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review 2018-05-02 15:26
Review of Lenin by Victor Sebestyen
Lenin - Victor Sebestyen

I have read a little bit about Russian history, but somehow had never read a biography dedicated to Lenin.  This was a fascinating account of Lenin's life and I learned a great deal.  I always knew how ruthless and horrible Stalin was, but Lenin was at least as bad - if not worse.  Lenin did not enjoy the violence and death (the author points out that the only time Lenin was present around death was when family members died naturally), but he certainly had no problem ordering actions that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people . What most impressed me about him was his militant obsession, for decades, of the potential for a revolutionary takeover of Russia.  He literally spent most of his adult life reading, studying, and promoting the possibility.  When the time finally came, he and the Bolsheviks really weren't prepared but the rest of the Russian leadership had even less of an idea on how to maintain power during the awful times of WWI.  I recommend this book for anyone interested in this time period of Russian history.

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review 2017-04-23 00:00
Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire
Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire - David Remnick Having to put this one on hold for awhile, as while I was loving the book wasn't I wasn't happy with the audio version as this is one that needs to be read in order to underline and get the best from the book and my Library trying to source a copy for me as they don't have one in stock. Terrific read so far and really hoping I get my hands on a hard copy soon.
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review 2016-10-12 22:05
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar - Simon Sebag Montefiore

Montefiore's history of Jerusalem happened to be the first book I reviewed on Booklikes and I was happy to revisit the author with another one of his works. It seems that every time I pick up a history book in a book shop it is endorsed by Montefiore, he's clearly very passionate in his pursuit of historical knowledge. 


This book centres around Stalin and his changing inner circle. It's an odd blend of details of dinner functions, Stalin's character in calm times and the chronicles of the terror and his political brutality. It's a fascinating glimpse into the sycophantic fervour he fostered amongst his magnates and the cunning, horrific nature of his paranoid mind. I've given it five stars, because probably fittingly, after Kershaw's Hitler this is simply the best biography of a historical leader that I have read. 


Anyone who harbours any romanticism or flirts with the hard left I advise to read this and recognise the dangers of unswerving idealism, the dangers of being an illiberal bent on realising a utopia for humanity in the future at any cost to the people of this life. I had always thought that Stalin wasn't overly ideologically motivated, yet this book seeks to dispel that notion comparing the avidity of Stalin's belief in Marxism to that displayed in radical Islamists. 


Something touched upon in the book and spoken about in debates by Christopher Hitchens is the idea that the Tsar in Romanov times was the voice of God himself, understand that and you may be able to understand the cult of personality that Stalin was able to engineer and take advantage of. The idea of a strong, powerful leader was ingrained into Russian society and it is an interesting feature of the revolution, that despite its attempts to turn society on its head with the ultimate goal of Communism, the aura of leadership remained steadfast. 


It fascinated me that the sons and daughters of some of those murdered and tortured beyond repair on Stalin's orders still regarded him as a great leader. It is unfathomable to me that it is possible to inspire such unswerving loyalty amongst people. This is ultimately what draws me to these immensely flawed and yet ridiculously charismatic characters. There seems to be men and women who pop up from time to time under varying banners of ideology, be it religious/political who manage to cultivate vast followings and impact the course of human history through their actions.


And so I came to the end of the book having lived within the court of the red tsar through the eyes of his vicious inner circle and I was struck again by the surreal nature of it all. How terrifying is it? If you place enough power into the hands of the wrong person you can end up with a society in which an innocuous comment could result in years of torture and imprisonment or a painful death. How is it that a man so well read and intelligent as Stalin, uses that intelligence to create a cut throat, savage society in which even those closest to him are not safe from assassination? 


I guess my curiosity will never be sated.

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text 2014-05-01 23:42
April Round Up
Maus, Vol. 2: And Here My Troubles Began - Art Spiegelman
The Lady's Maid - Dilly Court
Songs of Willow Frost - Jamie Ford
Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Plot for Global Revolution - Giles Milton

I feel like I read WAY more books than this, but I guess I didn't! Maybe I feel that way because I'm reading Girl Who Played With Fire with my book club, but I haven't finished it yet so I didn't include it in this. I'm also finishing up Tess of the d'Urbervilles... I guess I'll just have to add them to my May list! 


Out of these books, I think that Songs of Willow Frost was my favorite. It was just such a cool story -- but SO tragic! It was beautifully written and I'm glad I read it. Thanks to my friend Beth for the recommendation! 


What was your favorite book this month? Have you read these titles before? 

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review 2014-04-29 04:02
Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Plot for Global Revolution
Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Plot for Global Revolution - Giles Milton
Russian Roulette tells the unknown story of a group of British spies smuggled into Soviet Russia on an undercover mission of vital importance.
They were tasked with thwarting Lenin’s Bolshevik-Islamic plot to topple British India and the Western democracies.
The British spies were self taught and well versed in dirty tricks. Over the next three years, they would be involved in murder, deception and duplicity on a grand scale. Living in disguise - and constantly switching identities - they would infiltrate Soviet commissariats, the Red Army and Cheka (secret police), and would come within a whisker of assassinating Lenin. The pinnacle of their achievement was to unpick Lenin’s plot for global revolution. Their work was to have an unexpected consequence, one that continues to influence our lives today.
Drawn from previously unknown secret documents held in the Indian Political Intelligence archives, Giles Milton gives a remarkable insight into the murky world of espionage, murder and deception that took place inside post-revolutionary Russia. (source)
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