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The extraordinary story of the Kremlin, from prize-winning author and historian Catherine Merridale Both beautiful and profoundly menacing, the Kremlin has dominated Moscow for many centuries. Behind its great red walls and towers many of the most startling events in Russia's history have been acted out. It is both a real place and an imaginative idea; a shorthand for a cer The extraordinary story of the Kremlin, from prize-winning author and historian Catherine Merridale Both beautiful and profoundly menacing, the Kremlin has dominated Moscow for many centuries. Behind its great red walls and towers many of the most startling events in Russia's history have been acted out. It is both a real place and an imaginative idea; a shorthand for a certain kind of secretive power, but also the heart of a specific Russian authenticity. Catherine Merridale's exceptional new book revels in both the drama of the Kremlin and its sheer unexpectedness: an impregnable fortress which has repeatedly been devastated, a symbol of all that is Russian substantially created by Italians. The Kremlin is one of the very few buildings in the world which still keeps its original, late medieval function: as a palace, built to intimidate the ruler's subjects and to frighten foreign emissaries. Red Fortress brilliantly conveys this sense of the Kremlin as a stage set, nearly as potent under Vladimir Putin as it was under earlier, far more baleful inhabitants.


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The extraordinary story of the Kremlin, from prize-winning author and historian Catherine Merridale Both beautiful and profoundly menacing, the Kremlin has dominated Moscow for many centuries. Behind its great red walls and towers many of the most startling events in Russia's history have been acted out. It is both a real place and an imaginative idea; a shorthand for a cer The extraordinary story of the Kremlin, from prize-winning author and historian Catherine Merridale Both beautiful and profoundly menacing, the Kremlin has dominated Moscow for many centuries. Behind its great red walls and towers many of the most startling events in Russia's history have been acted out. It is both a real place and an imaginative idea; a shorthand for a certain kind of secretive power, but also the heart of a specific Russian authenticity. Catherine Merridale's exceptional new book revels in both the drama of the Kremlin and its sheer unexpectedness: an impregnable fortress which has repeatedly been devastated, a symbol of all that is Russian substantially created by Italians. The Kremlin is one of the very few buildings in the world which still keeps its original, late medieval function: as a palace, built to intimidate the ruler's subjects and to frighten foreign emissaries. Red Fortress brilliantly conveys this sense of the Kremlin as a stage set, nearly as potent under Vladimir Putin as it was under earlier, far more baleful inhabitants.

30 review for Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

    Sometimes we gaze out over the red brick walls at pivotal moments taking shape across the vast Russian landscape; sometimes we look down upon the Moskva but most of the time we're on the inside, watching buildings rise and crumble as Byzantine robes give way to red banners. Neither fish nor fowl, it's easier to say what this book is not. It's not a history of Russia nor a history of Moscow. It's not completely a history of the Kremlin, either. That would entail an in-depth look at the architectur Sometimes we gaze out over the red brick walls at pivotal moments taking shape across the vast Russian landscape; sometimes we look down upon the Moskva but most of the time we're on the inside, watching buildings rise and crumble as Byzantine robes give way to red banners. Neither fish nor fowl, it's easier to say what this book is not. It's not a history of Russia nor a history of Moscow. It's not completely a history of the Kremlin, either. That would entail an in-depth look at the architecture of the complex from medieval times to the post-Soviet restaurations. The buildings mostly come into focus at the stage of construction and demolition, their fragile splendor interpreted as symbols of tsarist power. All this talk of marble and gold would've warranted a substantial illustration section that leaves Putin out of the picture. It's easy to see why he's featured tough: the Kremlin can only be a lightweight subject unless intermingled with the lineage of Russia's rulers over the past thousand years. It doesn't hurt to have some prior knowledge*. Merridale's own stories as a researcher make clear that the Kremlin is a place where history is an illusion, a reconstructed story of the past, to the Nth degree. While the modern complex may seem an organic whole on display, it is populated by the ghosts of palaces long demolished. Visitors glimpse only a small part of what is left standing, the staff holding the ornate keys to entire churches that silently turn to dust behind hidden gates. Even in the 21st century, the state reserves the right to control the narrative in the interest of its legimitation. In this respect, little has changed since before Alexander Nevsky defeated the Teutonic Knights on the ice (he did not ). To the Byzantine splendor that defined the timeless otherness of the Russian lands to the Western eye was added the Enlighted veneer of the great Peter and Catherine, as their realm was enlarged across Siberia to the Pacific coast and inched forward at the point of a bayonet on its western borders to redefine Russia as a European Great Power. The Red stars planted upon the domes radiated the legitimacy of Soviet overlordship as the internationalist principle of pre-revolutionary communism gave way to a centralized empire of socialist states under Russia. The rallying cry of Za Rodina was briefly resurrected with Army Group Centre at the gates of Moscow and preserved in the postwar nomenclature of the Great Patriotic War. And now? The Soviet Union fell a generation ago, the initial euphoria has waned and the geostrategic giant on feet of clay ponders its place in the world. Again, the mass of the Kremlin whispers “It is your destiny to be great”. * Have your pick at https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/2... * by Simon Sebag Montefiore

