BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of "Stalin."
I read an article about you -- actually, you wrote it, and you said, I became so immersed in this
world that I had nightmares writing this book, and now on publication they have only just stopped. And I
know this was publicized over a year ago in England. Nightmares, why?
SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE, AUTHOR, "STALIN: THE COURT OF THE RED TSAR:"
Stalin was always -- Stalin was always obsessed with how people behaved at the supreme moment,
execution. And though he never attended any torture, any executions himself, he always wanted to know
how did they -- how did they behave at the supreme moment. And so obviously I had to pay attention to
some of the stories of how people behaved as they were about to be shot. And some were brave, some spat
at their executioners, some died praising Stalin, and some just lost it and wept and kissed the boots of their
And of course this entered my mind, as did all of this stuff. I mean, this whole weird world entered
my mind, and I began to have nightmares about it through the writing of this book.
LAMB: I have to admit I lost track through the book, there are so many names, so many stories.
What -- how did it you set it up when you went into it so that you could keep track of all of this?
MONTEFIORE: Well, what I wanted to do was show Stalin in a completely new light. And in
fact, some reviewers have said and they`ve got the point this this is the first intimate biography of Stalin and
his people around him, and that`s what it is. I mean, it`s intimate. It`s private. It`s the inner circles, the
inner world. I mean, we never knew any of this stuff before. And I must say, the result is unsettling. It is a
picture of -- it`s a chronicle of like debauchery, depravity, sadism, murder, luxury, power, privilege. And
these were really the most diabolical people ever to run a country, except the Nazis, I think.
LAMB: I want to show a picture of Nadia Stalin and ask you who she was and how many wives
did Stalin have?
MONTEFIORE: Yes. Nadia was Stalin`s much younger wife, 30 years younger than him. And
there she is on her deathbed. And she was the child of Bolshevik -- a Bolshevik family. Stalin may well
have had an affair with her mother when she was 3 years old, and Stalin had known her for all her life,
obviously, after she was 3. He was said to have rescued her from drowning as a child.
LAMB: When did she die?
MONTEFIORE: She died in 1932, the 8th of November, and she committed suicide.
MONTEFIORE: It was on the evening of a great party, and Bolsheviks were great partiers. They
had a great party at Voroshilov`s flat in the Kremlin, and afterwards she argued with Stalin, she went out,
she went back to her flat and she shot herself with a pistol. And no one found her until morning. And when
Stalin was informed, he was absolutely poleaxed by it.
LAMB: How long had they been married?
MONTEFIORE: They`ve been married for 12 years or so, just over, since 1918.
LAMB: And what was the difference in age?
MONTEFIORE: About 25, 30 years.
LAMB: And what was the relationship like?
MONTEFIORE: It was like -- it was a mosaic of like misery. She was a schizophrenic, she had
psychological problems, and he was of course impossible, rough, egocentric. So like moments of great
happiness. And we have all the love letters in the book, which are fascinating. That`s one of the great
things about this treasure trove of material on which the book is based.
And other times, you know, great unhappiness, great happiness, great love, and also sort of a
rising, a rising disquiet, leading to this tragic end.
LAMB: His first marriage?
MONTEFIORE: First marriage. Katya Svanidze. A young, educated girl, Georgian, dies after
just two years of marriage of tuberculosis. He afterwards says, "I`ll never recover from this. My stony
heart will never recover, will be cold forever."
LAMB: And did he marry again?
MONTEFIORE: Yes, then he married Nadia.
LAMB: I mean, but after that?
MONTEFIORE: No. There were a lot of stories that he married a Jewish wife, the sister of
Kaganovich, one of his closest -- closest colleagues who was Jewish. And this was put around by the Nazis.
But in fact, he was surrounded by Jewish women, you know, throughout the `30s, but he didn`t marry again.
He started an affair with his sister-in-law after Nadia`s death and when that finished he then began a secret
affair with his housekeeper, Valechka.
LAMB: How was it secret and when did you find out about it?
MONTEFIORE: Well, that`s fascinating. I mean, no one had really -- no one had really found out
much about Valechka, but in fact she was a smiling, easygoing, very discrete peasant woman who adored
Stalin and she looked after Stalin`s -- all his appetites, his daughter said. She looked after his cooking, she
looked after -- she folded up his underwear, which she was very proud of. He liked everything kept very
tidy. He ironed his tunics, and she was always smiling, and she never discussed politics with him unless he
And there were various moments in the history of this amazing country when he did actually
consult Valechka. For example, when he was about to leave Moscow in October, 1941, great moment,
decisive moment of the war, and a moment which could have changed the whole history of our time. He
said to her, "what do the common people say, Valechka, what is everyone saying, should we leave
Moscow?" She said, "absolutely not," she said. And that made an impression on him.
Of course, the irony was that when Churchill and people like that were with Stalin, meeting with
Stalin and this sort of buxom peasant woman came in in her white tunic serving the food, none of them
realized that this woman was Stalin`s secret mistress.
LAMB: You say in one of the footnotes that she never talked about it.
MONTEFIORE: She never talked about it. She never spoke. But when we looked into it -- and I
interviewed many of the people, I interviewed virtually everyone alive who knew Stalin intimately,
including some of the top officials who were still alive. And of course, all of them remembered her and
knew about this. They said to me, "Stalin didn`t have a private life. He was a public figure." But when you
started to talk to them about it, that was the official sort of communist line, of course, which was rubbish.
But when you actually went further than that and you penetrated and you got their trust, they would
remember Valechka and talk about Valechka. She was quite a character.
LAMB: By the way, at this stage, if you had to write another book off of one of the characters in
this one, who would you pick?
MONTEFIORE: It would have to be Beria. Beria is the most fascinating. After Stalin, Beria was
the most gifted, the most gifted of these people and the most appalling. I mean, he was just a diabolical
figure. Super intelligent, a brilliant manager. And his daughter-in-law, who is one of the people -- who had
never been interviewed before who I found, she -- she said that if Beria had come to America, he would
have risen to be chairman of General Motors, which is interesting.
LAMB: I think we have a picture of him, we`ll put it on the screen. What was he like?
MONTEFIORE: Beria. He was coarse...
LAMB: Which one is he in this?
MONTEFIORE: He`s the one on the right, holding his hat. That`s typical Beria. While Molotov,
who is in the middle, is wearing -- looks like a clerk on Wall Street. Beria on the right looks sort of a
southern, sort of Italian wine grower, and he always wore no tie, a soft hat. And he is pretty fat. And he has
pince-nez glinting in the sun. Beria is visiting Berlin right at the end of the war, a triumphant visit.
He was a pervert, of course, a rapist, someone who drove the streets of Moscow in his black
limousine picking up girls, sending his bodyguards to pick up girls whom he raped.
LAMB: How do you know that?
