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Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin Hardcover – November 12, 2013
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Churchill famously referred to Russia as a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” If so, it is undeniable that many of the components of that riddle have unfolded within the red-tinged, forbidding walls of the Kremlin, the complex of buildings in Moscow that has been at the center of the Russian state apparatus for eight centuries. Merridale, a specialist in Russian and Soviet history who teaches at Queen Mary University in London, shows how much of Russia’s often tortured, bloody history was due to top-down decisions by rulers from Ivan the Terrible to Stalin. She does an excellent job of integrating that history, the actions of the rulers, and the building and rebuilding of the Kremlin. From the inception of the complex, it seemed to reflect the desire of Russian rulers to convey a sense of both centralized power and stability. As Merridale illustrates, this was an illusion, since Russian and Soviet autocrats often exercised surprisingly limited control over a gigantic and often chaotic land mass. This is a well-done portrait of both Russian history and the Kremlin. --Jay Freeman
“Merridale's extraordinary history of the red fortress mixes politics, history, architecture and biography to lay bare the secret heart of Russia's history… It is a delight to read, with pithy pen-portraits, poignant vignettes and mordant summaries of the twists and turns of fate and fortune… Merridale does a brilliant job of piecing together the clues from the past and evading the constraints of the present.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“One of the best popular histories of Russia in any language… Merridale's stories flow naturally, she has a superb eye for detail and the telling fact, and she is not afraid to tell us just what she thinks.… The Kremlin becomes in her hands the narrative thread that knits together the disjointed story of Russia and the Russians. As a literary device, this works marvelously.” ―Times Literary Supplement
“A splendidly rich portrait of an exotic and puzzling redoubt… Vivid and meticulous… Merridale is a historian by training, but she has a detective's nose and a novelist's way with words. Her eyes and ears are as sharp as her pen.” ―The Economist
“Catherine Merridale's Red Fortress is a tour de force, as readable as it is extensively researched.” ―Financial Times
“Red Fortress is much more than just another book about the Kremlin. It is a brilliant meditation on Russian history and the myths with which the Russians have sought to console themselves.” ―The Observer
“This simply superb chronicle of the Kremlin is really a brilliant and unputdownable history of Russia itself from the early Tsars via Lenin and Stalin to Putin; anyone who wants to understand Russia today will not only learn a lot but will enjoy every page.” ―Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Telegraph, Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Telegraph
“An exhilarating psychogeographical study of Moscow's Kremlin will delight many ...a book of detail and imagination…Merridale's book is a brilliant contribution to the ‘Xanadu' strand in English literature…an exhilarating journey.” ―The Guardian
“Immensely readable…Merridale recounts its eventful history with great skill and tremendous narrative verve.” ―The Sunday Times
“This unique and stunningly well illustrated book is going to be a definitive study.” ―Literary Review
“An extensive and meticulous journey through Russian history… How have Russia's leaders taken a history that is often either ‘difficult, contested, or fragmentary' and melded it to fit the pervading ideology of the day? With thorough research, including rare access to the Kremlin's dusty, permission-only archives, Merridale addresses this question and many more to weave an insightful, fascinating tale” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A comprehensive study of Moscow's walled city, for centuries a byword for power, secrecy, and cruelty… Russian visitors and social historians alike will benefit from Merridale's thoroughgoing research and lively writing.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“A well-done portrait… Merridale does an excellent job of integrating Russia's often tortured, bloody history, the actions of the rulers, and the building and rebuilding of the Kremlin.” ―Booklist