The book I read to research this post was Rasputin The Last Word by Edvard Radzinsky which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. It is around 670 pages so is a decent length. It also draws on a lot of sources with the collapse of communism in much of Eastern Europe unavailable to earlier books. It was published in 1988. Rasputin was a sort of cheif to the czarina of Russia and his bad advice is credited with helping to cause their overthrow. He did accurately predict a previous attempted revolution that was quelled. He used his position to offer various ladies favors in exchange for sex. He also saved the life of one of the czarinas children with what presumably a miracle. She should have seen thrrough him. Even the police and various members of the extended family had files on him and his activities. He was assassinated as part of overthrowing the royal family and despite being poisoned, shot several times and put in the frozen river seemed he would never die. The people thought this was a miracle and collected water from the river like holy water. Initailly when he came to court he was treated as a novelty peasant. They rarely saw those. He was crafty though and tried to make himself indispensible. This is an interesting book that I do recommend.
Archive for the ‘russia’ Category
Tags: book reviews, books, history, rasputin, russia, russian history, textbooks, the russian revolution
Tags: book reviews, books, communism, history, litterature, russia, russian revolution, solzhenitsyn, stalin, textbooks, world war 2
The book I read to research this post was Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century In His Life by DM Thomas which is an excellent book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book is around 530 pages so is a pretty decent length. Solzhenitsyn was a dissident author who is on a par with authors like Tolstoy and Pasternak. He was expelled from Russia in 1974 but did later go back there to live. He was born a month after the Russian Revolution and has seen first hand many of the problems with implementing communism. One problem was God to them officially didn’t exist which basically meant they could do as they liked. Particularly under Stalin people were regularly tortured and killed often with methods like being boiled alive or having there heads twisted off. In the revolution the white and red Russians were as bad as each other and often whether someone took one side or the other was simply a matter of survival. Alexander was sent to a Gulag under Stalin and later released under the presidency of Kruschev. He served in the army in World War 2 when Germany launched a surprise invasion and the Russian soldiers couldn’t get confirmation to fire back. In fact they were so taken by surprise they were trains still taking and laden with supplies for the German soldiers. Whilst in Gulag Solzhenitsyn got a job studying the phonetics in the Russian language and it might sound boring to us but he really got into it with relish and did such a good job they released him. He did have novels like The First Circle & August, 1914 published in the west in secret. The fact that he had fans in the west probably saved him later from being killed. He wasn’t particularly outspoken against communism probably like a lot of Russian authors it was just the themes he wrote about in his books upset them. It’s worth noting when Terry Waite was kidnapped in the Lebanon the kidnappers gave him The First Circle to read and it became his all time favorite book. With the situation he was in he identified with the themes in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book which is extremely well written and would definitely recommend it.