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    3.5 stars. This was a book that I'm glad I read but really felt like a slog. So much detail that it was overwhelming. I'm impressed at the research that went into this, but for a general audience book it felt too academic for me. Also, it could really use some timelines and maybe a brief cast of characters. I think that would've increased my understanding and ability to keep track of who was who and when significantly. 3.5 stars. This was a book that I'm glad I read but really felt like a slog. So much detail that it was overwhelming. I'm impressed at the research that went into this, but for a general audience book it felt too academic for me. Also, it could really use some timelines and maybe a brief cast of characters. I think that would've increased my understanding and ability to keep track of who was who and when significantly.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Enrique

    I always thought of the Kremlin as an elegant and stately government building in the French Imperial style with Byzantine and Russian motifs surrounded by an imposing red wall in front of the enormous Red Square forever flanked by St. Basil’s Cathedral which, in my humble opinion, is like an Arabian fairy tale nightmare induced by really bad “shrooms.” In political terms, I believed said building simply housed the office and staff of Russian potentates, a sort of White House in steroids, since I always thought of the Kremlin as an elegant and stately government building in the French Imperial style with Byzantine and Russian motifs surrounded by an imposing red wall in front of the enormous Red Square forever flanked by St. Basil’s Cathedral which, in my humble opinion, is like an Arabian fairy tale nightmare induced by really bad “shrooms.” In political terms, I believed said building simply housed the office and staff of Russian potentates, a sort of White House in steroids, since Russian leaders seem to enjoy enormous unchecked powers vis-à-vis their American counterparts. As it happens, I was wrong. I was only thinking of the Grand Kremlin Palace. The Kremlin is not a building but a citadel. Indeed, the very definition of Kremlin is “the citadel of Moscow.” In her book, the author describes in chronological order the origins and development of this “citadel of Moscow.” The book provides a detailed account on each structure that ever populated the citadel: who commissioned it, what was its function, where within the compound was it located, who was the architect, its style, a description of the structure, who built it, when and why was it destroyed or renovated, etc. By placing each structure within its historical context, the author ends up giving a condensed history of Russia. Moscow has been Russia’s capital city for seven (7) out of its nine (9) centuries of history. For most of that time, the Kremlin has been its seat of power. Since its origin, it has witnessed many of the major events which shaped present day Russia. As a result, the Kremlin is not only the very foundation of Russia but it also lies at its very heart. Even when the capital was St. Peterburg or when the real business of government was carried out elsewhere, although neglected, it was never forgotten. To this day it remains the most recognizable icon of Russian government. In this regard, the book is downright fascinating. My only complaint is that not all buildings are accompanied by an illustration. In addition, all pictures and illustrations therein, which are by far incomplete, are bundled together in the beginning, the middle and the end of the book, without any reference to them in the text itself. Thus, many of the buildings described in the book get lost in my imagination.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mary & Tom

    Reading the Red Fortress is like reading a mini-history of the various rulers of Russia. I was hoping for interesting architectural details and a full disclosure of all the tricks they use to keep Lenin looking fresh but no such luck. Merridale does start from the beginning with invading hordes and eventually moving on to strong leaders consolidating power. She also spends time on Russia's religious past and the churches that have been built and torn down inside the Kremlin. She details how the Reading the Red Fortress is like reading a mini-history of the various rulers of Russia. I was hoping for interesting architectural details and a full disclosure of all the tricks they use to keep Lenin looking fresh but no such luck. Merridale does start from the beginning with invading hordes and eventually moving on to strong leaders consolidating power. She also spends time on Russia's religious past and the churches that have been built and torn down inside the Kremlin. She details how the Russian came to honor an individual as the czar and the political machinations of this heredity title. The rise of Communism and the terror of Stalin changed the face of the Kremlin. I think it would be interesting to read more about this period. She brings readers right up to the rise of Vladmir Putin and the desire for tourism. I don't really believe that I got to the secret heart of the Kremlin though.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    “The Kremlin is one of the most famous landmarks in the world”. With this sentence Catherine Merridale opens her fascinating and in-depth study of this symbolic and instantly recognisable complex of ancient and modern buildings, which in so many ways is the very incarnation of the Russian state. There is no reliable record of the Kremlin’s beginnings, although there is a mention of a prince's residence in 1147, and traces of a 12th century wall. The word Kremlin first appears in the 1300s, and s “The Kremlin is one of the most famous landmarks in the world”. With this sentence Catherine Merridale opens her fascinating and in-depth study of this symbolic and instantly recognisable complex of ancient and modern buildings, which in so many ways is the very incarnation of the Russian state. There is no reliable record of the Kremlin’s beginnings, although there is a mention of a prince's residence in 1147, and traces of a 12th century wall. The word Kremlin first appears in the 1300s, and since then it has encapsulated Russia – in all its many transformations and permutations. Part fortress, part citadel, part holy shrine and part secular palace, it has been at Russia's heart for centuries. It has been home to Russia’s rulers, the site of coronations and burials, the parade ground for Russia’s power, and both a secular and sacred symbol of nationhood. But the book is not just a study of the Kremlin, but also a history of Russia from its beginnings right up to the present day, a detailed history drawn from a wide variety of sources, many unseen and unexplored until now, and is both comprehensive and even-handed in its analysis. Merridale is an expert historian who knows how to make her knowledge and research accessible to the lay reader as well as thorough enough to appeal to fellow historians, and the book is a treasure trove of stories about Russia’s always tumultuous past. I found the book intensely interesting and informative. It’s essential reading for anyone with an interest in Russia and for anyone who wants to understand this most enigmatic of countries. My thanks to Netgalley for sending me the ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Antenna