MONTEFIORE: We`ve talked to a lot of them, and we`ve found a lot of them. And, of course,
when they said they were raped -- this is one of the interesting things. The secret police chiefs had a special
sort of power over life and death, and they could say, I know your father is in prison, if you don`t want him
shot, perhaps you`d like to do something for me.
And so they were great debauchers, these people. I mean, he was priapic, he was obsessed with
women. He caught VD twice during the war, which was a great embarrassment, of course, but Stalin heard
He was -- he was a sadist personally. He would torture people himself. He was very creative
about it. When he heard that one woman hated snakes, he had snakes put in her cell.
He was a great poisoner. He had people poisoned. He belonged in the history of the Borgias.
And yet he was super capable, super intelligent. Nothing was beyond his capabilities. He was quite
educated. He was an architect, and he was a lovely sort of father and husband, and also a father-in-law. I`m
very lucky that I managed to find one of the great contributors to this book is his daughter-in-law, who lived
in his house with him, for eight years and so knew him very well.
LAMB: What is her name?
MONTEFIORE: She`s called Marfa Peshkova. She`s also Gorky -- Maxim Gorky`s
granddaughter, so she knew Stalin from childhood. Then she was Svetlana Stalin`s best friend. Then
Svetlana Stalin was in love with Beria`s son and wanted to marry him, but Marfa Peshkova did marry him
and joined the Beria family. And of course, part of this, I`ve gotten to know the Beria grandchildren and
great grandchildren. So I know the Beria family. Not something I ever thought I`d boast of.
But, you know, fascinating people. You can see from that how incestuous this little world was,
what a bizarre tiny little world of seething hatreds, incestuous relationships this was.
LAMB: Beria did what, what was his highest rank?
MONTEFIORE: He was a Politburo member. He was secret police chief from 1938. First of all,
he ran Georgia in the 1930s, which was the sort of the country on the Black Sea where Stalin came from,
part of the Soviet Union. And then he was promoted to -- in 1938 -- to be head of the secret police. And
then he became a really fearsome character. I mean, people were terrified of him. He continued the terror.
He was a brilliant administrator of terror. And later he ran the nuclear bomb administration. So it was
thanks to him that the Soviet Union got the A-Bomb. And of course, that was his huge contribution to
history and he knew that. He knew if he failed as well he might well lose his head for it.
LAMB: Where did you find Marfa Peshkova?
MONTEFIORE: All of them were through sort of friends of friends of friends. This little world of
families that knew Stalin is still intact and they all still know each other, and it`s very hard to get to them. I
mean, some of them are quite well known. There are various ones who appear in every documentary. But
the really interesting ones have never really spoken before. And I had to win their trust. And that`s quite a
difficult thing to do.
But gradually I went from one to the other. It`s very -- you have to get one, and when you got one,
then they`d say, have you spoken to so-and-so? And I would say, like, no, I`d love to, are they still alive,
you know? And they`d say, yes, they`re still alive, we can -- I`ll call them right now. So it was like putting
together a sort of mosaic.
LAMB: Do you speak Russian?
MONTEFIORE: Quite badly, but good enough to -- good enough to get to know these people.
LAMB: Where did you find her?
MONTEFIORE: Marfa Peshkova?
LAMB: Yes, physically, where is she?
MONTEFIORE: She is still living on Gorky`s, her grandfather`s, estate, which is just outside
Moscow. Gorky the most famous writer of the Stalin period. And -- so she was like a child of complete
privilege. She was the ultimate Soviet princess. I mean, she and Stalin`s daughter -- it was not for nothing
they were best friends, they were the two -- they were the children of the two most -- they were the families
of the two most famous people in the Soviet Union.
LAMB: And you talked to Svetlana -- or did you talk to Svetlana?
MONTEFIORE: Right, I never spoke to Svetlana.
LAMB: But you told a very interesting story in here about where she is today and where she lives.
Trace that one.
MONTEFIORE: Well, she`s been all over the place. You know, she`s had a -- she`s had a very
turbulent life, I think. She`s in Wisconsin now, I believe. And I did try -- I approached her, but I think
she`s just tired of being Stalin`s daughter, which is understandable.
She left the Soviet Union twice, she married an American at one point, called Peters. She returned
to Russia, she returned to -- she was in England. She`s been everywhere. And recently she just moved to
America. She`s had a terrible life and, you know, being Stalin`s family has been a sort of curse.
That`s partly of what this book is a story of, it`s of the families, you know, the women, the wives
especially. And -- but also it`s about what it was like to be a child. You know, there were about 20 people
in this inner circle, and they`ve known each other for 30 years. And they rose to power, and they killed
millions of people, and then they started killing each other. And that`s the story.
So it was a very peculiar and extraordinary and unique time in history that these people grew up.
And that`s why to this day they`re linked together, and why one had to immerse oneself in this to try to
imagine how it felt to be there. And I think, you know, the materials that I had, both interviews and these
new archives and the visits to the houses and so on really -- I mean, one had to have all three to really put
this together, and create this new picture of what it was like in the -- in Stalin`s court.
LAMB: Because you were talking about Beria, go to the end, at Stalin`s last couple of days.
LAMB: And set that up. By the way, before you do that, how long did he live? Stalin?
MONTEFIORE: Seventy-four years.
LAMB: From when to when?
MONTEFIORE: 1878 to 1953; 5th of March, 1953, he died.
LAMB: And how much -- how many of those years was he in power?
MONTEFIORE: Well, he was really in power for much earlier than anyone realized. Lenin died
in 1924, but one of the interesting things when you look at this, he was really running the Soviet Union from
1923, as the first of a small group of people.
From 1929, he was the leader. And from 1937, he was the leader with absolute power of life and
death over everybody. So it was a sort of -- grew -- it was very slow. He was very cautious. Extremely
clever politician. Subtle. And he meandered his way to where he wanted to get to.
And that`s one of the things that`s different in this book, by the way, about him. Normally it`s just
presented he just bursts on the scene, after Lenin`s death as this kind of dreaded, satanic, omniscient, sort of
demigod, seething with evil -- evil and absolute power. Not true. And one of the things this shows is that
until 1937, when he suddenly unleashed this great terror, he wasn`t a figure of fear to people at all. In fact,
they were so intimate with him, they were happy with, you know, they felt very comfortable with him. And
indeed, you know, one of the fascinating things I found was in 1935, when most books said the terror had
already began and everyone was quivering with fear, he invited the Svanidzes, who were a couple who were
very close to him, I`ve always -- they were family, invited them to dinner. They forgot to turn up. They
forgot to turn up to dinner with Stalin, you know, which gives you an idea. They were so comfortable with
him. They remembered two hours later and they turned up. Stalin was grumbly and playing billiards with
Well, these people were shot two years later, or arrested two years later and they were shot. Not
for missing dinner, but because they interfered with Stalin`s feeling of separateness, his messianic mission.
