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Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's…
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Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's History

by Catherine Merridale

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Red Fortress is an accessible "beginners" history of Russia, using the Kremlin to frame 800 years worth of information. Catherine Merridale has an easy, almost casual style with her subject, sometimes engaging her readers directly, with sentences such as, "When I try to grasp what it was like to live inside the Kremlin during Peter's reign . . ." Her storytelling method makes for an enjoyable, quick read with plenty of anecdote and interesting bits. ( )
  RoseCityReader | May 24, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
For a topic as formidable as "the entire history of the Kremlin and its role as a building and symbol for about 800 years", Catherine Merridale's book is surprisingly readable. Unsurprisingly, it features numerous famous and infamous figures from Russian history - Peter and Catherine the Great, Ivan the Terrible, and so forth. It is also replete with interesting anecdotes and stories from various time periods, whether under the Riurikids, Romanovs, Communists, or the Yeltsin and post-Yeltsin era.

Given the scope of the timeline, some knowledge of Russian history is recommended - there are several references to events, concepts or people that are made once and not heavily elaborated upon. A reader who already has at least some grasp of these ideas should not have any problems with the references, while a reader who does not will be confused. Considering the building, its history, and the character of numerous Russian governments, gaps and shortfalls due to fires, government coverups, theft and long periods of neglect are inevitable.

The later emphasis on certain schools of art and architecture was somewhat distracting and raised the question of whether the book was intended as a history of the Kremlin building proper, or a history with an art and architecture study tacked on at the end. I do not know why this was done, but it seemed to drag the story out a bit towards the end. ( )
  Matthew1982 | Nov 5, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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. ( )
  Kunikov | Mar 1, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Catherine Merridale's "Red Fortress" is an extremely fascinating read. It offers a detailed account of the Kremlin site from it's earliest tribal beginnings through the fall of Communism. Merridale does a good job of providing an overview if Russian history, with a view towards how it affected the Kremlin compound. The history of the site seems to be that it is neglected and allowed to fall into ruin until the current regime needs it to score some political point. I found it interesting that most of the damage and destruction to the Kremlin over it's long history came mostly from the Russians themselves. I was disappointed the Early Reviewer's copies were without map, but otherwise I would definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in the history of Moscow and Russian. ( )
  bookwormgeek | Nov 28, 2013 |
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Book description
A place of power, the Kremlin, seen through the centuries of its history by an author, a scholar, who travelled its hidden paths. Threatened with destruction, destroyed and rebuilt many times to be expanded and to become a symbol of the permanence of the Russian state. Wonderful and at times lyrical essay with many connections to the cultures of the world.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805086803, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"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 turnThe 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"--… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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