Beyond the Kremlin

Russia past and present, from a historian in Cambridge

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

The Cold War surveillance state — and AJP Taylor

Just how different was the post-Stalin Soviet Union from the Western democracies? Nowadays, historians ask the question in a routine way, focusing on the principles underlyng the consumer economy or … Continue reading

July 13, 2014 · Leave a comment