BEYOND THE KREMLIN

Russian history and culture, from a historian in Cambridge

Penelope Fitzgerald’s Russia: past, patience, future

Penelope Fitzgerald’s historical novels are famous for their authenticity. In The Beginning of Spring (1988), set in Moscow in 1913, she describes rooms, trams, factories, shop signs and streets until … Continue reading

September 2, 2018 · Leave a comment

The World Cup, a month on

Only a month on, what can a historian add? First of all the usual pleasantries. My household was completely hooked. It was a spectacularly successful event, generating excitement and enthusiasm, … Continue reading

August 22, 2018 · Leave a comment

James Bond’s Russia question

James Bond is faced with a unique Russia question in Ian Fleming’s fifth 007 novel, From Russia With Love, published in 1957. Does Tatyana Romanova really want to defect from … Continue reading

August 18, 2018 · Leave a comment

The analogy misleader

You don’t have to watch US cable news for very long before somebody asks about history and Trump. Can you find a comparison? A precedent? Or is Donald Trump so … Continue reading

August 2, 2018 · Leave a comment

A Bolshevik Christmas

Today is Russian Christmas, dated according to the calendar of the Orthodox Church. Now it’s a popular festival, but for seventy-four years, under the guise of the Soviet Union, Russia … Continue reading

January 7, 2018 · Leave a comment

Most enjoyable Russia book of the year?

Many fine books have been published on Russia this year. But one of them kept me turning the pages more quickly than the others, and not from a dutiful need … Continue reading

December 22, 2017 · Leave a comment

Remembering 1917: the impossible task

As 2017 draws to a close, the centenary of the Russian Revolution — arguably the founding event of the contemporary world — has famously passed off without much fuss. This … Continue reading

December 19, 2017 · Leave a comment

America meets Russia in the Urals

Even during the height of the Cold War, it was for a time fashionable to say that no two peoples were more similar than Americans and Russians. Some of the … Continue reading

July 31, 2017 · Leave a comment

Post-Soviet Eurovision and the singer in the wheelchair

Held in Kiev in May, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is an international incident waiting to happen. From selecting the Russian and Ukrainian entrants to calibrating the crowd’s response to … Continue reading

March 16, 2017 · Leave a comment

The Commissar (1967): where the revolution went

This great film about the Russian Civil War contains one of the most terrifying scenes in the history of Soviet cinema. A small group of young Jewish children enact a … Continue reading

March 7, 2017 · Leave a comment