He felt very special. It wasn`t for nothing that, you know, we discovered that he loved watching John Ford,
American movies, directed by John Ford, often with John Wayne in them. He loved that because that`s
exactly how he saw himself, it turns out, as sort of a lone cowboy, always alone, no family, an invented
name, no friends. Just the mission. Riding alone into town, gun-slinging, you know, ready to shoot out at
anything. That was him, a Marxist cowboy. And that`s in a way how he saw himself, and why he spent his
last eight years just watching cowboy film after cowboy film, night after night, running the Soviet Union
from his private cinema. That`s one -- that`s the sort of -- that`s very much the picture after the war.
LAMB: So at the end, where is he?
MONTEFIORE: He`s at his house in Kuntzevo.
LAMB: Kuntzevo is...
MONTEFIORE: His dacha just outside Moscow. One of the things one discovers in this story is
that Stalin didn`t really live in the Kremlin. I mean, Russians thought he lived in the Kremlin and everyone
else thought he lived, but in fact he lived at these country houses. And his main residence in -- around
Moscow was Kuntzevo. This two-story, rather ugly mansion, which he built for himself after his wife`s
death and moved in there. And that`s where he lived. He used to shut himself in at night. Guards were in
the guard houses right about. And inside his house, he had two dining rooms, various bedrooms and a
library, his beloved library, and a cottage next to it.
LAMB: Have you been there?
MONTEFIORE: No, I haven`t been there. It`s closed. And in fact, no connections I could pull
would get me there. But what is marvelous is that I`ve -- he had exactly the same house built in the south,
15 of these different houses. Some of them are imperial palaces converted. Some of them are special Stalin
houses, built for him.
And I`ve been to all of them. And in fact, there`s a story which is just kind of interesting and talks
about how relevant Stalin is today.
I went down to these 15 houses, which are fascinating. I photographed them in the book. And no
one has ever been there. And when I was going around them, I had to fly by U.N. helicopter into this bandit
torn republic, called Abkhazia, on the Black Sea, which is beautiful, but in a terrible situation.
I went round to all the houses, extraordinary buildings, all of them. And as I went around, I said to
one of the old ladies who was caring for them, I said, by the way, has anyone been here? Worried that, you
know, Taubman (ph) or Anne Applebaum, or Richard Pipes could have been there the day before. And
they said, no, no, no, no one has been here for years. They said, in fact you`re the only person to see all of
them, except in the 1970s, we had an Arab visitor, an Arab gentleman who came. And he insisted on seeing
every single house that Stalin lived in. And I said, "who was that?" And they said, "Saddam Hussein."
And of course, Saddam was obsessed with Stalin. And based himself on Stalin. And in fact they
were born about 500 miles apart, if you look at the map, Tikrit, Gori, very close.
And interesting, I`ve spoken to some people recently who have been talking to -- who were talking
to people who were close to Saddam. And apparently he read every single book on Stalin, converted into
Arabic. And more than that, on his last, you know, years, he was constantly saying, "I study Stalin because
there`s a man who was in power for 30 years and died peacefully in his bed." Neither of which Stalin -- or
Saddam is going to achieve, I think.
LAMB: We may never get to the death scene.
LAMB: No, I want to ask you, though, about the U.N. helicopter. How did you get the U.N. to fly
MONTEFIORE: You had to sort of -- you had to -- I had to sort of negotiate with them for ages.
LAMB: Why would they even take you in at all?
MONTEFIORE: I don`t know. I managed to get them to. I -- that`s one of the things you have to
-- these books are like detective stories. You know, you have to, the answer is, I got the British ambassador
to ask them to take me in. The British ambassador to Georgia, which is now an independent country.
But you now, this book was such an adventure. I mean, everything about it was an adventure, you
know, whether an intellectual adventure or a physical adventure. This was part of the physical adventure.
And it was quite scary, because the U.N. helicopters have been shot down recently by sort of no one knows
who by, just shot out of the sky. They`re Russian helicopters, so they`re terrifying to travel in, in the first
place. There is always sort of fuel leaking of somewhere, you know.
But I had to get to these houses. And in fact, it was very important. So much of what happened,
especially after the war, so much of the Cold War, the Korean War, Stalin`s part in the Korean War,
happened at these houses in the south. Stalin was there for six months of every year after the war. So you
know, it was very, very important that I got to see these places.
LAMB: Did he go to all 15?
MONTEFIORE: All of them, all the time. He moved around all the time. And in every room, he
slept in every room. And he had all sorts of strange little details I discovered. Like for example, the baths
were all kept tiny. Because they were made exactly to fit him. And he was just a -- he was sort of just not
much over 5 foot. Tiny. And so the baths, actually all of them, were exactly his size. I got into one of
these baths. And I could hardly sort, I couldn`t lie down in it. You know, it was tiny.
LAMB: By the way, you say in your book he was 5`6.
MONTEFIORE: Just a bit over 5 foot. That`s right.
LAMB: And so the U.N. flew you to each one of them?
MONTEFIORE: No, they flew me in and then they said, we can`t guarantee your safety in this
place. But you`re on your own now. And I met up with this sort of Abkhazian professor, who`s called
Slava Lakova (ph), who knew this story, these places inside-out. He`s the sort of expert there locally.
He took me round to all of these houses. And they are, some of them are very beautiful houses.
It`s normally written that they`re very grim, ugly, you know, sort of -- but in fact they`re rather beautiful.
But the fascinating thing about all of them is that they`re all invisible. Wherever you are, looking up, you
can`t see them. And yet from that -- he obviously chose them as areas (ph), you know, like Hitler, he loved
being in the sky. You know, and they`re really beautiful. They often have sort of summer houses built on
the edge of a cliff, overhanging the sea. They always had their own paths and little pagodas. And often
Stalin would walk down these little paths and have a picnic outside. I mean, the Stalin of Georgia was
different than the grim character we think of him in Moscow.
LAMB: So the death bed.
MONTEFIORE: Yes, the death bed.
LAMB: It was a quiet death scene.
MONTEFIORE: Well, you got to picture this scene, it`s extraordinary. Stalin is now getting old.
He`s getting forgetful. But he`s still, he`s 74 years old. He`s still the great manager of struggle of terror.
He`s still running this campaign against the -- basically it`s an anti-American campaign, against the Jews,
against his own doctors, against his own colleagues. And he`s running this sort of anti-Zionist doctor`s plot.
And he`s suffering from arteriosclerosis. And when his doctors tell him, they say, you`ve got to stop
working so much, you`re suffering from severe arteriosclerosis, he had them arrested. He saw that as an
attempted sort of coup against himself -- quite rightly, because if he had to work less, were they taking
power away from him?
So he was actually in a very good mood, he loved running a purge, running a terror campaign.
You know, he was never happier when he was administering a new sort of terror intrigue. And at the height
of this he has dinner with his usual four companions, Khrushchev, Malenkov, Beria, Bulganin and himself,
and they have that dinner, they get drunk, they talk about these -- they talk about the interrogations of the
LAMB: This is the March of...
MONTEFIORE: This is the 28th of February...
