From the award-winning author of The Whisperers, Orlando Figes Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia is a dazzling history of Russia's mighty culture.
Orlando Figes' enthralling, richly evocative history has been heralded as a literary masterpiece on Russia, the lives of those who have shaped its culture, and the enduring spirit of a people.
'Wonderfully rich ... magnificent and compelling ... a delight to read' Antony Beevor
'A tour de force by the great storyteller of modern Russian historians ... Figes mobilizes a cast of serf harems, dynasties, politburos, libertines, filmmakers, novelists, composers, poets, tsars and tyrants ... superb, flamboyant and masterful' Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Financial Times
'Awe-inspiring ... Natasha's Dance has all the qualities of an epic tragedy' Mail on Sunday
'It is so much fun to read that I hesitate to write too much, for fear of spoiling the pleasures and surprises of the book' Sunday Telegraph
'Magnificent ... Figes is at his exciting best' Guardian
'Breathtaking ... The title of this masterly history comes from War and Peace, when the aristocratic heroine, Natasha Rostova, finds herself intuitively picking up the rhythm of a peasant dance ... One of those books that, at times, makes you wonder how you have so far managed to do without it' Independent on Sunday
'Thrilling, dizzying ... I would defy any reader not to be captivated' Literary Review
Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of Peasant Russia, Civil War, A People's Tragedy, Natasha's Dance, The Whisperers and Just Send Me Word. His books have been translated into over twenty languages.
Even if one takes nothing else away from this elegant, tightly focused survey of Russian culture, it's impossible to forget the telling little anecdotes that University of London history professor Figes (A People's Tragedy) relates about Russia's artists, writers, musicians, intellectuals and courtiers as he traces the cultural movements of the last three centuries. He shares Ilya Repin's recollection of how peasants reacted to his friend Leo Tolstoy's fumbling attempts to join them in manual labor ("Never in my life have I seen a clearer expression of irony on a simple peasant's face"), as well as the three sentences Shostakovich shyly exchanged with his idol, Stravinsky, when the latter returned to the Soviet Union after 50 years of exile (" 'What do you think of Puccini?' 'I can't stand him,' Stravinsky replied. 'Oh, and neither can I, neither can I' "). Full of resounding moments like these, Figes's book focuses on the ideas that have preoccupied Russian artists in the modern era: Just what is "Russianness," and does the quality come from its peasants or its nobility, from Europe or from Asia? He examines canonical works of art and literature as well as the lives of their creators: Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, Chagall, Stanislavsky, Eisenstein and many others. Figes also shows how the fine arts have been influenced by the Orthodox liturgy, peasant songs and crafts, and myriad social and economic factors from Russian noblemen's unusual attachments to their peasant nannies to the 19th-century growth of vodka production. The book's thematically organized chapters are devoted to subjects like the cultural influence of Moscow or the legacy of the Mongol invasion, and with each chapter Figes moves toward the 1917 revolution and the Soviet era, deftly integrating strands of political and social history into his narrative. This is a treat for Russophiles and a unique introduction to Russian history.