Stalin tended to make long friendships, especially with those he could trust. One of those was Molotov (the ‘hammer’), or Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skryabin, later to take up many senior posts including that of Foreign Minister.

In his memoirs, Molotov notes that the young Stalin was ‘handsome’ to women. Thin, scruffy, energetic, and with the ability to charm with poetry and song, few could resist Stalin’s charms. ‘Women must have been enamoured with him,’ writes Molotov, ‘because he was successful with them. He had honey-coloured eyes. They were beautiful.’ Indeed, many who describe Stalin speak of his ‘shining eyes.’

It seems that men too were attracted to Stalin, including Molotov. They first met in 1912 in Petrograd. Molotov was told to meet in a courtyard, behind a dentist’s apartment. Moments after Molotov arrived, Stalin emerged suddenly from behind a woodpile. Molotov was overwhelmed. ‘I didn’t see how he appeared, but he wore the uniform of a pyschoneurology student. We introduced ourselves.’ Stalin’s pockmarks and Georgian accent were noticeable. ‘He discussed only the most important issues without wasting a second on anything unnecessary. He delivered some Pravda materials. No superfluous gestures. The he vanished just as suddenly as he had appeared. He climbed over the fence and this was done with classic simplicity and grace’.

The next day, a smitten Molotov told a friend: ‘He’s astonishing. He possesses internal revolutionary beauty, a Bolshevik to the marrow, clever, cunning as a conspirator …’ At their second meeting, they talked all night. They would work together for the next 41 years.

Molotov took his love of Stalin to the grave. He died in 1986 at the age of 96, lamenting Gorbachev’s reforms.

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