Tag Archives: Russian Empire

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. History is bunk!

As the Second World War drew to a close three politicians with very different agendas gathered to discuss the peace. Churchill, dedicated to preserving the remnants of the British Empire, Roosevelt, dedicated to replacing the old empires with the United Nations and Stalin, dedicated to restoring the Russian Empire into a Soviet one. Of the three only Churchill failed entirely. Roosevelt’s continuation of Wilson’s dream never succeeded at its stated goals but is becoming a nightmare empire of dysfunction in the next century. Stalin’s success was immediate but never complete enough to be lasting and while it still exists, like a death star, it can only destroy – never create. While this book may be a record of the conference – albeit with strong predispositions – it is lacking in its explanations of both cause and effect and fails to show the horror of the consequences of imperialism regardless of its origins or intentions.
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Yalta : the price of peace  S.M. Plokhy  New York : Viking, 2010  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxviii, 451 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 409-430) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In February 1945 Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met at Yalta, a resort town on the Black Sea, as their armies converged on Berlin. Each came with sharply different views of what the world should look like after the war. Over the course of eight fateful days they partitioned Germany, approved the most aggressive aerial bombing campaign in history, redrew the borders of Eastern Europe, and created a new international organization to settle future disputes.

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Two months later, Roosevelt was dead, Stalin was strengthening his grip on Poland, and Churchill was on the cusp of a humiliating electoral defeat.

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For sixty-five years, opinion has been bitterly divided on what they achieved. Did Yalta pave the way to the Cold War? Did an ailing FDR give too much to Stalin? While the accepted verdict on both questions has been, and remains, a resounding YES!, In this book Plokhy draws on newly declassified Soviet documents to sanitize the truth of Yalta and paint an original – if inaccurate – portrait of FDR and Churchill as a wartime leaders.

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I am not yet ready to be Tsar. I know nothing of the business of ruling… Nicholas II

The plots to rescue the Tsar  Shay McNeal  New York, Morrow, 2001  Hardcover. 1st US ed. and printing. 345 p. : ill., facsims., maps, ports. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 284-300) index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

On July 17, 1918, the Tsar, his wife, and their four daughters and ailing heir were led down to a basement in Ekaterinburg, Russia, and murdered in cold blood by a Bolshevik firing squad. The DNA analysis and identification of the bones were the conclusive proof the world was waiting for, and the case was considered closed. But is that the real story of the Romanovs?


In Shay McNeal’s controversial and groundbreaking account, she presents convincing new scientific analysis questioning the authenticity of the “Romanov” bones and uncovers an extraordinary tale of espionage and double-dealing that has been kept secret for more than eighty years. Based on extensive study of American, Allied, and Bolshevik documents, including recently declassified intelligence files, McNeal reveals the existence of a shadowy group of operatives working to free the Imperial family and guide them to safety.

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Down the steps, …over the corpses, …careers the pram with the child.

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Red mutiny : eleven fateful days on the battleship Potemkin  Neal Bascomb  Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2007  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xiii, 386 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [321]-333) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In 1905 after being served rancid meat, more than 600 Russian Navy sailors mutinied against their officers aboard what was then Imperial Russia‘s newest and most powerful battleship. Theirs was a life barely worth living–a life of hard labor and their rebellion came as no surprise. Against any reasonable odds of success, the sailors-turned-revolutionaries, led by the firebrand Matiushenko, risked their lives to take control of the ship and raise the red flag of revolution.

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What followed was a violent port-to-port chase that spanned eleven harrowing days and came to symbolize the Russian Revolution itself. A pulse-quickening story that alternates between the opulent court of Nicholas II and the razor”s-edge tension aboard the Potemkin, Red Mutiny is a tale threaded with terrific adventure, epic naval battles, treachery and bloodlust. A single-minded band of revolutionaries led the sailors to overthrow their tyrannical officers, but the POTEMKIN finds itself steaming around the Black Sea with the rest of the fleet in pursuit. Hunted from port to port, the mutineers enter Odessa, sparking a bloody insurrection and bringing Imperial Russia to its knees.

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A rallying cry to revolution that would steer the course of the twentieth century Lenin and many others recognized at the time, this was the key event that would make the Russian revolution possible. The political consequences of this mutiny were profound, but the author concentrates on the individuals involved in these dramatic events but it is also a work of scholarship that draws on the long-closed Soviet archives to shed new light on this seminal event in Russian and naval history.

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Home to the palace to die… Alexander II of Russia

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Verhoeven argues that terrorism as a phenomenon inextricably linked to the foundations of the modern world: capitalism, enlightened law and scientific reason, ideology, technology, new media, and above all, people’s participation in politics and in the making of history.

