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Topic: Russian History

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Subject: Russian History
Date Posted: 2/5/2009 11:24 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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I'm making my way through War and Peace right now and am finding the history fascinating.

Can anyone recommend a couple of books on Russian History? I would love to read more about it when I finish W&P.

Date Posted: 2/5/2009 6:07 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I studied Russian History in college - I foung a good quick survey was The Course of Russian History, I can't remember the author - Wren and Stilts comes to mind.  It's not an indepth treatment but gives a good quick read.

I have others at home that I'll recommend for you when you are home.

Date Posted: 2/6/2009 7:53 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Thanks Mimi, that gives me a place to start.

Date Posted: 2/7/2009 3:25 AM ET
Member Since: 11/6/2008
Posts: 110
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Rather than reading books about Russian history, I preferred to read biographies of each of the Russian Czars.  These biographies include quite a bit of Russian history.

A book I have recently read and I highly recommend is:  Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin

www.paperbackswap.com/book/details/9780547053523-Red+Mutiny+Eleven+Fateful+Days+on+the+Battleship+Potemkin

... why are editing posts on PBS so difficult?



Last Edited on: 2/7/09 3:45 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 2/7/2009 1:46 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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That's a good point too. I have Massie's Peter the Great on my TBR pile, and have read a lot of books about Nicholas II.

Date Posted: 2/7/2009 4:20 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Thanks Richard and Mimi. Both of those bios look interesting!

Date Posted: 2/7/2009 6:21 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2005
Posts: 295
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Russka, by Edward Rutherford, is good. Also Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert Massie.

Date Posted: 2/7/2009 8:36 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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Nicholas and Alexandra is wonderful! I just bought a bio of Catherine the Great, called Great Catherine, but I haven't gotten to reading it yet.

Date Posted: 2/18/2009 7:44 PM ET
Member Since: 6/6/2007
Posts: 2,751
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I've read quite a few books, but honestly my initial survey came from a two disc documentary from the library. It was called Land of the Tsars. I think they spelled it that way, but it could've been cz... It was a great survey, and then I've found books to go in depth on certain periods. I'll check later to see if it's on swapadvd.
Date Posted: 2/28/2009 11:32 PM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2007
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The first book I read about Russian history was Nicholas and Alexandra and was hooked. Carolly Erickson's  Alexandra The Last Tsarina, was also very good.

 

Date Posted: 3/16/2009 12:46 AM ET
Member Since: 10/25/2008
Posts: 232
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The study of Russian history would be woefully incomplete without Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago.

 

 

Date Posted: 3/16/2009 10:56 PM ET
Member Since: 11/6/2008
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The study of Russian history would be woefully incomplete without Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago.

Yes, a very important work, but it is very long and not an exciting read.  You have to be really interested in the subject in order to get through it.

Date Posted: 3/16/2009 11:49 PM ET
Member Since: 10/25/2008
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Tsk, tsk, Richard - I thought it was very exciting.  And, as for being very long, Sheila wrote that she was reading War and Peace! :)

Subject: Leo Tolstoy--A very gifted and powerful-masterful author
Date Posted: 3/21/2009 7:44 PM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2009
Posts: 3
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I have read this book, three times.....other good authors that lived in that same time are Fydor Doestoevsky, Ivan Turgenev, and Alexander Shokolov.  There are others too.... here is interesting fact about this book that many people don't know, and I got this from a biography about Leo Tolstoy, which is part of my 3,000 book library. 

He wrote this book over a three period,  two years into the book he put it down, stopped writing this book to write other books, and as you well know, War and Peace has over 700+ characters, then he got back to writing it a year later and never missed a beat on where his character were at, their place in time in the book, their emotional, physical or what they were doing at the time he put it down, and stopped writing it, and he was able to pick right where he left the charcters in his book in the age where he wrote everything with a pen on paper...AMAZING !!!

If you want to check out much smaller (page form and amount of characters) in novels of Tolstoy's time check out Ivan Turegenev's books such as "Fathers & Sons" and Dostoevesky's "The Possesed", "The Idiot, "The Brothers Karamozov", "Crime and Punishment", "House of the Dead", "Notes From The Underground", and many others.

I curently have 14 novels by Tolstoy, 12 by Dostoevesky, 9 by Turgenev, 1 By Shokolov, 4 by Nicholas Gogel, 5 by Anton Chekov, 3 by Solzhenitsyn, 1 by Ivan Goncharov, and several other older Russian authors before Tolstoy's time

Hint:  If you need help.....a good pointer is to go to you local library and pick up a copy of Cliff notes on this book to help you out, because it outlines the characters and synopsis of each chapter.....

 

Have Fun !!!

William P.

Date Posted: 3/21/2009 10:20 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Thanks for all the great recommendations everyone. William, that's quite an impressive library you have! I did a lot of research on W&P while I read it and discovered that he based many of the characters on family members as well as himself. I read the Norton Critical Edition of the book and it had some very helpful maps in it as well as a plethora of footnotes, letters, references, and critical essays. Thank you for the list of Russian authors.

