10 of the best novels set in Russia – that will take you there Yevgeny Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. The End of Imperial Russia presents a distinctly long-term analysis on a subject which, although hugely important, is often found only in the introductions to texts on 1917: What happened to the Russian Imperial system that caused it to be swept away? Stalin’s rise to power has been compellingly documented, but what Simon Sebag Montefiore did was to look at how a man with his power and position ran his ‘court.’ The answer may surprise, and it may be chilling, but it’s well written. After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. The women include his wife, Galina Petrovna, who looks after orphaned Lidochka, and whose perfume smells of “orange tree honey, raspberry, ambergris, opoponax, and coriander”. Based on detailed archival research, she tells of the sudden arrests, the sham trials, the gruelling transportation, the hardships of labour camps, starvation and disease – and also the way in which modern Russia is unwilling to come to terms with them. Updated hourly. The setting, with its buckwheat kasha and icon lamps, has bureaucratic warrants and certificates alongside folkloric elements: the locked-up tower of the merchant’s house and the wife’s lover, “like a bright falcon”.• In The Enchanted Wanderer and other stories, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, Vintage, One hundred years after the 1917 revolution, a gem cutter called Krylov falls in love in a Russian city where centenary celebrations lead to repeated cycles of violence. Not one for younger students. Dostoevsky first published it in his literary magazine and Shostakovich later turned it into an ill-fated opera. This generous novel, spanning four decades of Soviet life, has a Tolstoyan ambition to capture the spirit of an age. That’s the rumour that drives Alisa Ganieva’s 2012 novel, set in a dystopian-yet-real version of her hometown of Makhachkala, Dagestan’s coastal capital city. Robert Wilde is a historian who writes about European history. To see what Stalin did to Russia, the best book is Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History. A series of distilled Russian settings serve as backdrops. Vladimir Sorokin is one of the most popular writers in modern Russia, laureate of numerous Russian and... Viktor Pelevin. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. There's a problem loading this menu right now. Journey into the Whirlwind: The Critically Acclaimed Memoir of Stalin's Reign of Terror The narrator is a struggling novelist whose ambitious wife has left him. In St Petersburg, costumed revolutionary sailors try to fire a museum tank gun at the Winter Palace and in Moscow the toppled monument to murderous security chief Felix Dzerzhinsky is resurrected (this bit almost came true recently). In this book, Fitzpatrick explores the effects of collectivization on Russia's peasants, in terms of both economic and socio-cultural change, revealing the changing dynamic of village life. It’s not just the physical details that resonate (log houses girdled by birch trees, linden-shaded boulevards, old ladies selling flowers outside the monastery), but also the absurdly reverential guides and clueless tourists. One dilapidated house, where two of the boys later lose their virginity, provides a physical metaphor for Moscow’s strata: “Its walls had been covered in silk, then in empire wallpaper, … in crude oil paint, … then layers of newsprint…” Ulitskaya is always redolent and readable. The chapters trace a series of related family stories through a century of Soviet and post-Soviet joys and tragedies. In 1917, the majority of Russians were peasants, upon whose traditional ways of living and working Stalin's reforms wreaked a massive, bloody, and dramatic transformation. It opens with young Lidochka at the beach, where her mother is about to drown. Waldron handles these broader themes with ease and the book makes a helpful addition to any study on Imperial or Soviet Russia. It’s another prophetic narrative and Ganieva’s picture of the social and psychological fallout of apocalyptic events feels a bit near the knuckle in 2020. Stepnova continually reframes our perspectives, showing us how human beings can adapt to almost anything.