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Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy
Douglas Smith.
Publisher Picador  
Format paperback
ISBN 9781250037794
Pages/Publication Date 464/2013
Daedalus Item Code 38785
This item is not available.
(Winner of the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize and a Salon Best Book of the Year) This book by former Soviet affairs analyst Douglas Smith is the riveting, often harrowing story of the Russian aristocracy ensnared in the upheaval of the Bolshevik Revolution. In the ensuing maelstrom, the Russian elite—with its centuries-old culture of glittering wealth, service to the tsar and empire, and promotion of the arts and culture—was stripped of its wealth and destroyed along with the rest of old Russia. Yet in chronicling the fate of two noble families—the Sheremetevs and the Golitsyns—Smith reveals how even in the darkest depths of the terror, daily life went on.

"It is a daunting task to elicit sentiments of nostalgia or even regret for the demise of a social class that owed its elite status to birth rather than merit. Smith, a historian and former analyst of Russian affairs for the State Department, succeeds admirably in this wide-ranging and often moving account of the fate of the Russian nobility, from the Bolshevik Revolution to the Stalinist era. His narrative moves seamlessly from a general survey of the nobility to the deeply personal and tragic story of two noble families, the Sheremetevs and the Golitsyns. Smith portrays the nobility as a class as being surprisingly diverse, encompassing non-Russians, religious minorities, and relatively impoverished families. He demolishes the facile caricature of the idle, decadent abuser of peasants, since many nobles had admirable records of service to the state in the military and in government bureaucracy. This is a superbly written and emotionally wrenching ode to a class doomed by the flow of history."—Booklist

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