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Echoes of a Native Land: Two Centuries of a Russian Village Paperback – February 22, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Russia is a land of far-flung villages, even though most of its history has been made in the cities. In this affecting narrative, New York Times correspondent Serge Schmemann returns to his ancestral village of Koltsovo, 90 miles south of Moscow, to plumb the histories of both his forebears and the country. Drawing on a range of archival material, Schmemann offers a narrative as packed with names, incidents, and memories as any Tolstoy novel. His search for roots yields a compassionate portrait of a nation in difficult times that is full of details about daily life. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Schmemann's researches are herculean, and his story is stark, moving, and infinitely suggestive. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679757074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679757078
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,548,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Amazing.
The author comes from a family of Russian emigres who fled to the West as a result of the Russian Revolution. Before the Revolution, they were part of the minor nobility that supplied the Tsars with military officers in time of war and high- and mid-level government officials in time of peace. The book is mainly about how this family lived through the tumultuous period before, during and after the Revolution. The descriptions of Russian life during this period are vivid and engaging. The family portraits of people struggling to serve and save their country (and ultimately suffering the cruelest repudiation by it) are poignant. And the pages sparkle with objective analysis and insight. In spite of his family background, he does not grind axes or pine away for what was lost. And yet, although much was lost, his love for Russia and its people is clear. He sees clearly that the old order that was swept away in 1917 had its shortcomings, shortcomings that he warns may yet undermine contemporary Russia's latest experiments with constitutional democracy.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Walter Fekula on August 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Serge Schmemann has written a terrific book about his ancestors on his Mother's side, the aristocratic Osorgin family. He traces the estate in Sergiyevskoye (now Koltsovo) that Mikhail Osorgin acquired in a card game in 1843 to the present day. It is a facinating tale interspersed with a history of the country from monarchy to communism to today. Schmemann, the son of an noted Russian Orthodox priest, is emminently qualified to write such a book. He spent many years in the Soviet Union as a reporter for the New York Times prior to winning a Pulitzer for his reportage on the fall of the Berlin Wall. The book is well researched and balanced with little tears shed over how his family lost everything to the successors of Lenin. This is his first book and it is written as what one would would expect from a newspaperman. The balalaikas do not strum and the book does lack the flavor that a book writer would bring. Never-the-less, it holds ones interest for all 333 pages. Unfortunately, Schmemann is currently an editor at the Times, so one misses his excellent columns. We look forward to his next book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By colsen1@ix.netcom.com on April 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
The first half of this book is both leisurely and entertaining, giving us a rich and at the same time penetrating look at the life of a wealthy family, its estate, and the villagers who were their neighbors. The second half, concentrating as it does on post-Bolshavik experiences, both in the rural village area and elsewhere, including a gulag on the White Sea, cannot be more riveting. It's hard to remember that all this really happened; it is no fiction, or creative dramatization. At the same time, there is the sweep and intellectual vision that one does associate with the great Russian novelists of the early part of this century and before. I have sent this extraordinary book to friends of mine, and I am its ardent publicity agent!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By PRT on October 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
I read this book in 1999 just before moving to a village in Ukraine, not too far from the area the writer was most concerned about. The people in the village where I was going were mostly transplants from Russia so I was wondering what they would be like, what to expect. This book gave me a real sense of who those people were and why they were the way they were. It remains one of my favorite books. One paragraph stood out because of the very keen insight, and I have shared it with many. "By the time we came in the 1980s, what made the system appalling was no longer raw terror, which had abated after Stalin's death, or even the silly pretensions of Communist propaganda, which nobody took seriously. It was that the Soviet state had turned every normal function of a society into its antithesis: It created a politics emptied of choice, a religion devoid of faith, a culture stripped of individuality and creativity, and an economy that barred initiative. Its constitution guaranteed every conceivable right and then subordinated them all to the whim of the Party. It compelled people to shout "peace and friendship," and laced its borders with barbed wire and mines. It spouted superlatives but glorified medicrity, crushing anyone who dared to rise above the faceless mass..." If you have any desire to understand the soviet way of life or people, read this book -- great insights.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The reader of this book is offered an opportunity to be transported quickly and effortlessly into Russian history of the past two hundred years. Serge Schmemann provides this experience by meticulously describing the events and lives of people that transpired on his small ancestral part of Russia over a period of two hundred years. Using diaries and illustrations passed on from his relatives coupled with a judicious use of his exhaustive research the author weaves not only a history of his ancestors but effectively recounts Russian history. The benefit of this particular account is its focus on the effect on people. The reader has but to transpose the recounted experiences to all the other corners of Russia and one puts this book down with a sobering outlook on the past centuries life in Russia, particulary under the Soviet regime.
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