I checked the online catalog of my library and they have most of the books mentioned here, even The Gulag Archipelago :-)

 

Date Posted: 3/23/2009 11:47 PM ET
Member Since: 11/6/2008
Posts: 110
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Solzhenitsyn wrote a lot of other books that his massive three volume "The Gulag Archipelago".  I would instead recommend Solzhenitsyn's "The First Circle".  While I did find some parts of Gulag Archpelago very interesting, the book is huge!  While "The First Circle" is billed as a novel it is based upon Solzhenitsyn's personal experiences in a similiar gulag.  It provides a very good personal perspective on what it was like to be in a Russian Gulag.



Last Edited on: 6/10/09 10:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 3/31/2009 4:56 AM ET
Member Since: 2/16/2009
Posts: 63
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One of my favorite books is The Russian Tradition by Tibor Szamuely. He traces the entire history of Russia in broad outline, with vivid, unforgettable character sketches of monstrous figures like Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Nechaev, the revolutionary nihilist who inspired Dostoyevsky’s “The Possessed.”

 

I can’t imagine a better introduction to Russian history. It’s also the perfect complement to Prince Mirsky’s “History of Russian Literature.”

 

Date Posted: 4/2/2009 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 2/14/2007
Posts: 6,066
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Definitely anything by Robert Massie.  His writing is so engaging, I forget that I'm learning and find myself just reading for the story. 

Date Posted: 4/9/2009 8:09 PM ET
Member Since: 3/15/2009
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Absolutely in agreement on Robert Massie - he's a fantastic writer!  Nicolas and Alexandra is wonderful, as is his Peter the Great biography. 

If you want to go more modern (the Stalinist era), try one of Simon Montefiore's books - he's very engaging. 

Date Posted: 4/16/2009 12:57 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Since you are reading "War and Peace", maybe this would be a good one to go for next - "Natasha's Dance" - http://www.paperbackswap.com/book/details/9780805057836-Natashas+Dance+A+Cultural+History+of+Russia

Date Posted: 4/16/2009 1:53 PM ET
Member Since: 2/14/2007
Posts: 6,066
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I have Natasha's Dance on my TBR - is it good?

Date Posted: 5/13/2009 9:53 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2008
Posts: 1,976
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OK, so I'm reading The Kitchen Boy and want to know more about N&A, Russia, etc. I turn on the TV and there on the History channel are two 2-hour episodes of Russia Land of the Tsars.  I'm definitely going to Tivo it.  I love the History channel. 

Does anyone have a recommendation on which translation of War & Peace to read?



Last Edited on: 5/13/09 9:58 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/1/2009 9:26 PM ET
Member Since: 5/17/2009
Posts: 19
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Regarding Russian history: W. Bruce Lincoln does some really good overviews of pre-revolutionary Russian history; he has a thick but very readable book on the Romanovs (titled, I believe The Romanovs) and another on the conquest of Siberia. Orlando Figes wrote what I remember being a very good book on the Russian Revolution (it's been a while since I've read it) and his recent The Whisperers is a fantastic look at the way the Stalinist repressions affected Soviet society. Antony Beevor has written several good books on World War II, many with a Russian focus; his Stalingrad is frankly amazing, drawing as it does from both Russian and German published and archival sources to describe the siege of Stalingrad. (That book led me to the very interesting A Writer at War about a Soviet war correspondent, Vasily Grossman, which Beevor edited, which in turn led me to Grossman's amazing novel Life and Fate-- often described as the War and Peace of World War II.) Harrison Salisbury's The 900 Days, while old, is the definitive book on the German siege of Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg) during World War II. Adam Zamoyski wrote a book on Napoleon's invasion of Russia called Moscow 1812 which I highly recommend; it's very readable and, like Beevor's work, draws on sources from all sides. For the later Soviet period, Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, mentioned above, is incredibly informative but can be pretty heavy going, particularly the unabridged version. Anne Applebaum's Gulag is well-written and, I think, more accessible for the casual reader. For more personal views of the gulag system, I'd recommend Solzhenitsyn's novels (particularly The First Circle and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) and Evgenia Ginzburg's memoir, which I think is called Into the Whirlwind (it may be Against the Whirlwind).

For translations, I've always read the Constance Garnett versions-- they are very old (I think she did War and Peace in 1905) and she catches some flack from Serious Scholars about mistranslations (she went for readability and smooth prose over scrupulous accuracy), but I've always found them pretty readable, which is most of what I really want out of novels. On the other hand, I have been satisfied with Garnett and haven't looked around for other translations, so I could be missing out on someone great. And if anyone finds a good, readable, entertaining translation of Evgeny Onegin please let me know, because I haven't found one yet!

Last Edited on: 6/1/09 9:27 PM ET - Total times edited: 1

Date Posted: 6/26/2009 1:11 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Thanks for the additional recs Tess - I see a few more to add to my TBR. I'll have to look up Natasha's Dance - sounds interesting.

I just read The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg by Helen Rappoport. It was interesting but almost felt like it was written by two authors. Some parts of the book were well written and captivating, then there would be pages and pages of mind-numbingly boring, inconsequential, and oft repeated details. The details of the assassination were graphic as well as the botched plans and ensuing chaos in the days after the assassination. This book was billed as presenting new facts, which it appears it did, but there are not any source notes so I found myself questioning the validity of some of the statements. In one description Rappaport compares Alexandra to a female Iago, which does not equate in my mind. Anyone else read it?