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Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Catherine Merridale

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12. November 2013

A magisterial, richly detailed history of the Kremlin, and of the centuries of Russian elites who have shaped it—and been shaped by it in turn

The Kremlin is the heart of the Russian state, a fortress whose blood-red walls have witnessed more than eight hundred years of political drama and extraordinary violence. It has been the seat of a priestly monarchy and a worldly church; it has served as a crossroads for diplomacy, trade, and espionage; it has survived earthquakes, devastating fires, and at least three revolutions. Its very name is a byword for enduring power. From Ivan the Terrible to Vladimir Putin, generations of Russian leaders have sought to use the Kremlin to legitimize their vision of statehood.

Drawing on a dazzling array of sources from hitherto unseen archives and rare collections, renowned historian Catherine Merridale traces the full history of this enigmatic fortress. The Kremlin has inspired innumerable myths, but no invented tales could be more dramatic than the operatic successions and savage betrayals that took place within its vast compound of palaces and cathedrals. Today, its sumptuous golden crosses and huge electric red stars blaze side by side as the Kremlin fulfills its centuries-old role, linking the country’s recent history to its distant past and proclaiming the eternal continuity of the Russian state.

More than an absorbing history of Russia’s most famous landmark, Red Fortress uses the Kremlin as a unique lens, bringing into focus the evolution of Russia’s culture and the meaning of its politics.

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“Merridale’s extraordinary history of the red fortress mixes politics, history, architecture and biography to lay bare the secret heart of Russia’s history… It is a delight to read, with pithy pen-portraits, poignant vignettes and mordant summaries of the twists and turns of fate and fortune… Merridale does a brilliant job of piecing together the clues from the past and evading the constraints of the present.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“One of the best popular histories of Russia in any language… Merridale’s stories flow naturally, she has a superb eye for detail and the telling fact, and she is not afraid to tell us just what she thinks.… The Kremlin becomes in her hands the narrative thread that knits together the disjointed story of Russia and the Russians. As a literary device, this works marvelously.”
—Times Literary Supplement

“A splendidly rich portrait of an exotic and puzzling redoubt… Vivid and meticulous… Merridale is a historian by training, but she has a detective’s nose and a novelist’s way with words. Her eyes and ears are as sharp as her pen.”
—The Economist

“Catherine Merridale’s Red Fortress is a tour de force, as readable as it is extensively researched.”
—Financial Times

Red Fortress is much more than just another book about the Kremlin. It is a brilliant meditation on Russian history and the myths with which the Russians have sought to console themselves.”
—The Observer

“This simply superb chronicle of the Kremlin is really a brilliant and unputdownable history of Russia itself from the early Tsars via Lenin and Stalin to Putin; anyone who wants to understand Russia today will not only learn a lot but will enjoy every page.”
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Telegraph

“An exhilarating psychogeographical study of Moscow’s Kremlin will delight many ...a book of detail and imagination…Merridale’s book is a brilliant contribution to the ‘Xanadu’ strand in English literature…an exhilarating journey.”
—The Guardian

“Immensely readable…Merridale recounts its eventful history with great skill and tremendous narrative verve.”
—The Sunday Times

“This unique and stunningly well illustrated book is going to be a definitive study.”
—Literary Review

“An extensive and meticulous journey through Russian history… How have Russia’s leaders taken a history that is often either ‘difficult, contested, or fragmentary’ and melded it to fit the pervading ideology of the day? With thorough research, including rare access to the Kremlin’s dusty, permission-only archives, Merridale addresses this question and many more to weave an insightful, fascinating tale.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A comprehensive study of Moscow’s walled city, for centuries a byword for power, secrecy, and cruelty… Russian visitors and social historians alike will benefit from Merridale’s thoroughgoing research and lively writing.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“A well-done portrait… Merridale does an excellent job of integrating Russia’s often tortured, bloody history, the actions of the rulers, and the building and rebuilding of the Kremlin.”

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Catherine Merridale is the author of the critically acclaimed Ivan’s War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945, and Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Russia. A professor of contemporary history at Queen Mary University of London, she has also written for The Guardian, the Literary Review, and the London Review of Books, and contributes regularly to broadcasts on BBC radio. She lives in Oxfordshire, England.

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.1 von 5 Sternen  25 Rezensionen
41 von 43 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Disappointed 31. Dezember 2013
Von Thomas Reiter - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
I bought this book after reading several glowing reviews. I live in Moscow very near the Kremlin, so expected to learn many interesting facts about the place.

Unfortunately, in this I was disappointed. My main gripes:

1) at least in the kindle version, there are virtually no maps or pictures (other than on illegible map of the kremlin at the beginning). At least half the book (more on that later) consists of descriptions of the features, locations, and appearance of the Kremlin and many of the buildings constructed within it, but all of that is left to our imagination, and there are no pictures, drawings, etc. to illustrate what the author is talking about. It is possible that the print version has these illustrations, and if so, this criticism would not apply to it.

2) In addition to a history of the Kremlin, the book presents a rather episodic and uneven history of Russia. While this is unavoidable to a certain extent, much of this content really has nothing to do with the Kremlin and seems to have been inserted as a sort of primer on Russian history, in which role it falls short. In my view, much of this material should have either been excluded altogether or expanded to be more comprehensive.

