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Die Tschechowa

Catherine Merridale: A Russian starlet in Hitler’s Berlin, 17 February 2005

The Mystery of Olga Chekhova 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 300 pp., £16.99, May 2004, 0 670 91520 3
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... Olga Chekhova was the beautiful and talented niece of Anton Chekhov’s wife, Olga Knipper. Her life spanned Lenin’s Revolution, Stalin’s Terror, and the rise and fall of Hitler’s Reich; her relatives and friends were actors, politicians, millionaires and spies. She liked to dramatise herself, embroidering her anecdotes of childhood and youth with wild jackals, rugged scenery and doting older men ...

Diary

Catherine Merridale: Ethnography Time in Russia , 5 April 2001

... Elena’s invitation to the hitchhiker was not encouraging. ‘We’ll give you a lift if you want,’ she said. ‘But honestly I wouldn’t get in this car with us. For a start, the thing’s a wreck. The lights aren’t working. We don’t know what’s happened to them. We’ve already had one crash, and it was all my fault because I can’t really drive ...

Serfs Who Are Snobs

Catherine Merridale: Aleksandr Nikitenko, 29 November 2001

Up from Serfdom: My Childhood and Youth in Russia 1804-24 
by Aleksandr Nikitenko, translated by Helen Saltz Jacobson.
Yale, 228 pp., £20, June 2001, 0 300 08414 5
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... Aleksandr Nikitenko’s memoir is unusual: the fact that it exists is odd enough. Nikitenko was a serf, born in 1804 or 1805 in the village of Alekseevka, in the Ukrainian province of Voronezh. Few people from his background would have been able to write their own names, let alone a full-scale history of their lives. The thirty million serfs of the Russian Empire were little more than slaves – they followed their own trade but nothing they earned belonged to them – and their masters for the most part believed that too much education might turn them into rebels ...

What is to be done?

Dan Jacobson: Death and memory in Russia, 4 January 2001

Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Russia 
by Catherine Merridale.
Granta, 506 pp., £25, October 2000, 1 86207 374 0
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... In her introduction to Night of StoneCatherine Merridale tells us that she began the book with the intention of writing about ‘the disruption and reinvention of ritual’: I had been intrigued by the idea that a modern revolution could try to create an entirely new kind of person. As I began to collect material about the Bolsheviks’ first efforts, about the League of the Militant Godless and the Society for the Dissemination of Scientific Cremation, the history I thought I was writing was a study of ideology, propaganda and mentalities ...

Rampaging

John Connelly: Stalin’s Infantry, 22 June 2006

Ivan’s War: The Red Army 1939-45 
by Catherine Merridale.
Faber, 396 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 571 21808 3
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A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-45 
edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova.
Harvill, 378 pp., £20, September 2005, 9781843430551
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... be liberated from totalitarian rule until the Red Army departed. In her highly readable history Catherine Merridale does not tell us which of those two characterisations better fits the Red Army. It is the individual soldier that interests her. Though the ‘epic story’ of World War Two has been often told, the ‘stories’ of the ‘thirty million ...

Here you will find only ashes

Geoffrey Hosking: The Kremlin, 3 July 2014

Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia’s History 
by Catherine Merridale.
Penguin, 528 pp., £10.99, May 2014, 978 0 14 103235 1
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... Much of this demolition and rebuilding went on within the walls of the Kremlin, which is why Catherine Merridale’s book is important. Merridale established herself with Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Russia (2000) and Ivan’s War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-45 (2007), both of which displayed her ...

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