As the battle for Stalingrad – the turning point of the Second World War – raged, Stalin worked night and day with his team of talented generals. He exhibited a phenomenal memory, had no time for ‘yes-men’ and paid attention to the vital minutiae of supply and morale. At a crucial moment in the battle, he was informed that the soldiers were running out of cigarettes. Being a smoker himself, he realised the gravity of the danger. So he took time to telephone Akaki Mgeladze, party boss of Abkhazia, where tobacco was grown: ‘Our soldiers have nothing to smoke. Tobacco’s absolutely necessary at the front!’ (Montefiore, Stalin, p. 449).

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