I am Russian. I liked this book for one very simple reason: it is sympathetic towards its subject matter.
Russia is a very different place from Britain, and generally British books about Russia tend to be written either with a view to condemn something or other or, at best from kind of a Marco Polo stance, one of an impressed and bemused outsider. What Figes tries and, in my opinion, for the most part succeeds in doing is to show how Russians view the core of their own history and culture.
The book mostly deals with what happened between mid 1700s and early 1900s. This is not surprising. For Russians, this period is what the Tudors are for the English - it's a period of time when both the modern language and the modern country took shape.
The reason why I'm giving the book four stars rather than five is that a small but significant proportion of the facts is just wrong. We are not talking about matter of opinion stuff - we are talking about easily verifiable things. One thing that lets Figes down quite often is that he doesn't seem to know the language all that well. In some cases he mistranslates/mistransliterates stuff or arrives at odd conclusions.
Still, this book gets a lot more right than wrong. It is well written, and Figes enthusiasm is infectious. If you want to learn what Russia is generally about, this is a good place to start.
- Paperback: 768 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press; 1 edition (4 September 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140297960
- ISBN-13: 978-0140297966
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 739 g
- Customer Reviews: 149 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)