Greg Afinogenov

Greg Afinogenov is working on a book about Russia and the end of the French Revolution.

Frost-tempered: Russia in Central Asia

Greg Afinogenov, 25 April 2024

It’sa crowded field, but the most unsubtle of all 19th-century Russian paintings might be Vasily Vereshchagin’s 1871 canvas The Apotheosis of War. In an arid landscape, a towering pyramid of human skulls is being picked over by crows, with ruined Islamicate architecture in the background. This heavy-metal album cover avant la lettre was dedicated ‘to all great conquerors,...

From The Blog
28 June 2023

In late May, the pro-Kremlin political PR hack Konstantin Dolgov published a startling interview with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the commander of the Wagner private military company. Prigozhin said that the entire ‘denazification and demilitarisation’ rationale behind the invasion of Ukraine was a sham; that the war was a failure; that the Ukrainian army was now among the strongest in the world; that the children of the Kremlin elite ‘allow themselves to live a public, fat, worry-free life applying face cream and showing it on the internet while ordinary people’s children are coming back in zinc [coffins]’; and that ‘this divide might end with a revolution, like in 1917, when first the soldiers rise up, then the people close to them’ to ‘stick the elites on pitchforks.’ Last weekend Prigozhin appeared to put his money where his mouth was.

In summer​ 1876, Peter Kropotkin was given a pocket watch by a visiting relative. He was 33 years old, bore one of the Russian Empire’s oldest princely titles and had been a page de chambre to Tsar Alexander II. He was already famous in Russia for his scientific work on zoology and glaciation. Two years earlier, however, he had been arrested and imprisoned as a member of a...

From The Blog
15 October 2018

Desperate crossings – Lenin’s sealed train, Luding Bridge, Granma – were at the heart of several 20th-century revolutions, but the one that killed my great-grandmother seemed to be a perfectly average late-summer voyage. According to the official account, on 1 September 1948, the steamer Pobeda (‘Victory’), bound from New York to Odessa, was in the Black Sea, nearing its destination. A sailor rewinding some movie reels in a storage cabin inadvertently caused a spark, igniting the thousands of highly flammable filmstrips and phonograph records inside. Two crew members and forty of the 310 passengers were killed. Among them were Evgeniia Afinogenova, née Jeannette Schwarz of the Lower East Side, and Feng Yuxiang, former war minister of the Republic of China, on his way to bend the knee to Mao Zedong. Among the survivors were Afinogenova’s two daughters, aged six and eleven, my grandmother and her older sister, who were taken to Moscow to be raised by their grandmother.

In​ the winter of 1926 the frozen corpse of a dishevelled 77-year-old man was found on a park bench in Berlin’s Tiergarten. He had been one of the dozen or so people whose choices had been decisive in the outbreak of the Great War. His name was Vladimir Sukhomlinov, and he was the former war minister of the Russian Empire. During his tenure, which began in the wake of the disastrous...

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