Category: Russia

Ivan the Terrible by Robert Payne and Nikita Romanoff

Ivan the Terrible by Robert Payne and Nikita Romanoff

Ivan IV, not yet known as the Terrible, ascended to the throne as Grand Prince of Muscovy at the tender age of three. His father, Vasily III, “was a mild-mannered prince, well-liked by the people. Unlike his more famous father, Ivan III, known to history as Ivan the Great, who conquered large territories and fought …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/06/23/ivan-the-terrible-by-robert-payne-and-nikita-romanoff/

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen

The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, Poisoner of Underpants, Autocrat of Some of the Russias, in Gessen’s reckoning probably the son of a secret policeman, was born in Leningrad in 1952. Like any proper villain — but also like anyone born in that place in that year — he has a tragic backstory. Hitler’s army completed its encirclement of Leningrad …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2021/02/22/the-man-without-a-face-the-unlikely-rise-of-vladimir-putin-by-masha-gessen/

Molotov’s Magic Lantern by Rachel Polonsky

Molotov's Magic Lantern

Early on in Molotov’s Magic Lantern Rachel Polonsky quotes Osip Mandelstam as saying “Ask me for my biography, and I will tell you the books I have read.” (p. 6) From that perspective, Polonsky braids three biographies. One is Vyacheslav Molotov, erstwhile foreign minister of the Soviet Union whose former apartment a banker friend of …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2019/12/30/molotovs-magic-lantern-by-rachel-polonsky/

Hitler’s Empire by Mark Mazower

In Hitler’s Empire Mark Mazower, a professor of history at Columbia University, describes how Nazi Germany ruled most of the rest of Europe. Briefly, Nazi rule was both incompetent and inhumane. In that sense, Mazower’s book does not break much new ground. Instead, it takes on several other interesting tasks. It situates Nazism “as an …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2019/05/19/hitlers-empire-by-mark-mazower/

Barbarossa by Alan Clark

Barbarossa by Alan Clark

So I asked the friend whose copy of Barbarossa I had acquired what the virtues were of an account published in 1965. He replied that Clark wrote clearly and was particularly good on the politicking among the German generals, and between the German high command and the leaders in the field. Thus encouraged, I picked …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2019/05/18/barbarossa-by-alan-clark/

The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder

I wanted to like The Road to Unfreedom a lot more than I did. The book is billed as a “chronicle of the rise of authoritarianism from Russia to Europe and America.” Snyder is a well-regarded historian with big works of synthesis to his credit — Bloodlands and Black Earth — plus a volume On Tyranny …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2019/04/26/the-road-to-unfreedom-by-timothy-snyder/

Lost Kingdom by Serhii Plokhy

Having recently written a national history of Ukraine, Plokhy turns his attention to the history of the junior eastern Slavic nation, Russia. A fair portion of Lost Kingdom describes how and why my opening sentence would outrage Russian ideologues, rulers and historians. The titles of the book’s sections reveal important aspects of his argument: Inventing …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2019/04/15/lost-kingdom-by-serhii-plokhy/

You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt

This is another novel whose story I could have easily wandered in and out of, with just a minor tweak or two. Sarah Zuckerman, the protagonist of You Are One of Them, works for an English-language newspaper in Moscow in the mid-1990s. My newspapers were in Budapest, and I didn’t relocate to Moscow for another …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2019/03/23/you-are-one-of-them-by-elliott-holt/

All the World’s a Stage by Boris Akunin

For a number of years, I was worried that Boris Akunin’s English-language publishers (the estimable Weidenfeld & Nicolson) had despaired of finding an audience for the Russian mystery writer’s work, and I would have to read the remaining stories in German and miss out on Andrew Bromfield’s witty translations, or really really really improve my …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2019/02/25/all-the-worlds-a-stage-by-boris-akunin/

A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin

How did A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka turn out to be such an impossibly good book? I picked it up more or less on a whim during a visit to Texas — ok, memoir of leaving the Soviet Union as a kid and growing up in the States, could be interesting — and …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2019/02/08/a-backpack-a-bear-and-eight-crates-of-vodka-by-lev-golinkin/