• Translated by Lisa Hayden, World Editions, Available for everyone, funded by readers. The atmosphere of Russia’s old towns and zapovedniki (nature/heritage reserves) is conjured up in this novel, set on Alexander Pushkin’s old family estate. Pick 1 may be excellent, but it's simply too large for many people; however, while Fitzpatrick's book may only be a fifth of the size, it's still a well-written and comprehensive look at the Revolution in its broader period (i.e., not just 1917). The River Neva in St Petersburg. Alexander Pushkin, father of Russian literature, crams laughter, literature, duelling and tempestuous romance into his playful 1820s verse novel. Shamil, a young Dagestani reporter, wanders the streets while his girlfriend, Madina, dons a hijab and heads for the hills to marry a murderous zealot. So, finally, to Moscow, “chiselled in white stone / the buildings topped with fiery glory / A golden cross on every dome”.• Translated by Anthony Briggs, Pushkin Press, Moscow exerts a strong gravitational force on writers, just as it does on Chekhov’s three sisters with their refrain, “To Moscow, to Moscow…” One of the subtlest evocations of modern Moscow is Oleg Zaionchkovsky’s Happiness is Possible, a series of darkly comic vignettes published in 2012. By Heidi Blake. $30. This reference book provides a reservoir of facts, figures, timelines, and biographies, perfect for supplementing a study or simply using to check the occasional detail. Illustrated. He shuffles, unshaven, through the dacha village of Vaskovo and fills the abandoned apartment with dog hair and ashtrays. Nevertheless, there are plenty of texts on the subject; this is a list of the best. But Ganieva skilfully uses words from some of the 30-odd local languages and fragments of poems, fables, dreams and diaries to evoke this diverse republic sandwiched between war-torn Chechnya and the Caspian Sea.• Translated by Carol Apollonio, Deep Vellum, Boris Alikhanov, an alcoholic, unpublished author, finds work as a summer guide in the Pushkin Hills museum, as Dovlatov himself once did. Beyond the deftly drawn settings (trams, ice skating, Karelian birchwood furniture) is a powerful sense of cultural baggage. Dagestan is not really a holiday destination, even when there’s no pandemic, and a novel about Islamic radicalisation isn’t likely to encourage tourists. The 1917 revolutions may attract the most attention, but Stalin's dictatorship is an equally important subject for both Russian and European histories. There are a lot of books on contemporary Russia, and many look at the transition from Cold War thaw to Putin. As Ludmila Ulitskaya writes in The Big Green Tent: “Military historians have found many discrepancies in Tolstoy’s description of the Battle of Borodino, but the whole world imagines the event just as Tolstoy described it in War and Peace.”, A bored young man inherits a country estate, where a shy, book-loving local girl falls for him. Myth-breaking, academic, gripping, and emotive, this is marvelous. In He Lover of Death, Oliver Twist meets Treasure Island as we follow the adventures of orphaned urchin Senka through 19th-century Moscow. There’s an evocative Russianness in the novel’s linguistic subtlety, the fantastical mountain gorges, the cavalcades on city streets and the pervasive, Kafkaesque sense of strangeness.• Translated by Marian Schwartz, Overlook Duckworth, A war-wounded teacher arrives at a 1950s Moscow school and forms a Dead Poets Society-style club, where he leads the boys through the city streets, peeling back the layers of its literary and historical palimpsest. A good primer for the modern day. The result is huge (almost 1000 pages), but don't let that put you off because Figes covers almost every level with verve, style, and a highly readable text. This subjective list of engaging, relatively readable novels and novellas recreates various Russian landscapes, eras and atmospheres, often in ways that no amount of travelling could. From the bored merchant’s wife, romping with a newly arrived farmhand under moonlit apple blossom, to a chilling denouement near the “dark, gape-jawed waves” of the leaden Volga, the story showcases Leskov’s restless evocation of place and passion. 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Akunin recreates the slums of Khitrovka, full of spiced tea stalls and gangsters in shiny boots (today the area is all banks and top-end restaurants, of course). Top Books: Modern Russia - The Revolution and After. What was it like to live under the Stalinist regime, where everyone seemed to be at risk of arrest and exile to the lethal Gulags? Senka finds a hoard of antique silver bars, hires a student to teach him how to be a gentleman and is soon at the theatre, marvelling that people will pay “seven roubles to sit in a prickly collar for three hours” and watch “men in tight underpants jumping about”.

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