LAMB: ... `53?
MONTEFIORE: 28th of February, 1953. And they`re at the dacha, they`re drinking wine and
they drink until four in the morning, or whatever.
LAMB: Eisenhower has just become president?
MONTEFIORE: Eisenhower had just become president. And the height of the Cold War; the
Korean War is going on and American troops are there. Chinese troops are there.
LAMB: Let me ask you about Bulganin was what at that point?
MONTEFIORE: Bulganin was top Politburo member and ran the Defense Ministry at various
MONTEFIORE: Khrushchev was a senior party official running Moscow. Malenkov was Stalin`s
sort of deputy in the party. Beria was not head of the secret police at this point. Beria was head of the
nuclear project and ran a huge part of the economy. He was deputy prime minister. Stalin was prime
minister and head of the party, secretary-general of the party.
LAMB: You say in your book that Stalin and Beria despised each other.
MONTEFIORE: They did.
LAMB: Did they know -- I mean, either -- did they know about the other? Despising them?
MONTEFIORE: Yeah, I think they did. I mean, Stalin was kind of -- the trouble is, that Stalin
was ultimately a practical politician. And he knew that there were plenty of useless people around. But
Beria was the most -- was the most efficient, was the most brilliant sidekick, so he didn`t want to get rid of
him. But he wanted to make sure that he stayed, you know, submissive.
But yes, they hated each other. Beria had once loved Stalin. But he came to despise him. And
Stalin regarded him as a sort of vulgar policeman.
LAMB: We have a picture of Stalin marching in his white outfit there.
MONTEFIORE: That`s a great picture, isn`t it? And that picture is soon after the war -- now, that
is Stalin`s generalissimus uniform, which was specially designed for him. He feared that he looked like a
band leader in it. And he sort of told officers reporting into his office to model it for him, and he kept
saying -- but in the end he wore it.
LAMB: Now, in that picture, far left is?
MONTEFIORE: Far left -- Mikoyan is on the far left. Dapper, Armenian, very clever, very wily.
The man who survived until Brezhnev`s time, the great survivor of Soviet Politburo.
LAMB: We saw Anastas Mikoyan forever in our lives.
MONTEFIORE: Yeah. He came to JFK`s funeral. He was Khrushchev`s representative at JFK`s
funeral, so he was -- he`s part of American history too.
LAMB: So he was at JFK`s funeral; he was also at Lenin`s funeral.
MONTEFIORE: He carried -- that`s right. He`s an amazing character. He carried Lenin`s coffin
and he attended Jack Kennedy`s funeral. That gives you an idea of his span, his political span. A giant of
the 20th century.
LAMB: To his left, our right, who is that?
MONTEFIORE: Khrushchev. Nikita Khrushchev. Toothy, bald, jag-eared bumpkin, cunning,
tireless and a Stalinist fanatic.
LAMB: And to Stalin`s right?
MONTEFIORE: Malenkov, flappy, nicknamed "broad-hipped." Didn`t need to shave. A
horrible, sinister character, known by all by the feminine nickname, Melanie, for his feminine -- femininity,
LAMB: And who is the gentleman next to him?
MONTEFIORE: Beria. Very unusually dressed as a marshal of the Soviet Union. And we`ve
talked about Beria -- pervert, predator, sadist, brilliant manager.
LAMB: On his left, our right.
MONTEFIORE: Molotov, the foreign minister. Actually, the foreign minister -- very famous,
obeying diplomat. Very cold, ruthless, the rod spear of the Soviet leadership.
LAMB: OK, back to February...
MONTEFIORE: 28. We`re at dinner, we`re drinking. The other four leave.
LAMB: When you say drinking, that`s a theme throughout this whole book.
MONTEFIORE: The drinking gets worse and worse and worse.
LAMB: How much do they -- what do they drink?
MONTEFIORE: Well, they drink -- they drank a lot of vodka, a lot of brandy. And they drink a
lot of Georgian wine, and they also love champanskoe, you know, Crimean champaign which Stalin adored.
But Stalin himself by this time was drinking very little. He drank what he called juice, which was sort of
Georgian wine with water in it. The others were expected to drink heavily. And they were often sick. You
know, these were vomit-flecked routes. You know, they would often be made to drink and drink and drink,
and they would often vomit at the table, or just stagger out and...
LAMB: How do you know that?
MONTEFIORE: We know from all the memoirs of the different people. We`ve -- there`s no
doubt about it, there`s absolute strong evidence for this. They would dance together.
LAMB: The men?
MONTEFIORE: The men would dance, because there were no women at these dinners by the end.
I mean, these were extraordinary scenes. These were bacchanals.
MONTEFIORE: There was slow dancing between men. And in fact, they would often use that to
sort of whisper -- Molotov would like to slow-dance with one of the Polish communist leaders, and he
would whisper -- he`d whisper in his ear, "you`ve got enemies in your army, find them." And then Stalin
would -- the Polish guy would look up and Stalin would be -- would be nodding, because he would have
organized this little moment, you know.
So these dinners were extraordinary, you know. In fact, Stalin`s daughter, Svetlana, would
sometimes come down and she said it was like the boyars of Peter the Great, it was such -- it was appalling.
Stalin`s secretary, Poskrebyshev, would be, would be dragged out. He was always made to drink the most.
He was made to sort of bump a whole glass of champaign.
LAMB: While we`re on that name, we may or may not get to the death. And while we`re on that
name, say it again, because it was the hardest name to pronounce.
LAMB: Who -- who was he?
MONTEFIORE: He was a key person who no one really knows (ph), but he was an extremely
ugly little man. Once a medical orderly, who was Stalin`s chef de cabinet...
LAMB: Chief of staff.
MONTEFIORE: Chief of staff. I mean, he was really his chief of staff, when the chief of staff at
the White House is a huge, well-known public official. But in their world, the chef de cabinet, the chief of
staff, was this kind of secret person. And he really ran Stalin`s complete political world for him and did
LAMB: Who was in his family?
MONTEFIORE: Well, he had a -- he had a very pretty wife.
LAMB: What was her name?
MONTEFIORE: Who was called Ronka. And she was like -- Jewish, like many of the women
around these people, she was Jewish, flirtatious, sort of semi-Polish -- she was Lithuanian, which was, you
know, sort of Polish-Lithuanian, from a good family. And she had married into this terrible group of
And she was like, she was great fun, Stalin liked her. She was flirtatious with Stalin. But she was
distantly related to Trotsky, fatal, fatal thing to be. Very distantly, something like her sister`s husband was -
- his sister was married to the son of Trotsky -- Trotksy`s son. So it was very diffuse.
LAMB: Why is that bad?
MONTEFIORE: Stalin was obsessed with Trotsky. Trotsky was his great villain, the great enemy.
And Stalin had made his career by basically destroying Trotsky.
LAMB: Who killed Trotsky?
