“One morning just before the October [1917] Revolution,” recalls Anna Alliluyeva, “there was a ring at the door. I saw a smallish man dressed in a black overcoat and a Finnish cap on the threshold. ‘Is Stalin at home?’ he asked politely. … After a brief conversation, Stalin and he left together.”

Just days later, these scruffy, diminutive figures [Lenin and Stalin], who now walked the streets of Petrograd disguised and unrecognized, seized the Russian empire. They formed the world’s first Marxist government, remained at the peak of the state for the rest of their days, sacrificed millions of lives at the pitiless altar of their utopian ideology, and ruled the imperium, between them, for the next thirty-six years. -Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin, p332