Tags: book reviews, books, christian wolmar, history, moscow, railways, russia, siberia, textbooks, the trans-siberian railway, transport
The book I read to research this post was To The Edge Of The World by Christian Wolmar which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book is about the Trans-Siberian Railway and its history. Although when we think of the Trans-Siberian Railway we the railway line from Moscow to Vladivostok which is the one that is wholly in Russia & Siberia there are actually several Trans-Siberian Railways including one that was built earlier and linked up with the Chinese Eastern Railway for part of its route. The railway had to be rebuilt wholly within the Soviet Union because there were concerns the Chinese might close the stretch of line they owned stranding Vladivostok. The distance from Moscow to Vladivostok is approximately 5,750 miles although a few miles has been shaved off the original route by installing some straighter curves along with bridges and tunnels in places. When the original line was built it was considered too expensive to build any tunnels and in some cases whole mountains were dynamited and removed to make way for the railway. It’s interesting that the distance from Saint Petersburg to Kamchatka is 9,000 so the railway only stretches for 2/3 of the total stretch of the Soviet Union. Having said that in terms of railway building it’s the biggest achievement ever undertaken and was built in an amazingly short period. The Russians were determined to open up Siberia and try to populate it. Anyway sent to prison in Siberia was allowed to become a resident there after serving their sentence which normally be from 4-20 years. Of course most of these people died in captivity. Before the railway was built there existed a railway from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and then on to Chelyansk. This meant 4,500 miles of track had to be layed to Vladivostok. Vladivostok was little more than a village at that time. 1/7 of the Soviet GDP was spent on building this railway which is a huge amount. In those days Russia had very few universities which meant people like engineers and architects had to be brought in from abroad. These people also had to teach Russian people their skills so they could eventually take over although this didn’t happen until the 1850’s. They used a gauge of 5 feet although not all the railways in Russia shared this gauge which meant when the Japanese invaded in Siberia they couldn’t just travel to Moscow on the train and hampered there attempted invasion no end. A lot of the reason for building this railway was a military one to enable the rapid mobilization of troops and later on there were even train based missile launchers in the Cold War although not that many. The Russian Czar did build a railway to Warsaw before the Crimean War as he thought any war would come from that direction in Britain & France attacked and was caught out a bit when the attack came via Stevatopol in the Crimea. The British built the first military railway to get supplies to the front line. This is a great book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Christian is apparently of Russian descent although he lives in Britain and I have reviewed other books by him all of which were consistently good.
Tags: berlin, books, europe, germany, history, russia, the berlin wall, world war 2
The book I read to research this post was The Berlin Wall A Very Brief History by Mark Black which is a very good book which I downloaded from kindle. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 as part of the response to the exodus of people from Eastern Europe to Western Europe. After World War 2 Germany was initially partitioned between America, Britain & Russia & later on France was given a partition. Russia’s partition became East Germany & Britain & America’s partitions were initially joined & later France’s partition joined them to become West Germany. Berlin similialy was partitioned with Russian controlled part becoming East Berlin & the rest becoming West berlin. One problem that had to be solved before the Wall could be built was that a lot of the local railway lines went through West Berlin and had to be re routed. The wall itself which initially consisted of little more than barbed wire was built in one night. What most people think of as the wall which was a 10 foot concrete wall was built much later. Initially the American president Kennedy objected to the wall and how it hindered movement to such an extant that they almost went to war over it. Britain & France didn’t think it was serious enough to go to war and put pressure on America to resolve it peacefully. The wall had checkpoints and they allowed some West Berliners through although they needed a visa & could be turned back at the checkpoint. Later on when Gorbachev became president of Russia initially the wall between Hungary & Austria was opened leading to many East Germans asconding to the west via this route. Of course the Iron Curtain & the Berlin Wall did come down & Checkpoint Charlie was dismantled and reassembled in a museum in the reunified Berlin. I did enjoy reading this book and it is an interesting topic.
Tags: europe, history, kiev, moscow, napoleon bonaparte, russia, russian history
The book I read to research this post was Russian History A Very Short Introduction by Geoffrey Hosking which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This book is part of a series on academic subjects where they get an expert in that field to write a book of around 150 pages which explains that subject and I must admit they do a decent job. There is apparently 300 titles and I am slowly but surely trying to read all of them. Russian history as defined in this book starts in the 13th century when slavs who were literally savages used to raid Russian cities although Russia as a country didn’t exist. Kiev which is nowadays the capital of the Ukraine was the powerful city in the area. Gradually Moscow grew in importance and this is where the beginnings of Russia start because the ruler of Moscow conquered much land. The teutonic knights tried to cut off their trade routes but were unsuccessful. Later Napoleon Bonaparte tried to invade Russia and he had a superior army & the Russian army wanted to retreat until they found an opportune moment to make but this moment never came. Of course they destroyed their crops and any thing else that might be useful. Napoleon thought once he reached Moscow they would surrender but this never happened. A lot of how the French army starved and were cut off from home wasn’t planned by either side.