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The Prince of Princes: The Life of Potemkin Hardcover – November 7, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Modern Russian historians from Martin Malia to Gregory Freeze barely mention the subject of this massive biography, which illuminates the history of the European revolutionary era. In Volume 10 of The Story of Civilization: Rousseau and Revolution, the Durants pull into focus the wonderfully woven story of Prince Potemkin, Catherine the Great's secret husband and confidant. The palace intrigue is now magnified by this well-documented work by journalist Montefiore (the Sunday Times, the New York Times), who studied history at Cambridge. Montefiore's job as biographer is to aggrandize his subject, and so Potemkin here assumes nearly mythical stature in 18th-century history. His enemies and detractors, mainly other European statesmen, propounded preposterous stories of fake villages in the Crimea and other events that diminished Potemkin's accomplishments. Montefiore has restored him to a prominent place in Russian history, showing that his accomplishments were greater, in Russian terms, than those of any other Russian save Peter the Great: "Potemkin was unique in combining the creative ideas of an entrepreneur with the force of a soldier and the foresight of a statesman." Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"...a colorful biography...Mr. Montefiore captures the genius of two extraordinary Enlightment figures -- and of the age as well." -- Wall Street Journal
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (November 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312278152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312278151
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1.8 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,242,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Sebag Montefiore's bestselling, prize-winning books are now published in over 45 languages. A historian specializing in Russia and the Middle East, Dr Montefiore's next major book is 'The Romanovs 1613-1918', a full political, cultural and personal history of the 19 tsars of the dynasty that ruled Russia for over 300 years and an analysis of the nature of Russian empire, to be published in 2016.

'Potemkin: Catherine the Great's Imperial Partner' was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper, and Marsh Biography Prizes. 'Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar' won the History Book of the Year Prize, British Book Awards. 'Young Stalin' won LA Times Book Prize for Biography (USA), the Costa Biography Award (UK), the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria) and Le Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique (France). Both Stalin biographies were bestsellers internationally. 'Jerusalem: the Biography' won the Jewish Book of the Year Prize in the USA and was number one non-fiction bestseller in the UK and an international bestseller.

He is also the author of two novels. 'One Night in Winter' won the Best Political Novel of the Year Prize in Britain and was longlisted for the Orwell Prize. His thriller-love-stories set in Russia - 'One Night in Winter' and 'Sashenka' - are both in paperback.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor at Buckingham University, he is the presenter of three BBC tv series, Jerusalem(2011); Rome (2012) and Istanbul/Constantinople -'Byzantium: a tale of 3 cities'(2013). He was educated at Harrow School and Caius College, Cambridge University where he received his Doctorate of Philosophy.
Twitter: @simonmontefiore
For more information: www. simonsebagmontefiore.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If all you knew about Potemkin was the fact that he built fake villages for Catherine the Great, then this book will tell you a lot more. In fact, the author goes into the origin of that particular myth, and shows it to be false, and propagated by enemies of Potemkin, and repeated, uncritically, by subsequent historians.
There is no question that Sebag-Montefiore is biassed in favor of his hero - this is not an objective biography, and doesn't try to be, or claim to be so. Some people might think that the author of a historical biography should be an invisible, impartial figure, but you don't get that with this book. You hear a lot about the author's travels to research his subject, which contrasts with the dry style of more "serious" historians, who never leave the library. Any author of a biography is likely to be biassed, so why not be upfront about it?
This is a very readable book - there are lots of anecdotes, and a lot of quotes directly from the correspondance between Potemkin and Catherine. The book makes a direct claim that the two were married, in a secret ceremony, and even describes the ceremony, even though the author cheerfully admits the lack of evidence for this.
The really good thing about this book is that most of it draws on primary sources, many of which have not been available before, and the author brings these, and their authors to life. This means that it is a ground-breaking historical account, and popular history at the same time. Like all good biographies, it teaches you a lot about the historical context, so you will learn a lot about how Catherine was able to defeat the Turks, and significantly expand the size of the Russian empire.
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Format: Hardcover
Potemkin was a Russian statesman who exercised power in the reign of Catherine the Great. He had a position of importance for about 17 years in the last part of the 17th Century.
He was associated with the "Southern Strategy". In the early years of the 17th Century Peter the Great had modernized the Russian army, organized society in such a way that it could support a standing army and run a centralized state in a modern way. Peter had defeated the Swedes and thrown them out of Russia. His campaigns in the south were not successful and he was forced to sign a humiliating peace with Persia.
Potemkin expanded Russia to the South. Detaching the Crimea from the Turkish Empire and making it an independent state was the first step. Later it was annexed as was some of the territories in the Caucasus and Besserabia. Not only did Potemkin add these territories to Russia but he made them what they are today. These areas had been largely pastoral areas dominated by the Turks and sparsely populated. Potemkin filled these areas with peasant farmers and they became some of the richest agricultural areas in Russia. He also designed and built cities such as Odessa and Sebastapool. One thing which was important to Russia's history over the next hundred years was that he developed good relationships with the Cossacks and in fact created the Kuban Cossacks. As a result the Cossacks became one of the pillars of Czarism.
In the 19th Century Russia was one of the largest and most successful empires. Potemkin is one of its architects and laid the basis for its relentless eastward expansion. He is remarkable in many ways. A good deal of what he achieved was through diplomacy.
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Format: Hardcover
Potemkin : Prince of Princes

by Simon Sebag Montefiore

This book about Potemkin is as broad, expansive, and fascinating as the man himself. It's beautifully researched, based strongly on the correspondence of Potemkin and Catherine the Great, as well as the archives of Potemkin.

Gregor Potemkin was a minor noble who was on the periphery of the conspiracy that brought Catherine the Great to power in Russia in 1762. Younger than Catherine, Potemkin remained among the people who served her, and was seen as a humorous and turbulent young man with a gift for amusing the Empress.

In 1774, they became lovers, and lovers on an epic scale. The letters between them are humorous, loving, passionate, and filled with the details of running an Empire. Potemkin, brilliant, well-read and gifted was a companion for Catherine in a way that none of her other favorites were. He and Catherine were tender towards one another til his death in the early 1790's, even as they both eventually turned to other lovers. Rumors spread that they were married, and Montefiore explores whether this might be true. His conclusion - it's impossible to prove, but their language of love uses the phrases husband and wife in far more than casual way. And the way that they worked together to run an Empire, wage wars in Crimea, and make Russia a stronger Imperial power was one of partnership, not of master and servant.

Potemkin is a fascinating figure - by turns filled with manic energy and diffident - a sensualist who wanted to reside in a monastery, a mass of contradictions. But the book makes a sense of the man - passionate and intellectual, filled with curiosity for innovation, with a gift for friendship.
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