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Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's History

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's History.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Catherine Merridale(Author)

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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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Review Text

  • By Loverofbooks on 4 June 2014

    In one extraordinary volume Catherine Merridale covers the history of Russia with the importance of the Kremlin at its heart - and makes some sense out of this secretive yet spectacular country.From its rural and brutal emergence with, it seems, various factions wanting to extend their empire and take Russia as their own Merridale portrays an emerging identity for a new and powerful country and from its establishment as a seat of power, the Kremlin becomes a symbol of its power-base for all the Russian people.The two paradoxes of Russian history though is the apparent lack of respect for their own history until after the event. It seems that not until Peter the Great and Catherine did the Russian people grasp that they were in need of a cultural tradition as they had seen in Britain, France and Italy in particular. They import various designers who create magnificent buildings including the development of the Kremlin and for some while they become a magnificence to be the envy of the world.However, where the successive invasions by Napoleon and Hitler seem to almost destroy Moscow it is the Bolsheviks who all but eradicate the cultural history as seen in the Cathedrals and Palaces of their own history.The greatest tragedy is that over two or three centuries of rule and misrule the Russians appear to be both the architect and victim of their own destruction of an untold magnificence of historic buildings, art and culture. From Lenin, Stalin and to Putin, the Kremlin changes from being the heart of a nation to a sinister place of recreated magnificence but with a dark, cruel secret history .A bit like Alton Towers with the cruelest of torture chambers in the centre.The book is a splendid read and is mind-blowingly-interesting, at times I just couldn't put it down and was a page-turner. After the twists and turns of its history over many centuries, the last chapter where the author relates her work at investigating the Kremlin Libraries becomes as dark as any past century of repression. At times Merridale explains about the difficulty of getting permission or a pass to enter certain rooms or gain access to certain books and documents; it is then the reader becomes aware of just how repressive the present hierarchy of the Russian Government are still. History seems to have taught them nothing and yet the Kremlin stands as a monument to a desecrated country rather than at the heart of a once unparalleled culture which the world would clamour to see.

  • By G4SVH on 13 April 2017

    Full of detail but an easy read. Really brings the history of this great country to life and makes you realise why the Russians have a very different life view to ours.Highly recommended even for non-history-buffs like me!

  • By Kindle Customer on 7 July 2017

    This is a fascinating book which overcomes the massive shifts in Russian history by focusing on a single place. Recommended.

  • By Hobbit69 on 16 November 2013

    This is such a great read. The first thing to say about the author is that she is not at all a dusty and dry historian which is often such a turn-off in other historical tomes I have read by other writers. Catherine Merridale writes with a deep knowledge of her subject but with such beautifully descriptive language, and her own personal interpretation of what is being described which is sometimes sombre, sometimes light hearted, but always brings an image of the subject crystal clear in the reader's mind. For example, at the very beginning, the writer describes being given a private tour amongst some of the extant churches of the Kremlin; through rooms which many people never get the chance to see. Catherine describes the keys to these rooms being selected from a box by the official giving the tour, and that these keys "really should have been forged from meteorites and guarded by a dragon". How wonderful.The book takes the reader on a journey, starting in ancient times; and the passage and then settling of travellers; we learn that the name Moscow is probably Finnish. The journey moves on; and we see the Russian people many times reinventing themselves with the backdrop of the Kremlin as the heart of their culture; and a display of their power.One of my favourite parts of the book comes early in the piece with a marvellous description of the artwork on display in the Kremlin "The Tree of the State of Muscovy" by Ushakov. Catherine explains that this is a sacred work of art but is also a text about history. She describes the picture in detail - and this is helped by a colour plate of the picture also given - and that at first glance it appears to be simply a tree of life. However, look more closely, and one starts to see other images appearing, subtle messages, one of which is within roots of the tree proclaiming that the Tsar at the time of the picture's creation (Aleksai Romanov - 1645-76) has his roots firmly in Russia's past. The whole point about this picture and why I love this particular bit so much, is that it represents "the determination of successive Russian rulers to rewrite the past, so that the present, whatever it turns out to be, will seem as deeply rooted and organic as Ushakov's tree." Powerful stuff indeed.There are many examples of this type of description throughout the book, but what is clear is that her research has been extensive and done with respect; and this shines through in her writing. I learned so much from reading this book which I am sure will be enjoyed by both serious academics and people, like myself, who enjoy a thumping good read which is factual, based on solid research and evidence, but also carries drama and passion within those facts, bringing the story to life with wonderfully descriptive language.The photographic plates and the reproduced images in the centre of the book are beautiful and fully support the text, which for those people who have never visited Russia, and seen the Kremlin, bring the whole story to life. Plate no. 28 - that of Lenin's mausoleum on Red Square - is almost like a painting, the colours are incredible, and transports the reader right to that very place.Very much looking forward to seeing more books from this wonderful writer as her previous books, and particularly Ivans War, were also beautifully written.


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