Greg Afinogenov

Greg Afinogenov has just finished his Harvard dissertation, ‘The Eye of the Tsar: Intelligence-Gathering and Geopolitics in Eighteenth-Century Eurasia’.

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...

The Unlucky Skeleton: Russian Magic Tales

Greg Afinogenov, 12 September 2013

Ivan the Terrible was Europe’s first Russian celebrity. Between the late 16th and the mid-17th century, a great rush of books was published about him and his domain. Many of these accounts, like Albert Schlichting’s Brief Narrative of the Character and Brutal Rule of [Ivan] Vasil’evich, Tyrant of Muscovy of 1571, featured lurid anecdotes about the tsar’s behaviour:...

The Tsar in Tears: Alexander I

Greg Afinogenov, 7 February 2013

‘I am satisfied with Alexander and he ought to be satisfied with me,’ Napoleon wrote to the Empress Josephine in 1807. ‘If he were a woman, I think I would make him my mistress.’ Within five years, the tsar would repay Napoleon’s condescension by rolling back his conquests all across Europe, driving him to Paris and then St Helena, and finally building the...

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.

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