Russian history and culture, from a historian in Cambridge

Honesty in Khabarovsk, Minsk, Omsk

On the morning of 20 August — this morning, long ago — Aleksei Navalny, Russia’s leading opposition politician and anti-corruption campaigner, was taken ill on a flight from Tomsk to … Continue reading

August 21, 2020

War and Peace: did you like it?

What’s your verdict on the BBC’s War and Peace? One of Britain’s leading military historians is emphatic. ‘They’re wearing 1812 pattern shakos in 1805!!’ he tweets, deploying capitals. Tolstoy, himself … Continue reading

January 5, 2016 · Leave a comment

Doctor Zhivago fights the Cold War

I first read the novel that won Boris Pasternak the Nobel Prize — Doctor Zhivago — during an undergraduate summer. Together with David Lean’s film, it opened a picture window onto the … Continue reading

August 17, 2014 · Leave a comment

The landscape of the welfare state: Vladimir Province in the 1950s

The industrial revolution created the welfare state, the wide-reaching and impersonal bureaucracy that keeps people’s heads above water, or launches them upwards. Why? Because the bosses had to keep the … Continue reading

April 28, 2014 · Leave a comment

Russian patriotism in Crimea: Tsar, Stalin, Putin

A nation is easier to imagine if it has a human face. Since George Washington, the American president has been a physical embodiment of the United States. The Queen’s Diamond … Continue reading

April 11, 2014 · Leave a comment