MONTEFIORE: Stalin ordered it. He tried to kill him umpteen times, and finally called in Beria
and Sudoplatov, who was this sort of master of special tasks in the secret police. And he said, just destroy
him, I want him done. Executed in 1940. They found him, they knew where he was, of course, and they
infiltrated someone into his circle, and then they killed him with an ice axe.
Stalin was thrilled with that. He gave medals to all the people involved.
LAMB: In Mexico?
MONTEFIORE: In Mexico City, yes.
LAMB: I really can`t pronounce that name. It`s?
LAMB: What happened to his wife?
MONTEFIORE: Well, she made a -- her brother was also arrested. And he was a Kremlin doctor.
A top Kremlin doctor. And so she went to Stalin, to ask for -- for his release. And some people say that
they had an affair, which I think is very unlikely probably. But she then went to Beria to ask for the release,
and Beria arrested her. And of course her husband was just desperate to get her released and went to Stalin,
and went to Beria and begged them to release her. And Stalin said, I`m sorry, but -- I`m sorry, Sasha, that`s
what he called him, I`m sorry, Sasha, but you know, if you really miss her, we`ll find you another wife.
Typical Stalin sort of horrible dry joke, gallows humor.
And she was kept in prison, and gradually, you know, his chief of staff realized that his wife was
never going to come back. And she was kept in prison. She was interrogated as a Trotskyite, and as a Pole,
and as Jew. I mean, she had a lot of things working against her. And as someone who had asked Stalin to
release her brother. Stalin hated women coming to him and asking him these embarrassing questions. He
resented this enormously. And Poskrebyshev continued to work as Stalin`s loyal, dogged chief of staff.
LAMB: Did he like him?
MONTEFIORE: He loved him, he worshiped him.
LAMB: Even though he took his wife away from him?
MONTEFIORE: He thought that was business as usual. And one of the key things in this book to
understand is that these weren`t like normal people, they weren`t like normal politicians. They talked about
themselves, these Bolsheviks, as knights in shining armor who would chop off what is rotten. They
regarded themselves as a sort of order, armed order of warrior priests. And they believed fanatically in
Marxism-Leninism, which meant the random destruction of classes of people now, in order to create the
perfect workers` paradise later.
LAMB: Did he ever get his wife back?
MONTEFIORE: No. She was kept in prison. And just as Stalin -- and the second world war
begun, when -- after Hitler had invaded in 1941, Stalin had her shot. And of course, Poskrebyshev knew
nothing about this. And never quite knew what had happened to her. But he knew that she had crossed that
terrible line. Because in this group of people, you were a leader. You called all the other leaders comrade,
or by their first names. When you were arrested and you were named as an enemy of the people, you just
disappeared; you crossed the line from being a sort of -- one of these citizens, one of these leaders, an
aristocrat, really, a member of this order of armed -- of armed maniacs, as it were. You crossed that line
and you became nothing. Like dust. And in fact, they often used to say, Beria, who behaved like a film
noir villain all the time, used to say to people, I`ll grind you, I`ll grind you into camp dust. Which was just
typical of these sort of horrible people.
LAMB: OK. February 28...
MONTEFIORE: We`ve got to get there.
LAMB: They`re drinking, and they`re drinking a lot.
MONTEFIORE: They`re drinking a lot, and they`re talking about the doctor`s confession, Stalin
saying, have you managed to beat -- you`ve got to beat a confession out of these doctors. Have they
admitted yet being agents of the American Zionist conspiracy? And they were talking about that. They
talked about the Korean War, apparently, about how it was time to -- maybe it was time to make peace. But
Stalin said, no, it`s better if we just keep bleeding the West, and just keep it going longer.
And they split in the early hours. And by about 6:00 the next night, you know, a whole day had
gone past. They were always waiting to hear from Stalin, but no one had heard from him. And sometime at
that -- sometime during that day, Stalin suffered a stroke. He was in his pajamas, and he was holding up a
newspaper and a bottle of -- a bottle of mineral water. And he was running around in his private
apartments. And he fell down. He was soaked in his own urine. And he was lying there and he couldn`t
move. He was awake, and he was waiting to be discovered.
And the bodyguards were getting very nervous. Because they never went in until they were called.
And they waited and waited and waited. And finally they went in and they saw him. They crept in. The
post arrived, so they had an excuse to go in. And then they found him there lying in his pajamas. They
were terrified. They immediately rang up Beria and Malenkov and all these characters. And they were all
terrified too, because the doctors had just been arrested for saying he was ill. So they had to make damn
sure he really was ill before they did anything.
And that`s why Stalin was sort of left for 12 hours, effectively, lying in his own urine, waiting to be
got up, getting colder and colder. I mean, his staff lifted him up and put him on a sofa. And then after a
LAMB: By the way, you have a picture in the book of the sofa?
MONTEFIORE: I do, yes, I have a picture of the sofa.
LAMB: And you say he had those everywhere?
MONTEFIORE: He had them everywhere. I`ve seen many of them. And they`re all the same,
they`re all huge. You can actually sleep on them. And he moved around, and he said -- he said -- I always
move around. He told visitors, he used to say, I don`t sleep in the beds here, he said, I sleep on the sofas.
And I move around, every night I sleep in a different one.
He always went to sleep reading. You know, he was an obsessional reader. He`d just lie there.
He was an insomniac. He told Churchill, he said, I never get to sleep until 4:00 at least. That`s why he had
these dinners. And then he`d just -- he`d just read a history book or literature or something, and then he
would just -- he`d finally fall asleep wherever he happened to be. That was the way he liked it.
It was a habit he`d got. You know, these people were formed by their life as underground,
itinerant revolutionaries. And Stalin never really lost the habits of his itinerant -- being an itinerant
revolutionary. He loved that, he loved that life, really. He was born for it. And so even when he was
leader of the greatest empire in the world, he still lived in that way. But of course, on a vast scale, with 15
or 20 houses, kept staff at all times.
But anyway, to get back to the death. Anyway, so there you have him. He`s lying on the floor.
He`s lying on the floor, sort of begging to be got up. He can`t speak, he`s had his stroke. He`s had a huge
stroke. A fatal stroke. And ...
LAMB: By the way, you say that he had a pulse of 78 and his blood pressure was 190 over 110.
LAMB: And normal is what, 120 over 70 or something?
MONTEFIORE: Yeah. I`m not sure what stage that is, but whenever he was first examined
medially, I guess...
LAMB: It was early.
MONTEFIORE: Yeah, but this -- this, when we`re talking, he still hasn`t even been -- he still
hasn`t been really sort of -- no one -- no doctors have seen him yet. They`re just waiting to see, they think
he might just have a hangover, and they`re waiting to see if he`s going to wake up. And meanwhile, none of
them dare go in. They come and they go, and Beria meets Khrushchev, and Khrushchev -- they can`t find
Beria at first, but he`s clearly with some woman. He has got this -- at this time, by the way, he had a 14-
year-old mistress, a gorgeous 14-year-old mistress.