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What is entirely missing from the perspective is how the so called enlightened law that supposed sprang from scientific reason led to not only capitalism but also marxism – both of which have in common that they are philosophies of materialism. While the cant of Kant and his descendents turned theology into ideology and materialism spawned technology, new media the ideas of rational government were dismissed in favor of the people’s participation in politics and in the making of history.

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Just as so many have argued that older civilizations used the trappings of religion to keep the people under control it may be argued that the new order of materialism keeps them every bit as much under control. The only real difference is that they no longer fear the loss of Heaven and the pain of Hell but fear the loss of comfort and the pain of falling through a social safety net.

Reproduction of print showing Axarian Pleasure Garden, Saint Petersburg, Russia. View to trellis. Photograph of a copper plate engraving, "Prospectus Horti Deliciarum Axariani," from the workshop of Giovanni Antonio Remondini, Bassano, Italy, 1780.

Reproduction of print showing Axarian Pleasure Garden, Saint Petersburg, Russia. View to trellis. Photograph of a copper plate engraving, “Prospectus Horti Deliciarum Axariani,” from the workshop of Giovanni Antonio Remondini, Bassano, Italy, 1780.

The phenomena of terrorism is a by product of the skepticism that was used to effect the rational revolution – if there is no longer any objectively knowable truth there are no longer any absolute standards of conduct. Society can not function with that doubt and so some men look into the abyss, see nothing, lose whatever tenous grasp on reason they may have had, become nihilist and, voilà, you have a terrorist. The irony to the true student of history is that this unstable crackpot is no proof of the people’s participation in politics and in the making of history but more often is proof that Cain may still be tempted to murder Abel.

Print shows the Warsaw railway station and Church of the Resurrection of Christ along the Obvodny Canal in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Print shows the Warsaw railway station and Church of the Resurrection of Christ along the Obvodny Canal in St. Petersburg, Russia.

While this book contains a very worthwhile recitation of the known facts surrounding Karakozov, his attempt on the tsar’s life and the subsequent trial we do not accept her arguments regarding terrorism.

Print shows a grand hall of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Print shows a grand hall of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The odd man Karakozov : Imperial Russia, modernity, and the birth of terrorism  Claudia Verhoeven  Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2009  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 231 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [219]-225) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Print shows New York Herald editor James Gordon Bennett, holding a shotgun and carrying a bag labeled "Game Bag for Sensations J.G. Bennett", standing next to a scarecrow labeled "$500.00 Herald Cheque" and "This is not the Original Hartman"; the scarecrow, armed with bombs, a knife and a handgun, looks like Leo Hartmann who was apparently involved in the 1879 assassination attempt of Alexander II, Emperor of Russia. Looking over a stone wall is Secretary of State James G. Blaine who stated in the press that he could not make a statement regarding the extradition of Hartmann prior to a request for such action by Russian authorities. In the background, on a mound of earth labeled "Russia", Alexander III, Emperor of Russia, is sitting on a large chair labeled "Chair of Alexander III", reading the "New York Herald"; an opening in the chair is labeled "The Real and Only Hartman Private Office" and shows a man who also looks like Leo Hartmann, waving.

Print shows New York Herald editor James Gordon Bennett, holding a shotgun and carrying a bag labeled “Game Bag for Sensations J.G. Bennett”, standing next to a scarecrow labeled “$500.00 Herald Cheque” and “This is not the Original Hartman”; the scarecrow, armed with bombs, a knife and a handgun, looks like Leo Hartmann who was apparently involved in the 1879 assassination attempt of Alexander II, Emperor of Russia. Looking over a stone wall is Secretary of State James G. Blaine who stated in the press that he could not make a statement regarding the extradition of Hartmann prior to a request for such action by Russian authorities. In the background, on a mound of earth labeled “Russia”, Alexander III, Emperor of Russia, is sitting on a large chair labeled “Chair of Alexander III”, reading the “New York Herald”; an opening in the chair is labeled “The Real and Only Hartman Private Office” and shows a man who also looks like Leo Hartmann, waving.

On April 4, 1866, just as Alexander II stepped out of Saint Petersburg‘s Summer Garden and onto the boulevard, a young man named Dmitry Karakozov pulled out a pistol and shot at the tsar. He missed, but his “unheard-of act” changed the course of Russian history — and gave birth to the revolutionary political violence known as terrorism.

Print shows several European rulers standing next to signposts labeled "France, Turkey, England, Germany, Italy, Austria, [and] Russia" lining the sides of a dirt road, with "Servia" and "Roumania" in the background; the rulers are all keeping an eye on William II, the German Emperor, as he walks down the road between them.

Print shows several European rulers standing next to signposts labeled “France, Turkey, England, Germany, Italy, Austria, [and] Russia” lining the sides of a dirt road, with “Servia” and “Roumania” in the background; the rulers are all keeping an eye on William II, the German Emperor, as he walks down the road between them.

