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Peter's War on Facial Hair
January 01, 2022

Peter's War on Facial Hair

August 27, 1698, was a day of historic importance for the grooming of the Russian male. It was then that Tsar Peter I (known to history as “the Great”), armed himself with scissors and undertook to mercilessly clip beards from the faces of summoned noblemen and boyars.

The First and Last National Census
January 01, 2022

The First and Last National Census

Late January 2022 marks 125 years since the first thorough count of the Russian Empire’s population was begun in 1897. What was the significance of this endeavor, how was it carried out, and what were its results?

Early Foreign Views of Russia
January 01, 2022

Early Foreign Views of Russia

Some thoughts on George Turberville, who served as secretary in the embassy of Queen Elizabeth I to Russia’s Ivan IV, and was one of the earliest observers (and reporters) of Russian mores.

The Timid Path
November 01, 2021

The Timid Path

On December 12, 1801, 23-year-old Tsar Alexander I issued an ukaz. This particular decree was not something historians have considered extremely significant in the scheme of Alexander’s reign, but it merits attention for a few reasons.

Death of an Empress
November 01, 2021

Death of an Empress

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna breathed her last in December of 1761, in her St. Petersburg palace. By any standard, Peter the Great’s second daughter had lived an unusual life.

The Road Ahead
November 01, 2021

The Road Ahead

People often ask me what lies ahead for Russia. This question always surprises me. It suggests that people think historians are part prophet, as if knowing a lot about the past means you can predict the future.

Sofia Gubaidulina
September 01, 2021

Sofia Gubaidulina

Listening to the intensely chromatic compositions of Sofia Gubaidulina can be challenging. You wouldn’t put her music on to relax or to be energized. As with any avant-garde work, taking it in can feel like work.

First Contact
September 01, 2021

First Contact

It is astonishing to think that as recently as the eighteenth century – not the Middle Ages, not the days of Marco Polo, but in the supposedly enlightened eighteenth century – people still had only the vaguest idea of where Asia ended and America began.

The Panic
September 01, 2021

The Panic

By mid-October of 1941, Moscow seemed on the verge of falling to the Nazis. German troops had reached the city’s edge, and there were rumors of fascist tanks closing in.

The Berlin Wall
July 01, 2021

The Berlin Wall

Why was so much manpower, money, and material expended on a project that flew in the face of the policy of “peaceful coexistence” that had been announced just five years earlier? It was classic Khrushchev.

 

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A Few of Our Books

Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
White Magic

White Magic

The thirteen tales in this volume – all written by Russian émigrés, writers who fled their native country in the early twentieth century – contain a fair dose of magic and mysticism, of terror and the supernatural. There are Petersburg revenants, grief-stricken avengers, Lithuanian vampires, flying skeletons, murders and duels, and even a ghostly Edgar Allen Poe.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
Russia Rules

Russia Rules

From the shores of the White Sea to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus, Russian Rules is a high-speed thriller based on actual events, terrifying possibilities, and some really stupid decisions.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.

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