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Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin Hardcover – November 12, 2013
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“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
Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, in this I was disappointed. My main gripes:
1) at least in the kindle version, there are virtually no maps or pictures (other than on illegible map of the kremlin at the beginning). At least half the book (more on that later) consists of descriptions of the features, locations, and appearance of the Kremlin and many of the buildings constructed within it, but all of that is left to our imagination, and there are no pictures, drawings, etc. to illustrate what the author is talking about. It is possible that the print version has these illustrations, and if so, this criticism would not apply to it.
2) In addition to a history of the Kremlin, the book presents a rather episodic and uneven history of Russia. While this is unavoidable to a certain extent, much of this content really has nothing to do with the Kremlin and seems to have been inserted as a sort of primer on Russian history, in which role it falls short. In my view, much of this material should have either been excluded altogether or expanded to be more comprehensive.
3) I walk through Red Square on an almost daily basis, but after reading this book don't feel that I have any better understanding of the various buildings on the square. What's the story behind the construction of GUM, the massive department store opposite the Kremlin on Red Square? Not addressed... Similarly, what renovations have been done to the various towers over the centuries, and what specific role have they played, what significant events have occurred in them? Addressed, sort of, but not in a very user-friendly or comprehensive way.Read more ›
Dr. Catherine Merridale is a British Scholar who has written extensively on Russia. I have read her earlier book "Ivan's War" concerning Soviet troops in World War II which I found of great historical interest. This interest led me to this new volume. It is presented in a dry and academic style. Many pages are devoted to the various churches, cathedrals, palaces and meeting rooms included within the wide and forbidding Kremlin walls. Much of this material will be new to Western readers with many finding the information to be dull and quickly forgotten!
To tell the story of the Kremlin is to tell the story of Russia that enigma wrapped inside a mystery. The book though dry contains valuable material for anyone interested in Russia, the Kremlin and the leaders of this large and important country.
The book has a slow start with the discussion of early Russia and it's swiftly changing rulers. The list of buildings and the sweep of change becomes a blur of names and construction. Somewhere around the emergence of the early Tsars, the story takes a more engaging shape and pulls the reader into the romance of a fortress and its people. I admit the book became truly bewitching to me with the entrance of the Soviets, and ironically their demolition of much its precious history. The stories from behind the scenes of Stalin's windswept end granite fort make for a clear dissertation on the intersection of the image and the building. This is the beginning of era of the iron tipped parades of May Day projected to the Western World.
This book has undertaken a huge task with the vagaries of a vast history and its mythologies. This book is intricate in its record of the entwining of the Kremlin and its people. In its turn, it beguiles the reader and delivers an encompassing history with graceful commentary and an author's clear affection for her subject. Past the collapse of the Soviet, Russia remains a source of foreign mystique, and its star still rest in the Red Fortress.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Everything you ever wanted to know about that tragic place.Published 5 months ago by Mr. Roscoe M. Goodman MD
A great read. The history of Russia is essentially the history of the Kremlin.The history of rulers (and their legacies) over the centuries make for an interesting read.Published 18 months ago by Zephyr
having been to the kremlin a number of times, I really enjoyed this book.Published 19 months ago by Jurie Kruger
As a result, very hard to follow unless I kept searching on Wikipedia. I skipped most of the architectural discussion and read the historical stories which are not bad.Published 20 months ago by Eva
I am currently living in Moscow and found the book to be fabulous. It gave me many insights into Russian History / Culture.Published 22 months ago by Paul Voisin
Makes me want to read more on the players described in this book though. Not enough said about them because it's really about the place.Published 23 months ago by David Bonifacio
With every page, I learned a new element of historical context for the actions and attitudes of the Russia I have "known" as an American born during Kruschev's regime. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Paula
We in the west do need to understand Russia and Russian history a little better. This is a good way to start and a is a cracking good read as well.Published 23 months ago by Sefton Boyd