Based on clues pulled out of the pockets of Karakozov’s peasant disguise, investigators concluded that there had been a conspiracy so extensive as to have sprawled across the entirety of the Russian empire and the European continent. Karakozov was said to have been a member of “The Organization,” a socialist network at the center of which sat a secret cell of suicide-assassins: “Hell.”

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It is still unclear how much of this “conspiracy” theory was actually true, but of the thirty-six defendants who stood accused during what was Russia’s first modern political trial, all but a few were exiled to Siberia, and Karakozov himself was publicly hanged on September 3, 1866. Because Karakozov was decidedly strange, sick, and suicidal, his failed act of political violence has long been relegated to a footnote of Russian history.

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In The Odd Man Karakozov Verhoeven argues that it is this neglected, exceptional case that sheds a new light on the origins of terrorism. The book argues that the idea of terrorism first emerged from the reception of Karakozov’s attack, but also, importantly, what was really at stake in this novel form of political violence, namely, the birth of a new, modern political subject. Along the way, in characterizing Karakozov’s as an essentially modernist crime, Verhoeven traces how his act profoundly impacted Russian culture, including such touchstones as Repin’s art and Dostoevsky’s literature.

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While Peter the Great would steer Russian destiny firmly west toward Europe, it would be left to five empresses to survive court politics, conniving relatives, and the perils of childbirth to carry this vision forward throughout most of the 18th century. These books tell their stories and the story of St. Petersburg itself.

Five empresses : court life in eighteenth-century Russia      Evgenii V. Anisimov ; translated by Kathleen Caroll  Empresses Russia Biography.  Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2004 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 375 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. [355]-368) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

From the untimely demise of the 52-year-old Peter the Great in 1725 to nearly the end of that century, the fate of the Russian empire would rest largely in the hands of five tsarinas. This book tells their stories. Peter’s widow Catherine I (1725-27), an orphan and former laundress, would gain control of the ancestral throne, a victorious army, and formidable navy in a country that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Next, Anna Ioannovna (1730-40), chosen by conniving ministers who sought an ineffectual puppet, would instead tear up the document that would have changed the course of Russian history forever only to rule Russia as her private fiefdom and hunting estate. The ill-fated Anna Leopoldovna (1740-41), groomed for the throne by her namesake aunt, would be Regent for her young son only briefly before a coup by her aunt Elizabeth would condemn Anna’s family to a life of imprisonment, desolation, and death in obscurity. The beautiful and shrewd Elizabeth (1741-61) would seize her father Peter’s throne, but, obsessed with her own fading beauty, she would squander resources in a relentless effort to stay young and keep her rivals at bay. Finally, Catherine the Great (1762-96) would overthrow (and later order the murder of) her own husband and rightful heir. Astute and intelligent, Catherine had a talent for making people like her, winning them to her cause; however, the era of her rule would be a time of tumultuous change for both Europe and her beloved Russia.

In this vivid, quick-paced account, Anisimov goes beyond simply laying out the facts of each empress’s reign, to draw realistic psychological portraits and to consider the larger fate of women in politics. Together, these five portraits represent a history of 18th-century court life and international affairs. Anisimov’s tone is commanding, authoritative, but also convivial—inviting the reader to share the captivating secrets that his efforts have uncovered.

 

Sunlight at midnight : St. Petersburg and the rise of modern Russia      W. Bruce Lincoln  Saint Petersburg (Russia) History  Boulder, CO : Basic Books, c 2002 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. viii, 419 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

For Russians, St. Petersburg has embodied power, heroism, and fortitude. It has encompassed all the things that the Russians are and that they hope to become. Opulence and artistic brilliance blended with images of suffering on a monumental scale make up the historic persona of  W. Bruce Lincoln’s lavish “biography” of this mysterious, complex city.

Climate and comfort were not what Tsar Peter the Great had in mind when, in the spring of 1703, he decided to build a new capital in the muddy marshes of the Neva River delta. Located 500 miles below the Arctic Circle, this area, with its foul weather, bad water, and sodden soil, was so unattractive that only a handful of Finnish fisherman had ever settled there.

Bathed in sunlight at midnight in the summer, it brooded in darkness at noon in the winter, and its canals froze solid at least five months out of every year. Yet to the Tsar, the place he named Sankt Pieter Burkh had the makings of a “paradise.” His vision was soon borne out: though St. Petersburg was closer to London, Paris, and Vienna than to Russia’s far-off eastern lands, it quickly became the political, cultural, and economic center of an empire that stretched across more than a dozen time zones and over three continents.

In this book, revolutionaries and laborers brush shoulders with tsars, and builders, soldiers, and statesmen share pride of place with poets. For only the entire historical experience of this magnificent and mysterious city can reveal the wealth of human and natural forces that shaped the modern history of it and the nation it represents.

 

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