The Dictator as a Young Poet-Thug

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Published: October 19, 2007

For decades historians accepted the portrait of Stalin painted by his rivals. He was, in the words of one political adversary, Nikolai Sukhanov, “a gray blur,” a mediocre party hack who managed, through stealth and intrigue, to wrest the levers of power from the brilliant revolutionaries surrounding him. History, in this case, was written by the losers, notably Leon Trotsky, who never could accept that he had been bested by a pockmarked thug from Georgia with shaky intellectual credentials.

more about “Young Stalin”, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s book here >>>

By Simon Sebag Montefiore
Illustrated. Alfred A. Knopf. 460 pages. $30.

An Excerpt From ‘Young Stalin’ (

‘Young Stalin’ by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Bloodthirsty dictators are made, not born

Sunday, November 04, 2007
By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Before he became Stalin — the man of steel — Josef Djugashvili had more than three dozen nicknames, aliases and pen names.
He was known to his family by the diminutive “Soso.” As a young poet, he published under the name “Soselo.” His other monikers ranged from Koba, the name of a Georgian folk hero, to Chopura (Pockmarked) and Kunkula (The Staggerer).

More: British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, who really could use a nickname of his own, runs through most of them in his engrossing biography of a monster in the making. While his topic is serious, his tone is never ponderous…

Len Barcousky can be reached at or 724-772-0184.

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