MONTEFIORE: Yes, 14-year-old mistress, who was absolutely -- absolutely beautiful girl.
LAMB: And how old would he have been?
MONTEFIORE: Oh, well, he was 53, 54. And she was kept in all the finest houses, and she had
her own driver. You know, this was sort of -- you know, this was really -- wasn`t a very communist life they
were leading by this point. You know, this is really about privilege, about a ruling class.
But anyway, they finally found Beria. And he said, just leave him, be careful. Don`t go in there.
And finally, they waited until the staff were desperate. The staff kept ringing, saying, we`ve got to have a
doctor. you know, we think he really is ill. So finally the leaders drove up outside.
LAMB: The four?
MONTEFIORE: The four. And they have this frantic negotiation about what, who would go in.
And then in the end, they crept in, Beria and Malenkov, the dominant people, really, sort of the two leading
officials, crept in. And Beria was typical Beria, sort of arrogant and haughty. Malenkov, who was sort of
Melanie Malenkov, as he was nicknamed by the other leaders, took his shoes off, typically, and carried
them. So he was walking along in his socks. He was terrified of -- terrified of Stalin waking up and asking
what he was doing there.
And they looked in. And finally they began to figure out that maybe he was ill. They decided,
let`s wait until morning, so we`ll see what`s happened. So now we`re really talking, it`s many hours since
Stalin has had the stroke. And in the morning, it`s clear that he really is ill. They call the doctors. The
leaders turn up. And then they begin fighting for the -- for the succession. And they begin to make deals.
Then you`ve got Stalin`s son, Vasily, drunk, drunk, useless son, coming in, shouting at them all,
"you bastards have killed my father." You`ve got Khrushchev and Beria bargaining in the back, you know,
in the back room, there are all these doctors, young doctors hanging around. The specialist doctors are too
frightened to touch him. In fact, when they started to examine him, their hands were shaking so much that
they couldn`t get his shirt off. He was wearing a shirt now, they put on a -- they put a dressing gown on
him, he was cold when they found him, you see.
And so they -- they said, go on, examine him. And this -- this specialist, this professor started sort
of trying to -- just -- he had these scissors, he was going to try and cut the shirt off. And he just dropped it.
So Beria said to him, pull yourself together, examine him properly. He`s your patient. So...
LAMB: By the way, how old was Vasily, his son, then?
MONTEFIORE: Oh, Vasily was 1921, so he was 30, you know, he was in his 30`s. `21 to `53, he
was -- yeah, he was -- and -- he was in his 30s. And then they tried to get his false teeth out.
LAMB: We have a picture of Vasily.
MONTEFIORE: There he is, there he is, the crown prince as he was known by all the inner circle.
LAMB: By the way, hold the false teeth story, because while you`re on him just for a moment,
what was the Mayday story when he was fired because of the bombers?
MONTEFIORE: He was grossly overpromoted. He really was ridiculously spoiled. Half-
terrified, half a complete bully. Typical mixture, dictator`s son. He was sort of Uday, the Uday of Saddam
Hussein of the regime, if you like.
And he was drunk; he was a general of the Air Force. And he had -- he was always flying drunk.
And typically, during a very bad weather, he gave orders that these bombers could fly over the flight path
on Red Square, which we`ve all seen on the news, where the leaders from Lenin`s Mausoleum view these
fly passes and parades. And two of the planes crashed, or one of the planes crashed. And Stalin was
furious and sacked him.
And then -- then Stalin had to face up to the fact that Vasily was a completely chronic alcoholic.
And then Stalin insisted on putting him -- Stalin was very concerned. And he put him into the sort of Soviet
version of the Betty Ford Clinic, which was, you know, obviously this whole group of people were such a
collection of sort of murderers, drunks, sadists. I mean, you know, they were just -- they were just a group
of sort of degenerates, essentially. And Vasily Stalin was the classic. And it wasn`t for nothing they called
him the crown prince.
LAMB: Let me read from the death chapter. Once it was proved that he was incapacitated, Beria,
quote, "spewed forth his hatred of Stalin," end quote. But whenever his eyelids flickered or his eyes
opened, Beria, terrified that he would recover, quote, "knelt and kissed his hand like an oriental -- what is
MONTEFIORE: Vizier, yeah.
LAMB: At a sultan`s bedside."
MONTEFIORE: That`s right, that`s right.
LAMB: But you have a couple of occasions in here when Beria -- when his eyelids were closed,
he`d think he was dead, he would start screaming hatred to him.
MONTEFIORE: Yeah. I mean, he`d say -- you know, he was basically sort of saying, "die, you
revolting old man," when Stalin was unconscious. And when his eyelids flickered, he`d throw himself on
the floor, kiss his hand, saying, "Comrade Stalin, we long for you to return, and will come back, and you
know, will you lead us?" And Beria is a film noir character.
Of course, this was Beria`s undoing. He wasn`t sensible. He couldn`t help showing off. He
thought he was cleverer than everybody else. He frightened everybody else, and that was -- that doomed
him in the end.
LAMB: You also say here that perhaps 20 million had been killed, 28 million deported, of whom
18 million had slaved in the gulags. Yet, after so much slaughter, they were still believers.
LAMB: Did you have a total figure of how many humans Stalin was responsible for killing,
murdering or starving?
MONTEFIORE: You know, we`ll never know.
LAMB: What`s your best guess?
MONTEFIORE: I think something like 30 million. I think something like 30 million. But that
line is one of the most important in the book. After they say 30 million had died, after 30 million had been
through camps and deportation, yes, so we`re talking 60 million victims of this -- of this monstrous regime,
these absolutely diabolical characters, they still believed. They believed until they died. They were
absolute fanatics. That`s the key. They were religious fanatics. And they had much more in common with
the Taliban or the ayatollahs, or Osama bin Laden in a way than they did with a secular party.
They talked all the time about this. As I said, they talked -- when Stalin was killing people, I found
notes in these amazing archives which I found, which I was using, in which he said, we`ve got to kill these
people. We`ve got to finish them off because they`ve lost faith. Which is interesting, interesting choice of
LAMB: So the teeth, the false teeth?
MONTEFIORE: We`re back at the bedside now, and they`ve just managed to shakily take off
Stalin`s shirt, they are so frightened. And then when it`s time to take out the teeth, they`re so frightened
they drop the teeth. They take out Stalin`s false teeth and drop them on the floor. Stalin`s dentures go
clattering across the -- across the floor of the dacha. And then they begin to -- you know, then they finally --
Stalin lies there. And they begin -- the doctors begin to examine him. And they find that he`s incapacitated,
as you said. And that Stalin is never going to come back.
And then they begin this sort of -- they actually keep him alive longer, rather like they did with
Mao, Chairman Mao, and with Brezhnev, in fact, and with Marshal Tito. It`s a sort of feature of these little
regimes. They keep him alive especially longer in order to check that everything is settled. The collective
leadership is in place.
