Read One Night in Winter Online

Authors: Simon Sebag Montefiore

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #History, #Europe, #Russia & the Former Soviet Union

One Night in Winter



About the Book

About the Author

Also by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Title Page


List of Characters





Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10


Part Two

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29


Part Three

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39


Part Four

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55


Part Five

Chapter 56

Chapter 57





About the Book

If your children were forced to testify against you, what terrible secrets would they reveal?


Moscow 1945. As Stalin and his courtiers celebrate victory over Hitler, shots ring out. On a nearby bridge, a teenage boy and girl lie dead.


But this is no ordinary tragedy and these are no ordinary teenagers, but the children of Russia’s most important leaders who attend the most exclusive school in Moscow.


Is it murder? A suicide pact? Or a conspiracy against the state?


Directed by Stalin himself, an investigation begins as children are arrested and forced to testify against their friends – and their parents. This terrifying witch-hunt soon unveils illicit love affairs and family secrets in a world where the smallest mistakes can be punished with death.

About the Author

Simon Sebag Montefiore’s history books are world-wide bestsellers, and are published in over 40 languages.
Catherine the Great & Potemkin
was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper, and Marsh Biography Prizes.
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar
won the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards.
Young Stalin
won the Costa Biography Award (UK), the LA Times Book Prize for Biography (USA), Le Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique (France) and the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria), and is currently being developed as a tv mini-series.
Jerusalem: The Biography
won the Jewish Book of the Year Prize (USA) and was number one bestseller in the UK. He is the presenter of the BBC TV series
Jerusalem, Making of a Holy City
2011 and
Rome, History of the Eternal City.


A Visiting Professor at Buckingham University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children. For more information, see:

Also by Simon Sebag Montefiore





Jerusalem: The Biography

Catherine the Great and Potemkin

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

Young Stalin

Titans of History

One Night in Winter
Simon Sebag Montefiore

Not a soul knew about it and . . . probably no one would ever know. He was leading a double life: one was undisguised, plain for all to see and known to everyone who needed to know, full of conventional truths and conventional deception, identical to the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another which went on in secret. And by some strange, possibly fortuitous chain of circumstances, everything that was important, interesting and necessary for him, where he behaved sincerely and did not deceive himself and which was the very essence of his life – that was conducted in complete secrecy.


Anton Chekhov, ‘The Lady with the Little Dog’

List of Characters

Major characters are underlined; historical characters are marked with an asterisk*


The Romashkin family

Constantin Romashkin, scriptwriter and poet, married to:

Sophia ‘Mouche’ Gideonovna Zeitlin, film star

Serafima Romashkina
, 18, their only child

Sashenka Zeitlin, Sophia’s cousin, arrested 1939, fate unknown


The Satinov family and household

Hercules (Erakle) Satinov
, Politburo member, Central Committee Secretary, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, married to:

‘Tamriko’, Tamara Satinova, English teacher at School 801

Mariko Satinova, 6, their daughter

Satinov’s sons by an earlier marriage in Georgia:

‘Vanya’, Ivan Satinov, pilot, killed 1943

David Satinov, 23, pilot

‘George’, Georgi Satinov
, 18

Marlen Satinov, 17, School Komsomol Organizer

Colonel Losha Babanava, Comrade Satinov’s chief bodyguard

Valerian Chubin, Comrade Satinov’s aide


The Dorov family

Genrikh Dorov, Chairman, Central Control Commission, and Minister of State Control, married to:

‘Dashka’, Dr Daria Dorova
, Minister of Health, cardiologist

Their children:

Sergei Dorov, 20, army officer

‘Minka’, Marina Dorova
, 18, schoolfriend of Serafima

Demian Dorov, ‘the Weasel’, 17, Organizer of Young Pioneers

‘Senka’, Semyon Dorov, ‘the Little Professor’, 10


The Blagov family

‘Nikolasha’, Nikolai Blagov
, 18

Ambassador Vadim Blagov, his father, diplomat

Ludmilla Blagova, his mother


The Shako family

Rosa Shako, 18, schoolfriend of Serafima

Marshal Boris Shako, her father, Soviet Air Force Commander

Elena Shako, her mother


The Titorenko family

Vladimir Titorenko, 17

Ivan Titorenko, his father, Minister of Aircraft Production

Irina Titorenka, his mother


The Kurbsky family

Andrei Kurbsky
, 18, a newcomer to the school

Peter Kurbsky, his father, Enemy of the People, arrested in 1938, sentenced to twenty-five years ‘without right of correspondence’

