Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's History
WINNER OF THE WOLFSON PRIZE 2013
HERALD BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2014
The extraordinary story of the Kremlin - from prize-winning author and historian Catherine Merridale
Both beautiful and profoundly menacing, the Kremlin has dominated Moscow for many centuries. Behind its great red walls and towers many of the most startling events in Russia's history have been acted out. It is both a real place and an imaginative idea; a shorthand for a certain kind of secretive power, but also the heart of a specific Russian authenticity. Catherine Merridale's exceptional book revels in both the drama of the Kremlin and its sheer unexpectedness: an impregnable fortress which has repeatedly been devastated, a symbol of all that is Russian substantially created by Italians. The many inhabitants of the Kremlin have continually reshaped it to accord with shifting ideological needs, with buildings conjured up or demolished to conform with the current ruler's social, spiritual, military or regal priorities. In the process, all have claimed to be the heirs of Russia's great historic destiny.
Magnificent ... [a] a superbly written book ... Merridale's idea was to use the Kremlin like a backdrop to an opera - a screen on which to project scenes from Russia's violent and dramatic history. That way she tells the fortress's story without lapsing into architectural didacticism or guidebook prose, and it works wonderfully (George Walden Telegraph)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 ... wonderful (Simon Sebag Montefiore Telegraph)[Merridale] combines impeccable scholarship with a deep feeling for the humanity of the people she writes about. Her style is accurate, spare, direct and warm-hearted, about as far from the academy as you can get ... [Red Fortress] is a brilliant meditation on Russian history and the myths with which the Russians have sought to console themselves (Rodric Braithwaite Guardian)Addictively clever history ... Merridale whisks us through a series of terrific melodramas (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times BOOKS OF THE YEAR)A zingy, razor-keen history of the Kremlin (Ian Thomson Spectator BOOKS OF THE YEAR)Merridale captures very well the suffocating atmosphere of those overheated corridors, where every room was bugged and mere proximity to power was often a death sentence ... she writes superbly. She has a gift for the tart insight ... and an eye for the telling anecdote (Tony Brenton The Times)Exhilarating ... Both in its modernist sense of "time in flux" and in its style, Red Fortress is at the furthest possible remove from Soviet schoolroom sermons about "the period of feudal atomization" and the rise of the centralizing state ... This is a book of detail and imagination ... a neohistorical account of the Russian past ... Red Fortress made me remember the open-mouthed delight I took when, hardly old enough to know where Russia was, I studied the émigré artist Boris Artsybashev's elegant, aetiolated portraits of medieval Russian princes (Catriona Kelly Guardian)Red Fortress is a tour de force, as readable as it is extensively researched ... It never flags through nearly 10 centuries of Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet history ... [Merridale] is both mythbuster and pilgrim, captivated by her subject even while turning an eye of scholarly detachment to it (Virginia Rounding Financial Times)One of the best popular histories of Russia in any language (Times Literary Supplement)Immensely readable ... Merridale recounts [the Kremlin's] eventful history with great skill and tremendous narrative verve (Ian Critchley Sunday Times)Merridale is a historian by training, but she has a detective's nose and a novelist's way with words (Economist)As with many important books, the reader will wonder why nothing like Catherine Merridale's work ... has been written before ... Merridale has succeeded in stripping off the veneer... She has the skills to get guardians of secret places talking and to negotiate access with Russian archivists, and thus penetrate the inner workings of the Kremlin. At the same time, she has a feeling for the site that brings dry archaeological and architectural facts to life: few writers can write the biography of a city or a citadel ... The Kremlin's history is likely to be frozen for decades to come. This unique and stunningly well-illustrated book is going to be a definitive study for just as long (Donald Rayfield Literary Review)Catherine Merridale's sparkling new book shows that it is people who dominate architecture (BBC History Magazine)As usual, [Merridale's] engaging writing style combines a keen eye for detail with a human touch (Times Higher Education)[A] superb history of the Kremlin ... pages of lucid prose (Irish Times)
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