And of course, they bargained to let each other off the blame for various atrocities as well. Deals
are being made. And the old man`s breathing there, surrounded by his daughter, the drunk son, Vasily, and
all the leadership. Fascinating moment.
LAMB: When does he die?
MONTEFIORE: He dies in the evening of the 5th of March, 1953. And Beria has managed to
secure for himself the dominant position of control of all the security services, the whole gulag empire, as
well as being -- keep being the deputy prime minister.
LAMB: "Beria darted forward and ritually kissed the warm body first, the equivalent of wrenching
a dead king`s ring off his finger."
LAMB: Where did you find that?
MONTEFIORE: Well, I said that it was the equivalent of taking, you known, how they used to rip
LAMB: In other words, where did you find the story of the details on that?
MONTEFIORE: There are various -- there are all sorts of accounts. I mean, Mikoyan left an
account; Kaganovich left an account; Svetlana left an account. We have quite a lot of accounts of those
LAMB: "Molotov cried, mourning Stalin, despite his own imminent liquidation and that of his
MONTEFIORE: That`s right.
LAMB: How were they liquidated?
MONTEFIORE: They weren`t liquidated; they were about to be liquidated. Molotov was Stalin`s
oldest comrade. He`s the second man in the regime in the public eye, anyway. Stalin had turned against
him. And Molotov`s wife, Paulina, was a Jewess. And she had met Golda Meir, when Golda Meir visited
Moscow in 1948. And she had re-established -- she was a Bolshevik, a tough woman, a hard Bolshevik
woman who believed in all this killing, who believed in the whole regime, the whole of Stalin`s...
LAMB: And by the way, Golda Meir used to run Israel...
MONTEFIORE: That`s right, she was prime minister of Israel.
LAMB: ... from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
MONTEFIORE: That`s right.
MONTEFIORE: Golda Meyerson from Milwaukee. So -- but she, you know, she`s always
annoyed Stalin. Part of the reason for -- the reason was that she was Jewish, part of the reason was that she
was very independent, part of the reason was that she was a sort of feminist, and therefore had risen to being
a minister in the government in her own right. But part of it was that she`d been best friends with Stalin`s
wife, the late Nadia, who committed suicide. And Stalin never really forgave Paulina for being that close to
-- to Nadia. And so he`d always sort of planned to destroy her.
And he`d almost destroyed her in 1939. In fact, at one point, he said, "shall we kill her" -- he said
to Beria, "should we kill her in a fake car crash?" Anyway, but they decided not to. And she survived
another 10 years. And then in 1948, `49, she was arrested, and she was accused of having sexual relations
with hundreds of young men in sort of Politburo gang-bangs if you like. Which is just completely
unbelievable accusation, she was accused of having group sex. And she was, you know, a respectable
grandmother, a matron by this point, so it was completely ludicrous.
And Molotov was sitting at the table when Stalin read out these accusations. And he said, "my
knees were knocking, I realized that this was very serious."
LAMB: So what happened to the two of them?
MONTEFIORE: Well, nothing happened to Molotov, except that he had to vote for her leaving
the party. He had to divorce her. And she was then arrested. And she was taken away and sent into exile.
And he did not see her for three or four more years. And he believed she was probably dead. She wasn`t.
In fact, she was kept secretly. And he continued to be a member of the Politburo. He was sacked as foreign
minister, but he continued to be deputy premiere, to work all the time. He ceased to be Stalin`s most trusted
person. In fact, Stalin hardly saw him anymore. And saw him less and less. Stalin despised him by then.
LAMB: Because we don`t have much time, I want to get to Beria for a moment. Who -- he
became the leader?
MONTEFIORE: He became the first man of a collective regime. The power -- he became the sort
of power man.
LAMB: How long?
MONTEFIORE: Just for 100 days, three months.
LAMB: Who eliminated him?
LAMB: Who killed him?
MONTEFIORE: A marshal, a general was brought in to kill him. And he was arrested in a sort of
LAMB: After the 100 days?
MONTEFIORE: After the 100 days. Khrushchev arranged it. Everyone else signed off on it.
They arrested him. They kept him in secret for some months, then they tried him. He wrote letters to them
all saying "please release me." And then they took him out and they sentenced him to death. And he started
shouting and saying, "You can`t kill me, I`m Beria." They stuffed a towel in his mouth. And then they
couldn`t find anyone -- everyone was too frightened to shoot him. So they had to get a very senior officer to
kill him. They got a general, obscure general. They got him out, he came out and he just shot him right in
And then he was cremated. And his ashes were thrown into one of those graveyards in Moscow,
where so many of his victims` ashes had also been thrown.
LAMB: Where is Stalin today?
MONTEFIORE: He is -- he is apparently quite well preserved, but against the Kremlin Wall,
buried under the Kremlin Wall. There`s a statue of him there, behind Lenin`s Mausoleum. But no one -- no
tour guide will point it out to you.
LAMB: And Lenin is still in his tomb?
MONTEFIORE: Lenin is still in his tomb, yes.
LAMB: When you say the Kremlin, you`ve been there?
LAMB: Did you go through -- I mean, explain what the Kremlin is?
MONTEFIORE: Well, the Kremlin is fascinating. It isn`t like the White House. It`s not one
building. It`s 69 acres. It`s sort of almost like a sort of medieval Russian Disneyworld of history. I mean,
it`s got -- you`ve got Ivan the Terrible buried there. You`ve got churches, courtyards, palaces. And of
course, all these people, the whole leadership lived in these -- in about two buildings inside the Kremlin and
saw each other every day. Their families were next to each other. They often had doors into each other`s
apartments. The Stalins, the Mikoyans, the Molotovs, the Berias all lived close at hand. Not the Berias, in
fact, but they all lived very close together.
And one of the fascinating things in the notes that I discovered, the book is based on the archives,
which is what the book is really based on, Stalin`s own papers, love letters, photo albums, et cetera, is that
they would constantly pop into each other`s apartments. It was very informal. Power was personal there.
And you would often find little notes that say, "hey, Molotov, I dropped into your apartment, you weren`t
there. I`ll come back later. Stalin." You know.
LAMB: And you find these -- you found them?
MONTEFIORE: These -- these are documents, yes, I`ve actually held these documents and
worked on them.
LAMB: Let me ask you, because I want to get your own story. Where are you from, originally?
MONTEFIORE: I`m from England.
MONTEFIORE: From London.
LAMB: Where did you go to school?
MONTEFIORE: I went to high school at the Harris School, which is where Winston Churchill
went to school and quite a lot of prime ministers. And then I studied history at Cambridge University. And
then I did very -- I became an investment banker for a while. And my family is a banking family originally.
So I thought I might follow that -- follow that sort of tradition. But in 1991, the Soviet Union started to
break up. And then I realized that my destiny was to see this history being made. So I went out there and
became sort of a self-employed war correspondent.
LAMB: Had you spoken Russian before that?