3) I walk through Red Square on an almost daily basis, but after reading this book don't feel that I have any better understanding of the various buildings on the square. What's the story behind the construction of GUM, the massive department store opposite the Kremlin on Red Square? Not addressed... Similarly, what renovations have been done to the various towers over the centuries, and what specific role have they played, what significant events have occurred in them? Addressed, sort of, but not in a very user-friendly or comprehensive way. Maybe I was expecting something more like a tour guide on steroids, but this book is not it.

4) a good portion of the book is dedicated to arcane religious issues and disputes. While I fully expected this, and indeed it is pretty much unavoidable when writing a history of the Kremlin, I found these sections extremely tedious. This is not a criticism of the author--you can only make some issues so interesting--but I did want to point it out to other potential readers.

To be fair, this is not a bad book as long as people come into it with the right expectations , so for that reason I've tried to be pretty specific about why I didn't care much for it, so that other readers can make their own judgments.
26 von 27 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Red Fortress is a detailed popular history of Moscow's famous Kremlin by an expert on Russia 24. Dezember 2013
Von C. M Mills - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
"Kremlin" is the Red Fortress sitting on the Moscow River. For over eight hundred years the citadel has stood at the very heart of Russian's lengthy and bloody history of ruthless terror, persecution and dictatorship. The Kremlin has seen rulers come and go from Ivan the Terrible to Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, the Romanov Tsars (the first Romanov ruler began to rule Russia in 1613;l the dynasty lasted until the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his entire family at the hand of the Bolsheviks in 1918). The most interesting part of the book, to this reviewer, was the last part of the long book in which the author deals with the rule of Stalin, Khruschev, Andropov, and the last Soviet ruler Gorbachev. She also has important points to make about Boris Yeltsin and his corrupt government and the autocratic present day rule of Putin.
Dr. Catherine Merridale is a British Scholar who has written extensively on Russia. I have read her earlier book "Ivan's War" concerning Soviet troops in World War II which I found of great historical interest. This interest led me to this new volume. It is presented in a dry and academic style. Many pages are devoted to the various churches, cathedrals, palaces and meeting rooms included within the wide and forbidding Kremlin walls. Much of this material will be new to Western readers with many finding the information to be dull and quickly forgotten!
To tell the story of the Kremlin is to tell the story of Russia that enigma wrapped inside a mystery. The book though dry contains valuable material for anyone interested in Russia, the Kremlin and the leaders of this large and important country.
24 von 29 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen "The Kremlin is a place where history is concentrated." 15. November 2013
Von Amelia Gremelspacher - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Having spent my share of time under my school desk waiting for the powers of the Kremlin to send an atomic bomb, I have a deep seated curiosity for the stories of the Red Fortress. "The Kremlin is one of the most famous structures in the world." It has ever been a place designed to suggest historically rooted power. This book traces its inception in the earliest days of the rude, swampy Moscow to the present time. It is a landmark that has endured multiple incarnations, burning almost to the ground more than once. Lasting monuments have been wrecked to make room for other buildings fated to fall. This book traces both the structure of the Kremlin and the historic context of its changing legend.

The book has a slow start with the discussion of early Russia and it's swiftly changing rulers. The list of buildings and the sweep of change becomes a blur of names and construction. Somewhere around the emergence of the early Tsars, the story takes a more engaging shape and pulls the reader into the romance of a fortress and its people. I admit the book became truly bewitching to me with the entrance of the Soviets, and ironically their demolition of much its precious history. The stories from behind the scenes of Stalin's windswept end granite fort make for a clear dissertation on the intersection of the image and the building. This is the beginning of era of the iron tipped parades of May Day projected to the Western World.

This book has undertaken a huge task with the vagaries of a vast history and its mythologies. This book is intricate in its record of the entwining of the Kremlin and its people. In its turn, it beguiles the reader and delivers an encompassing history with graceful commentary and an author's clear affection for her subject. Past the collapse of the Soviet, Russia remains a source of foreign mystique, and its star still rest in the Red Fortress.
8 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Good overview of the Kremlin 25. Dezember 2013
Von XV Corps - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I've recently been reading more Russian History and this book fell right in with that.
It covers the history of the Kremlin and tells its story quite well. Dr. Merridale writes good history based on research. This book is like a mini-history of Russia and covers ages of time. She doesn’t let anyone off the hook be that person Stalin or Ivan IV or Putin. Highly recommend for anyone with a curiosity about Moscow.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Red Fortress 1. März 2014
Von T. Kunikov - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Catherine Merridale's 'Red Fortress' reads like a mediocre attempt at pop history. Unlike some historians who score a win with their rehashing of well known ideas, facts, and histories that's made accessible to a public eager for scraps of information historians find mundane and banal, 'Red Fortress' seems to be a failure on both counts. Merridale provides just enough information to make this text a chore for the average reader while avoiding any type of original conclusions or arguments. The usual suspects have their fair share of space devoted to them (Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, etc.) and while the Kremlin continually features as either the main 'player' or in the background of the narrative, it does so to the detriment of the story being told. Like those top-down histories that concentrate on kings and queens, politicians and diplomats, military commanders and revolutionaries, 'Red Fortress' ignores the periphery to concentrate on the center and adds little to nothing to the history of Russia while managing to omit much that made Russia what it was and is. As an introduction to Russian history this is a mediocre effort and unfortunately I can't imagine it being a useful fit for any other role.
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