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John Lloyd: In Moscow, 12 September 1991

... Like the October Revolution, the August Putsch took place (or failed to take place) in a few confined areas, mainly of the capital city. The only possible target outside Moscow would have been the Leningrad (soon to be St Petersburg) Soviet. Moscow was the key, as St Petersburg (soon to be Leningrad) had been 74 years before; and as the whole world now knows, it was the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation, a big white slab of a Seventies construction on the Moscow River, which had to be knocked out ...


John Lloyd: Split Scots, 25 June 1992

... offing. On the other hand, if the next leader of the party is to be – as now seems the case – John Smith, that would set the seal on the dominance of Scots in the Labour leadership. Smith is generally seen as a pragmatist, a punishing debater and a quick learner: less obviously, he is a man whose political instincts suggest a sense of Scotland as having ...


John Lloyd: On Chechnya, 12 January 1995

... The war which began in early December in Chechnya, the Russian republic in the North Caucasus, was a test of many things, but of Russia’s claim to be an open society in particular. Leaving aside the special case of the assault on the Russian Parliament in Moscow in October 1993, this is the first full-scale military action in which the Russian state has engaged on what it perceives to be its own territory ...


John Lloyd: In Moscow, 7 January 1993

... Let us suppose that Russia is no less a democratic state than any usually referred to in this way; let us, that is, overlook the fact that its democratic periods resemble the tiny windows set in the wall of a Russian church; and with this excised from our minds, let us consider the past year. A new government takes over, with a clearly defined economic team headed by Yegor Gaidar, a son and grandson of famous and privileged Communists, an academic said to be the star of his generation, a former senior editor of Kommunist, the CP’s main theoretical journal, and of Pravda, the Party’s daily paper ...


John Lloyd: Long weekend in Yaroslavl, 20 July 1995

... The view that things are getting worse seems to be on the increase in Russia. In June, lzvestia published the results of a poll conducted by the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion – said to be the best organisation of its kind – in which 58 per cent of respondents thought that they were better off before Gorbachev came to power; two years ago only 45 per cent believed this ...

A Fue Respectable Friends

John Lloyd: British brass bands, 5 April 2001

The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History 
by Trevor Herbert.
Oxford, 381 pp., £48, June 2000, 0 19 816698 2
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... bands briefly attracted some of the less snobbish ‘serious’ composers: notably Elgar, Holst, John Ireland and Herbert Howells. The two indefatigable journalist/ entrepreneurs of the movement, Cope and the championship organiser Herbert Whiteley, played a leading part in persuading Holst and Elgar to write for the bands. They coaxed from them, among other ...
Zinky Boys: The Record of a Lost Soviet Generation 
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Julia Whitby and Robin Whitby.
Chatto, 192 pp., £9.99, January 1992, 0 7011 3838 6
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... Among the many thoughts which this sad, sometimes unreadably sad book suggests is this: did the Afghan war mark the beginning of the most dramatic military event of our time, the dissolution of the Soviet Armed Forces? Did the crumbling of belief and will which Zinky Boys documents erode the imperial reflexes of a militarised state to the extent that no strategy – whether sticking to the forms of orthodoxy or Communist reformism – could pull it out of the crisis? In form, Zinky Boys – the name given to those shipped home dead from the war in Afghanistan because they were always shipped in zinc coffins – is familiar enough in the West, but less so in the former Soviet Union ...

As a Button to a Coat

John Lloyd: Gennady Andreev-Khomiakov, 20 August 1998

Bitter Waters: Life and Work in Stalin’s Russia 
by Gennady Andreev-Khomiakov, translated by Ann Healy.
Westview, 195 pp., $30, September 1997, 0 8133 2390 8
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... Gennady Andreev-Khomiakov spent eight years, from the late Twenties to the mid-Thirties, on the Solovetsky Islands: part of the time in a monastery fortress where, as we now know, the punishment included lashing prisoners to trees in summer to be eaten to death by mosquitoes, or tying them spreadeagled on heavy logs and letting them be crushed to death as the logs were rolled downhill ...