MONTEFIORE: No. I didn`t speak a word of Russian then, not a word. I went out, I was in
Chechnya, I was in Georgia. I was sitting on a tank when Boris Yeltsin was attacking his own White House
in that famous scene in 1993, if you remember. And it was like a tremendous adventure.
LAMB: And you`re what, 39 now?
MONTEFIORE: I was 38 now. So I was then 26 or 27 or something. And it was a tremendous
thing. You know, I was just living this amazing life as a sort of retired banker traveling to these places.
And of course, everywhere I went, civil war broke out. I got to know the president, the warlords, the -- I
was traveling in these amazing convoys of black Mercedes with guys with guns hanging off the walking --
the boards, the edge of them. And it was just a great adventure.
And -- but I also had some very frightening things happen to me that made me realize I didn`t
really want to be shot at by people who didn`t even care who I was. And Grozny was the last straw, it was
So then, -- so then after that I loved the Caucuses, and that got me interested in history. I was a
columnist for "The Sunday Times" in London and "The Spectator." I wrote a lot for "The New Republic"
here, and mainly on Russia. And then I started to write history books. I became a historian, a full-time
And my first history book was Prince Potemkin, Catherine the Great`s lover. And that was based
on correspondence that no one had ever really seen before as well. And that`s when -- that`s a great story,
that`s the great sort of -- one of the great love stories of all of history, Catherine and Potemkin. Forget
Anthony and Cleopatra or Napoleon and Josephine. Those were amazing people.
LAMB: Did, did you have an interpreter when you would interview people like Marfa Peshkova?
MONTEFIORE: Yes. I used an interpreter then. My Russian is not -- would not be good enough
-- I wouldn`t want to risk missing stuff.
LAMB: Did you tape those interviews?
MONTEFIORE: Yes, we taped those interviews.
LAMB: How many did you do, do you think?
MONTEFIORE: Fifty, I should think.
LAMB: Total of all the old...
LAMB: And how many of those folks are still Stalinists?
MONTEFIORE: A lot of them are. I mean, some of them are just terrified. I mean, Andreev was
one of the -- Andreev and Dora Khazan were the man and woman who were Stalin`s two closest, the most
vile collaborators. Their daughter, Natasha Andreeva, I interviewed her. She turned out to be a terrifying
character. She leaned over towards me and she said, you know, she said, "my mother could tell an enemy
of the people just by looking into his eyes," she said. "My mother told me," she said, "that I had inherited
that gift." And then she leaned right over toward me and she pointed at me and she said, "Simon, are you an
enemy of the people? Are you afraid of the red flag?" And I was pretty -- I was pretty afraid at that
moment, as you can imagine.
But it is interesting that she also said, "and by the way," she said, "my father never killed half the
people that, you know, you say he killed and Stalin killed -- that`s not true." And that day, funny enough, I
worked in the archives. I wanted to believe her. But that day I went to the archives, I found Andreev`s, her
father`s, file. And it was a catalogue of absolute mass murder. It was the sort of a magical mystery tour of
murder around the whole Soviet Union. There would be telegrams that said, to Stalin from Andreev. "I`ve
arrived in Rostov, I`ve arrested the entire Agricultural College, five ministers, six party leaders, seven
soldiers, 25 of this, 26 of that, two TV presenters and news readers, or whatever." And he said, "they`re all
enemies of the people, can I execute all of them?" Stalin would just write back, "pravilno," right, go right
ahead. And these are all -- these are all actually on a piece of paper you can read.
LAMB: In addition to all this, you and your wife are somewhat known in Great Britain, or in
England, as I don`t what, how to describe it. You`re friends of the royals?
MONTEFIORE: We are friends of royals, yes.
LAMB: Friends of Prince Charles.
MONTEFIORE: We are friends of Prince Charles.
LAMB: How did that all come about? How long have you been married?
MONTEFIORE: We`ve been married about five years. And my wife`s mother is one of the prince
of Wales` best friends. I think it`s probably true to say. And so, when we got, you know,
when we got married and the prince of Wales and Mrs. Parker-Bowles came to our wedding, and all this
kind of this stuff. So it was kind of interesting. We`ve -- we loved them and we -- I adore the prince of
Wales. And I think he`s a wonderful person. A great friend.
LAMB: Did that ever help in getting access to some of this stuff? You talk about the British
ambassador to Russia helping you open up the flights and the U.N., does that spill over?
MONTEFIORE: No, not really. I never -- I wouldn`t sort of -- I generally don`t sort of talk -- tell
-- involve it with my work, really. I think it`s best to keep these things separate.
LAMB: Where did you meet your wife?
MONTEFIORE: I met her -- she was actually working in a shop at one point.
LAMB: Her name is Santa?
MONTEFIORE: Santa. Santa. Sort of a South American name.
Yes, I met her in a shop, funny enough, and I thought, my gosh, she`s just beautiful, I must find out
who she is. And later, I did. And the rest is history.
LAMB: How many kids?
MONTEFIORE: Got two kids.
LAMB: How old?
MONTEFIORE: One is 3, Lily. And one is a boy, called Sasha, a nice Russian name.
LAMB: And your wife is a writer?
MONTEFIORE: She`s a writer. She writes -- she writes romantic sagas, normally with South
America -- she speaks very good Spanish, so she knows South America very well. So they normally have a
Latin, normally have some gauchos in there.
LAMB: Where did you do all this work? I mean, how do you all -- you`re both writers, you work
in the same place?
MONTEFIORE: Normally, our sort of -- our flat, our living conditions have deteriorated since
we`ve had children. So we`re running out of room. At one point we were actually -- I was writing "Stalin"
and she was writing her romantic novels in one room. We shared a study. The kids have run riot around
the rest of the house, so bizarrely we would be writing these completely opposite -- she`d be writing these
wonderful, sweeping love stories, while I`d be just immersed in this -- in this chronicle of just murder and
LAMB: Are you a fast writer?
MONTEFIORE: Pretty fast writer.
LAMB: How many words a day?
MONTEFIORE: I don`t know, thousands. I mean, I play music very loudly to get it -- often I`d
play the Russian -- the Red Army Choir I listened to a lot when I was writing this.
LAMB: Shelby Foote (ph) says that he writes about 500 words a day, that`s all.
MONTEFIORE: Well, sometimes I don`t get much done. I mean, this is really difficult. I worked
really hard on this book. I mean, I really was...
LAMB: When did you finish this book?
MONTEFIORE: I finished it just over a year ago. And I, I mean what I was trying to do was just
trying to write a book that even if no one -- for people who had never read a book on Stalin, you know, who
might never read another book on Stalin, this should be the Stalin book that they read. That`s what I wanted
to do. But I also wanted it to be completely scholastically founded in the archives. And I hope that it
succeeds in that.
LAMB: Our guest has been Simon Sebag Montefiore. This is the cover of the book, "Stalin: The
Court of the Red Tsar." Thank you very much.
MONTEFIORE: Thank you.
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