Inessa Kurbskaya, his mother


Kapitolina Medvedeva
, Director (headmistress) and history teacher

Dr Innokenty Rimm
, Deputy Director, political science/Communist morals teacher

Benya Golden
, Russian literature teacher

Tamara Satinova, English teacher (see Satinov family above)

Apostollon Shuba, physical education teacher

Agrippina Begbulatova, assistant teacher




Josef Stalin
,* Marshal, General Secretary (Gensec) of the Communist Party, Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the Master, the Instantsiya

‘Vaska’, Vasily Josefovich Stalin,* 24, his son, air force officer, ‘Crown Prince’

Svetlana Stalina,* 19, his daughter, student


Vyacheslav Molotov,* Foreign Minister, Politburo member

Lavrenti Beria,* secret policeman, Minister of Internal Affairs (NKVD/MVD) 1938–45, Deputy Chairman of Council of Ministers, Politburo member

Georgi Malenkov,* Politburo member

Andrei Vyshinsky,* Deputy Foreign Minister

‘Sasha’, Alexander Poskrebyshev,* Stalin’s chef-de-cabinet

Vsevolod Merkulov,* Minister of State Security (MGB)

Victor Abakumov,* Chief of Military Counter-intelligence (SMERSH: Death to Spies), then Minister of State Security (MGB)




Marshal Georgi Zhukov,* Deputy Supreme Commander

Marshal Ivan Konev*

Marshal Constantin Rokossovsky*




Colonel Pavel Mogilchuk, investigator, Serious Cases Section MGB

General Bogdan Kobylov,* ‘the Bull’, MGB

Colonel Vladimir Komarov,* investigator, SMERSH/MGB

Colonel Mikhail Likhachev,* investigator, SMERSH/MGB




Averell Harriman,* US Ambassador to Moscow

Captain Frank Belman, diplomat, deputy military attaché, interpreter

To my parents April and Stephen and my son Sasha, the oldest and the youngest


I wish to thank the following friends and sources whose stories have helped inspire this novel with the elixir of passion and the detail of authenticity: Hugh Lunghi, Gela Charkviani, Nestan Charkviani, General Stepan Mikoyan and his daughter Aschen Mikoyan, Sergo Mikoyan, Stanislas Redens, Galina Babkova, Rachel and Marc Polonsky; and Sophie Shulman.

First: Hugh Lunghi. Hugh and I became friends while writing my books on Stalin because he translated for Churchill at some of the Big Three meetings with Stalin. He kindly told me the entire story of his Russian love affair which inspired Serafima’s story. Without him the book could not have been written.

Gela Charkviani, son of Kandide Charkviani, Stalin’s First Secretary of Georgia 1938–51, shared his elegant memoirs of élite life,
Memoirs of a Provincial Communist Prince
. Sophie Shulman kindly let me read her fascinating memoirs
, Life Journey of a Secular Humanist.
Gela Charkviani and Sophie Shulman answered my questions about their schooldays in Stalin’s Russia. General Stepan Mikoyan, air force pilot, and Sergo Mikoyan, sons of Politburo member Anastas Mikoyan, were both arrested (Sergo was fourteen) in the real Children’s Case and both talked to me about their experience, as did Stanislas Redens, Stalin’s nephew, who was also arrested.

Thanks to the Polonskys who had me to stay in Molotov’s apartment in the Granovsky building.

I am hugely grateful to my brilliant, tireless and meticulous editor and publisher, Selina Walker, and to the irrepressibly superb Georgina Capel, the best agent in town. Thanks to my parents for editing this.

Above all, thanks to my wife Santa for the supreme gifts of serene love and best friendship; and for shrewd advice on this book; and to my adored children Lily and Sasha, who have inspired the children in both my Russian novels.


June 1945

Just moments after the shots, as Serafima looks at the bodies of her schoolfriends, a feathery whiteness is already frosting their blasted flesh. It is like a coating of snow, but it’s midsummer and she realizes it’s pollen. Seeds of poplar are floating, bouncing and somersaulting through the air in random manoeuvres like an invasion of tiny alien spaceships. Muscovites call this ‘summer snow’. That humid evening, Serafima struggles to breathe, struggles to see.

Later, when she gives her testimony, she wishes she had seen less, knew less. ‘These aren’t just
dead children,’ slurs one of the half-drunk policemen in charge of the scene. When these policemen inspect the IDs of the victims and their friends, their eyes blink as they try to measure the danger – and then they pass on the case as fast as they can. So it’s not the police but the Organs, the secret police, who investigate: ‘Is it murder, suicide or conspiracy?’ they will ask.

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