'The history book you need if you want to understand modern Russia' ANNE APPLEBAUM
'A magnificent, magisterial thousand year history of Russia . . . by one of the masters of Russian scholarship' SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE
'A great historian at the peak of his powers' WILLIAM DALRYMPLE
'[An] excellent short study' MAX HASTINGS, SUNDAY TIMES
'If you really want to understand Putin's Russia today, anchored in its past of myths, then you simply have to read Figes's superb account' ANTONY BEEVOR
'A lucid chronological journey that ably illustrates how narratives from the nation's past have been used to shape its autocratic present' OBSERVER
'A valuable, instructive overview' INDEPENDENT
From the great storyteller of Russia, a spellbinding account of the stories that have shaped the country's past – and how they can inform its present.
No other country has been so divided over its own past as Russia. None has changed its story so often. How the Russians came to tell their story, and to reinvent it as they went along, is a vital aspect of their history, their culture and beliefs. To understand what Russia's future holds – to grasp what Putin's regime means for Russia and the world – we need to unravel the ideas and meanings of that history.
In The Story of Russia, Orlando Figes brings into sharp relief the vibrant characters that comprise Russia's rich history, and whose stories remain so important in making sense of the world's largest nation today – from the crowning of sixteen-year-old Ivan the Terrible in a candlelit cathedral, to Catherine the Great, riding out in a green uniform to arrest her husband at his palace, to the bitter last days of the Romanovs.
Beautifully written and based on a lifetime of scholarship, The Story of Russia is a major and definitive work from the great storyteller of Russian history: sweeping, suspenseful, masterful.
"No other country has reimagined its past so frequently," writes historian Figes (The Europeans) in this rich and immersive look at how Russia's national myths are "continuously reconfigured and repurposed to suit its present needs and reimagine its future." Examining Kievan Rus ruler Grand Prince Vladimir's baptism into the Eastern Orthodox Church in 988 and Moscow's emergence, in Russian Orthodox Church doctrine, as the "last true seat of the Christian faith" after the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century, Figes asserts that Russia's leaders have used these and other legends to rewrite history according to their political agendas. He also details how Catherine the Great supported claims that Russians were descended from Vikings in order to defend autocracy and promote her imperialist ambitions, and traces the mystical notion of the "Russian soul"—"a universal spirit of Christian love and brotherhood innate only in the Russian people, whose providential mission was to save the world from egotism, greed and all the other Western sins"—to Nikolai Gogol's novel Dead Souls. Figes's fluid prose ("Nobles gave up Clicquot and Lafite for kvas and vodka, haute cuisine for cabbage soup," he quips in describing how Russian aristocrats reacted to the French Revolution) keeps the jam-packed narrative from getting bogged down in intricate historical matters. Russophiles will savor this illuminating survey.