Beyond the Kremlin

Russia past and present, from a historian in Cambridge

Are historians really losers?

Soviet history presents us with some of the most extraordinary events, places and people in all of the twentieth century. And yet in the classes I teach, we spend hours … Continue reading

February 3, 2019 · 2 Comments

Waiting for dawn

Tibor Szamuely sounded like a pessimist, and with good reason. Years after his release from the Gulag, he wrote a compelling book, The Russian Tradition, whose central argument is that … Continue reading

October 21, 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

The Nazi-Soviet pact: a moral problem

‘Historians often dislike what happened or wish that it had happened differently,’ wrote AJP Taylor, the great British historian-provocateur of the last century. He concluded: ‘There is nothing they can … Continue reading

January 19, 2016 · Leave a comment

History: a guide to Russia’s 2015?

Historians of Russia like to take a long view. Some of the leading scholars of the Russian past have traced an interpretive line to link many centuries. They cautiously suggest … Continue reading

December 31, 2015 · Leave a comment

Spend, spend, spend — Communist-style

Historians who possess souls want to see, touch, and hear the past. They share an instinct with most of their fellow-citizens to imagine what came before: how their families lived, … Continue reading

November 4, 2014 · Leave a comment

When did today dawn in Russia?

Not an easy question for a country with so many time zones, but it’s even worse if you’re a historian. For historians, ‘today’ means ‘contemporary history’, but today might stretch … Continue reading

October 31, 2014 · Leave a comment