BEYOND THE KREMLIN

Russian history and culture, from a historian in Cambridge

Coronavirus: a history of now?

Can history make sense of Covid-19? Some answers to this question come from a podcast hosted by the Faculty of History here at Cambridge. I hope you’ve caught it; you … Continue reading

May 31, 2020

Lewis Siegelbaum and the consolations of history

From time to time, many of us sense that our ancestors can guide and protect us. Such a feeling is a comfort. But can you read their messages? Historians console … Continue reading

February 15, 2020

Scarecrow / historian

At the weekend, I watched The Scarecrow — Rolan Bykov’s landmark film of 1983 — for the second time. The first time was fifteen years ago in the library of … Continue reading

November 11, 2019

Books and Terror

Does reading books make you a better person? Students beginning university this week might wonder if learning brings wisdom, kindness or resilience. Faced with an ungenerous teacher in his book-stacked … Continue reading

October 1, 2019

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 · Leave a comment

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