Category: Russia

Dec 07 2017

Conversations with Stalin by Milovan Djilas

Listening in on Conversations with Stalin involves stepping back into numerous vanished worlds: one in which Communists were imprisoned by kings’ secret police forces; where Communism is new and for large numbers of people a source of hope; where the inner workings of the Soviet Union are largely unknown; where Yugoslavia exists as both a …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/12/07/conversations-with-stalin-by-milovan-djilas/

Dec 06 2017

Premature Evaluation: Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

I first came to Vasily Grossman via excerpts in Ivan’s War, Catherine Merridale‘s amazing book about how ordinary Soviet soldiers experienced the Second World War. That prompted me to pick up A Writer at War, dispatches and stories that he wrote while working as a journalist near the front. I thought it was one of …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/12/06/premature-evaluation-life-and-fate-by-vasily-grossman/

Oct 16 2017

The Gates of Europe by Serhii Plokhy

The first argument of The Gates of Europe is its existence: a history of Ukrainians as a people, a nation separate from others; a history of the Ukrainian lands that is not a subset of another history, whether that other history is Russian or (less probably) Polish. In his very first sentence, Plokhy cites the …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/16/the-gates-of-europe-by-serhii-plokhy/

Oct 09 2017

Revolutionary Russia 1891–1991 by Orlando Figes

Orlando Figes’ title presents the essence of his argument: The Russian Revolution should be looked at over a much longer period than historians, and the interested public, usually give it. Revolutions succeeded in February and October of 1917 because they had been brewing for a long time; the Soviet Union claimed to be a revolutionary …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/09/revolutionary-russia-1891-1991-by-orlando-figes/

Oct 06 2017

The Last Man in Russia by Oliver Bullough

Oliver Bullough’s first book, Let Our Fame Be Great, examined the encounters between Russia and the smaller peoples of the Northern Caucasus. They generally ended badly for the smaller nations. In his second book, he looks at how the larger nation has fared. (At the time he wrote the book, he was Caucasus Editor for …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/06/the-last-man-in-russia-by-oliver-bullough/

Jun 16 2017

Postwar by Tony Judt

Two things stand out for me about Postwar, by Tony Judt. First, it is a stupendous historical synthesis that aims to tell a mostly political history of all of Europe — East and West, North and South — from 1945 through its publication in 2005. Second, I should have been writing reflections about it as I …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/06/16/postwar-by-tony-judt/

Jun 16 2017

The Ottoman Endgame by Sean McMeekin

“So far from a sideshow to the First World War, the Ottoman theater was central to both the outbreak of European war in 1914 and the peace settlement that truly ended it.” (p. xviii) In The Ottoman Endgame, Sean McMeekin makes a strong argument that understanding the First World War without understanding the part of …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/06/16/the-ottoman-endgame-by-sean-mcmeekin/

May 31 2017

Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale

I totally judged this book by its cover. First of all, the book is by Catherine Merridale. About a decade ago, I picked up a copy of Ivan’s War and was rewarded with one of the most amazing works of history that I have ever read. It’s a chronicle of the Great Patriotic War as …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/05/31/lenin-on-the-train-by-catherine-merridale/

May 11 2017

Militärmusik by Wladimir Kaminer

The cover says that Militärmusik is a novel, but I suppose the main point of that designation is to relieve Wladimir Kaminer (why doesn’t he use the usual transliteration in English?) of any obligation even to pretend to be telling a true story. I mean, Militärmusik is told in the first person, the main character …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/05/11/militar-musik-by-wladimir-kaminer/

Apr 23 2017

The Foundation Pit by Andrey Platonov

Where to even begin with The Foundation Pit? The author, Andrey Platonov was born in Russia in 1899, the son of a railway worker, and later worked as a land reclamation expert. He was a fervent supporter of the Russian Revolution; during the 1920s he supervised the digging of wells, construction of ponds, and draining …

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/04/23/the-foundation-pit-by-andrey-platonov/