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Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia 
by Orlando Figes.
Allen Lane, 729 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 7139 9517 3
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... city in which Russians never really felt at home. Their distress is brilliantly conveyed in Pushkin’s poem The Bronze Horseman (an allusion to Falconet’s statue of Peter on a rearing charger). Herzen described the city as a huge barracks, and it was often associated with military imagery. Peter endeavoured to do with the Russian upper class what he ...

Pasternak and the Russians

John Bayley, 4 November 1982

The Correspondence of Boris Pasternak and Olga Friedenberg 1910-1954 
edited by Elliott Mossman, translated by Elliott Mossman and Margaret Wettlin.
Secker, 365 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 436 28855 9
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... Russian, Italian and French, were for members the natural media of intelligence and imagination. Pushkin’s feeling for the family of art was as strong as Auden’s, and Pushkin was a forerunner of this latterday renaissance of cosmopolitanism, however inevitably he is also Russia’s great national poet. Even while the ...

Aphrodite bends over Stalin

John Lloyd, 4 April 1996

... the Eighties remarks, ‘I see only ... a grubby competition for publication and money.’ It is Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s misfortune to have survived into the new age. Alone of the major dissidents – only Sakharov rivalled him in stature – he came back to the country from which he had been expelled twenty years before. The late Joseph Brodsky, asked in ...

Sprawson makes a splash

John Bayley, 23 July 1992

Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero 
by Charles Sprawson.
Cape, 307 pp., £15.99, June 1992, 0 224 02730 1
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... Venetian girl’. On that occasion he had been competing in the swim with a bachelor friend, Alexander Scott, and the Cavalier Angelo Mengaldo, a former officer in Napoleon’s Army who claimed to have swum the Berezina under Russian gunfire. Mengaldo took to a gondola long before Venice was reached, and Scott gave up at the Rialto bridge. If Byron’s ...


Richard Clogg, 18 August 1994

... The ardour of a number of armchair philhellenes cooled when they met Greeks in the flesh. Pushkin, for instance, initially viewed the Greeks as the ‘legal heirs’ of Homer and Themistocles. But, following an unhappy encounter with the Greek merchants of Chishinau in Bessarabia, he wrote that it was ‘unforgivable childishness’ that enlightened ...

Thrown Overboard from the Steamer of Modernity

Geoffrey Hosking: ‘Russia in 1913’, 28 July 2011

Russia in 1913 
by Wayne Dowler.
Northern Illinois, 351 pp., £30.50, October 2010, 978 0 87580 427 9
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... affairs were justified by emergency laws passed as long ago as 1881, after the assassination of Alexander II. Provincial governors often banned books or fined newspapers and even suspended their publication. Government officials were not accountable before the law for their transgressions. Police would attend professional congresses and curtail them if they ...

In Pursuit of an Heiress

Nicholas Penny: Hermann von Pückler-Muskau, 16 June 2016

Letters of a Dead Man 
by Hermann von Pückler-Muskau, edited and translated by Linda Parshall.
Dumbarton Oaks, 753 pp., £55.95, May 2016, 978 0 88402 411 8
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... are haunted by Napoleon and Byron to much the same degree as are the writings of Stendhal and Pushkin, and Byron’s account of English high society in the last five cantos of Don Juan frequently comes to mind when reading Pückler’s account of its more rigid or frigid lords and ladies, and the relaxed culture of the country house. But in some ...

Here you will find only ashes

Geoffrey Hosking: The Kremlin, 3 July 2014

Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia’s History 
by Catherine Merridale.
Penguin, 528 pp., £10.99, May 2014, 978 0 14 103235 1
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... cities. In 1247 it acquired its own minor prince, and in 1262 it was awarded to Daniel, the son of Alexander Nevsky. After that it grew steadily in riches and power. Daniel’s descendants gradually accumulated territory, by conquest, purchase and dynastic marriage. They also claimed ever grander titles, until Ivan IV was crowned tsar (caesar, emperor) in ...


Craig Raine: In Moscow, 22 March 1990

... Both men’s eloquent but limited gestural vocabularies are unabated. A huge crowd has gathered. Alexander Bloch from PEN, an elegant figure in a pin-striped suit and brown suede shoes, nods towards the speakers and says: ‘The strong, silent Russian hasn’t been invented yet.’ Madame Bloch asks me if I do not think the translation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ...

I sailed away with a mighty push, never to return

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Jews in the Revolution, 17 March 2005

The Jewish Century 
by Yuri Slezkine.
Princeton, 438 pp., £18.95, October 2004, 0 691 11995 3
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... involvement of young Jews in socialist and revolutionary movements. When a son was born in 1889 to Alexander Helphand (Parvus), ‘world revolutionary, international financier and future German government agent’, he announced ‘the birth of a healthy, cheerful enemy of the state’. It is often suggested that Jewish advancement in Russia was blocked by the ...

Yeats and Violence

Michael Wood: On ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’, 14 August 2008

... these categories, and it becomes clear that the poet with history – her examples are Goethe and Pushkin – is there for contrast, that her aim is to talk about, even justify, the existence of the poet without history. The poet with history is either defunct or everywhere, and therefore scarcely a poet at all; the poet without history is an enigma or a ...

Perestroika and its Discontents

John Lloyd, 11 July 1991

Moscow and Beyond: 1986-1989 
by Andrei Sakharov.
Hutchinson, 168 pp., £14.99, April 1991, 0 09 174972 7
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Fatal Half-Measures: The Allure of Democracy in the Soviet Union 
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, edited and translated by Antonia Bovis.
Little, Brown, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1991, 0 316 96883 8
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... into the hell of the fallen-from-grace after turning up for a scattered, uncelebrated protest in Pushkin Square; Sinyavsky and Daniel were standing trial; and Vladimir Bukovsky, having served over a year in a psychiatric hospital for possessing a copy of Milovan Djilas’s The New Class, was about to go to the camps for protesting against the arrest of ...


John Lloyd, 21 October 1993

... and where, on the balcony, the Deputies were ready to greet the marchers. It was then that General Alexander Rutskoi, in a dapper suit, his bodyguards holding a flak jacket in front of him, called for an attack on the Ostankino TV tower and the Mayor’s office opposite, to which the riot police had already withdrawn. A colleague from Reuters thought Rutskoi ...

Commotion in Moscow

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Paris Syndrome, 1 August 2019

To See Paris and Die: The Soviet Lives of Western Culture 
by Eleonory Gilburd.
Harvard, 458 pp., £28.95, January 2019, 978 0 674 98071 6
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... of the Thaw), infused with ‘a yearning to see nature anew, to paint it differently’. The Pushkin Museum began to get its Impressionist paintings out of storage, and big exhibitions from both Soviet and French collections followed. The Impressionists’ Paris, Ehrenburg’s and Yves Montand’s, all merged in a single romantic Soviet myth of the ...

Like a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader

John Lloyd: Globalisation, 2 September 1999

The Lexus and the Olive Tree 
by Thomas Friedman.
HarperCollins, 394 pp., £19.99, May 1999, 0 00 257014 9
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Global Transformation 
by David Held and Anthony McGrew.
Polity, 515 pp., £59.50, March 1999, 0 7456 1498 1
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... Russia had been reconstituted from the ruins of the Soviet Union, the Russian Vice-President, Alexander Rutskoi, wrote in tones of patriotic despair about the queues for Moscow’s first McDonald’s, on Pushkin Square: the death of his country’s culture was taking place in the square named after its most famous ...

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