshevik in Tiflis Suren Spandarian, son of well-off Armenian editor, Bolshevik, womanizer, Stalin’s best friend Stepan Shaumian, well-off Armenian Bolshevik, Stalin’s ally and rival Grigory “...
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