BEYOND THE KREMLIN

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

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

The World Cup, a month on

Only a month on, what can a historian add? First of all the usual pleasantries. My household was completely hooked. It was a spectacularly successful event, generating excitement and enthusiasm, … Continue reading

August 22, 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

Post-Soviet Eurovision and the singer in the wheelchair

Held in Kiev in May, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is an international incident waiting to happen. From selecting the Russian and Ukrainian entrants to calibrating the crowd’s response to … Continue reading

March 16, 2017 · Leave a comment

How Soviet maths might yet destroy capitalism

Post-Soviet mathematicians have the world in their hands, and they know all about you. Sergei Brin was born in Moscow in 1973. Six years later, he migrated with his family … Continue reading

May 22, 2016 · Leave a comment

The iron curtain first lady

Laughed at, unable to answer back, constrained in private life but derided for political involvement: the modern political spouse can’t do right for doing wrong. Was it the same behind … Continue reading

May 17, 2016 · Leave a comment

The Panama Papers: Soviet history lessons?

Are you any the wiser, or did you know it already? The massive leak of documents from the law firm Mossack Fonseca reveals — pause — that David Cameron inherited … Continue reading

April 17, 2016 · 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

1917: the revolution of multitudes

‘Make arrangements for the children,’ said Molotov to his closest friend, Alexander Arosev, shortly before Arosev’s arrest in July 1937. You can read this and have a pure connection with the … Continue reading

October 8, 2015 · Leave a comment