After the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks were enmeshed in a civil war and desperate for funds for everything from guns and boots for soldiers to a luxury car for Lenin. In theory, they had at their disposal the riches of the deposed Tsar, including one of the world�s great reserves of gold. But the gold was the security for Russia�s national debt, and most of Europe didn�t recognize the new regime or its right to the treasury anyway; in today�s terms, it was a rogue state under heavy sanctions whose assets were effectively frozen. What followed, McMeekin writes, was a �gold-laundering boom,� involving art-thieving commissars, double-dealing smugglers, and a surprisingly nefarious cast of Swedes. The Bolsheviks put teams to work prying pearls from centuries-old icons, cracked open private safe-deposit boxes, and even stripped a necklace from Catherine the Great�s tomb. McMeekin�s outrage about the crimes occasionally overgilds a good and relevant story, but, given the economic and cultural cost to the Russian people, it is understandable.
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Received Honorable Mention for the 2010 Ed A. Hewett Book Prize, sponsored by the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, and awarded by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.
(Ed A. Hewett Book Prize Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies