Russian history and culture, from a historian in Cambridge

The many rooms of Eldar Riazanov

Stuck inside your own four walls during lockdown, you might have found solace from imagining the domestic interiors of past civilizations. The wooden houses of Meiji Japan! The villas of … Continue reading

July 23, 2020

The 9th Microdistrict: Moscow’s future

In 1956, they started to build a new future in Moscow out of both words and bricks. This was the year that Khrushchev gave the Secret Speech. He condemned the … Continue reading

January 27, 2019 · 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

John Steinbeck invents ‘late Stalinism’

John Steinbeck visited the Soviet Union in 1947 when it was going through its post-war purgatory. What an encounter: between the author of The Grapes of Wrath (later to win … Continue reading

January 15, 2016 · Leave a comment

Rights against Leviathan?

‘You never had any fucking rights and you never will,’ says a Russian mayor to a local man whose house he wants to steal. It’s late at night, somewhere in the … Continue reading

February 12, 2015 · Leave a comment

The Philadelphia ghetto, the CIA, and the Soviet city

It’s not a very constructive argument. The neighbours scream that your new fence encroaches on their garden; you shout that their extension bears a doubtful relationship to the building regulations. … Continue reading

December 14, 2014 · Leave a comment

Hugh Trevor-Roper in the USSR

Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), whose centenary this is, was the ultimate grandee among British historians. Regius Professor at Oxford, Master of Peterhouse at Cambridge, friend of the clever or connected, scourge … Continue reading

June 18, 2014 · Leave a comment

Property and Communists

An Englishman’s home is his castle, but pulling up the drawbridge is a near universal human activity. It seems natural to mark off what is yours from what is someone … Continue reading

March 11, 2014 · Leave a comment