Why Georgia matters

John Lloyd, 19 November 1992

... By Soviet standards, the town of Sukhumi was a place of real pleasure: arranged about a crescent bay of the Black Sea, the climate warm even in October, with seaside hotels and restaurants. Those who knew the customs of the place, and had the money or clout to exploit them, could have a grand time here in the Georgian manner, drinking and feasting. A senior Georgian official I met while trying to get to Sukhumi told me of three and four-day feasts in homes or restaurants, in the course of which pigs would be slaughtered and a bear on a chain gave entertainment to the drinkers – by becoming drunk himself ...


John Lloyd: Report from Moscow, 4 July 1996

... Back in Moscow again, surprised at how happy I am to be so, I sit in my old office and read myself into the ‘story’. For five years I followed its twists and turns, its lumpy, incomprehensible lurches to and fro, its characters creating and re-creating themselves in the space which the great collapse of 1991 had cleared for them. Now, to try to locate myself, I read the press clippings of events I could barely follow from a distance, and catch at what seem to be the signs of the pre-election times ...


John Lloyd, 25 February 1993

A History of Vodka 
by William Pokhlebkin, translated by Renfrey Clarke.
Verso, 222 pp., £17.95, December 1992, 0 86091 359 7
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... Officials have found a uniquely Russian use for the nuclear power plant. They plan to turn it into a vodka distillery. Itar Tass news agency said that the Soviet-era plant, built five kilometers from the town of Nizhny Novgorod but never used, would join seven other alcohol-producing factories which have become the biggest source of local revenue. ‘But many townspeople are furious,’ Tass said ...

Where their real face was known

John Lloyd, 6 December 1990

The KGB: The Inside Story of the Foreign Operations 
by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky.
Hodder, 704 pp., £20, October 1990, 0 340 48561 2
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Inside the KGB: Myth and Reality 
by Vladimir Kuzichkin.
Deutsch, 406 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 233 98616 2
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... Maclean and the ‘fifth man’ (‘revealed’ with too much fanfare by Andrew/Gordievsky), John Cairncross. These men, and others, performed prodigies of courage and treachery, yet their work was more often than not ignored, misinterpreted or brutally cut short. Sorge’s warnings were ignored by Stalin, clinging to his belief in Hitler’s word. Maly ...

Year One

John Lloyd, 30 January 1992

Boris Yeltsin 
by John Morrison.
Penguin, 303 pp., £8.99, November 1991, 0 14 017062 6
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The August Coup: The Truth and its Lessons 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
HarperCollins, 127 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 9780002550444
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The future belongs to freedom 
by Eduard Shevardnadze.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 256 pp., £15, September 1991, 1 85619 105 2
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Bear-Hunting with the Politburo 
by A. Craig Copetas.
Simon and Schuster, 271 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 671 70313 7
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The Accidental Proletariat: Workers, Politics and Crisis in Gorbachev’s Russia 
by Walter Connor.
Princeton, 374 pp., £25, November 1991, 0 691 07787 8
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... because the tensions and problems are simply too great for anyone. This is in part the theme of John Morrison’s efficient and often thoughtful biography, which sets out to show that, contrary to the view held (at least until recently) by many observers and politicians in the West, Yeltsin is ‘squarely in the democrats’ camp’. He reminds us that, as ...

The Party’s over

John Lloyd, 25 July 1991

... At the time of writing, the main document I shall discuss has not been published and has had only minimal exposure in the media anywhere. It circulates among at most two to three thousand members of the Soviet Communist Party nomenklatura and policy intelligentsia. It was not particularly difficult to acquire: it will certainly be in the hands of several Soviet journalists ...


John Lloyd, 21 October 1993

... On the morning of Sunday 3 October, Russia’s most treasured icon was borne into the Bogoyavlensky Sobor, the Cathedral of the Epiphany, in Moscow. The Madonna of Vladimir, a 12th-century depiction of the infant Jesus resting on the arm of an abstracted Madonna, was delivered to the church by Zil minibus. In spite of his recent heart trouble, Patriarch Alexei of Moscow and All Russia, his great grey beard stirring slightly in the autumn wind, was there to see it up the steps and along the nave of the magnificently painted, glowing interior of the church with which he is most closely associated ...

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