    For enthusiasm and research, Catherine Merridale deserves five stars, but despite having visited Moscow both before and after the collapse of Communism, and been inside the Kremlin, I found this history hard going. The opening chapters seem padded out, since there is little to say about the rural backwater of Moscow and the wooden fortification of the initial Kremlin when Kiev was the centre of activity for the region. In the later Middle Ages, the political rulers on one hand and religious patri For enthusiasm and research, Catherine Merridale deserves five stars, but despite having visited Moscow both before and after the collapse of Communism, and been inside the Kremlin, I found this history hard going. The opening chapters seem padded out, since there is little to say about the rural backwater of Moscow and the wooden fortification of the initial Kremlin when Kiev was the centre of activity for the region. In the later Middle Ages, the political rulers on one hand and religious patriarchs on the other are hard to distinguish, with the exception of Ivan the Terrible who tried without success to interest Elizabeth 1 of England in marriage. For me, the book begins to come alive from the time of Peter the Great in the C17, through Napoleon’s destruction of Moscow to the impact of Communism and Putin setting out to harness the aura of the “red fortress” to cement his authority. Perhaps this is because it is easier to engage with people and ideas rather than often arbitrarily selected facts about buildings. I accept that this book may be invaluable for students, but for the general reader it is somewhat longwinded with a good deal of dry detail outside the entertaining anecdotes, which makes for a somewhat indigestible potted history.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    A fantastic introduction to the broad sweep of Russian history, through the lens of the pretty ill-treated Kremlin complex. Ms Merridale's depth of research is accompanied by a great turn of phrase and the ability to keep the reader interested through a sometimes dizzying whirl of dynastic change. I particularly enjoyed the coverage of the grim days of the Stalin purges, and the role of the Kremlin in attempts to legitimise the post-communist 'democratic' settlement. Ms Merridale's attempts to d A fantastic introduction to the broad sweep of Russian history, through the lens of the pretty ill-treated Kremlin complex. Ms Merridale's depth of research is accompanied by a great turn of phrase and the ability to keep the reader interested through a sometimes dizzying whirl of dynastic change. I particularly enjoyed the coverage of the grim days of the Stalin purges, and the role of the Kremlin in attempts to legitimise the post-communist 'democratic' settlement. Ms Merridale's attempts to demonstrate the historical flexibility of Russia and its people as a counter to perceptions of an ingrained authoritarian streak in the Russian national character is not particularly convincing however, and her readable and competent overview of their history (particularly the 16/17th century Time of Troubles period, the Civil War and the early 1990s) is more likely to cement the view that Russians want strong government precisely because they feel they have so much to fear from its opposite. But none of this takes away from a great read that wonderfully illustrates the frenetic, chaotic, destructive and romantic history of this tiny area. Would definitely recommend.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Another book where you want to start re-reading it the minute you've finished. This biography of the Kremlin provides a history of how Russia has re-invented itself over and over again across the centuries. The individuals in charge, who inflicted such suffering on the Russian people, are brought vividly to life and the firebird nature of the site itself is described in fascinating detail, sometimes ironic, sometimes tragic. The changing regimes have used the Kremlin as a symbol of power in thei Another book where you want to start re-reading it the minute you've finished. This biography of the Kremlin provides a history of how Russia has re-invented itself over and over again across the centuries. The individuals in charge, who inflicted such suffering on the Russian people, are brought vividly to life and the firebird nature of the site itself is described in fascinating detail, sometimes ironic, sometimes tragic. The changing regimes have used the Kremlin as a symbol of power in their attempts to consolidate their sometimes shaky claim to the throne of the time. Much of what tourists are allowed to see today is relatively new and sanitised, but having read this book, I hope that I would be able to see the shadows and ghosts of the demolished buildings, the buildings which never got built, the generations who struggled with the building, the re-building and the re-building again.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This book tells the story of Russia through the history of the Kremlin. And I mean that literally: the buildings. This talks about who built them, what happened to them, how their use has changed; Merridal knows a whole lot about architecture and art, and uses this to then explain how those things fit into historical patterns... including right up to the present day, which is a frankly very gutsy move. This is an approach that really works for me. I love being shown the evidence first and then th This book tells the story of Russia through the history of the Kremlin. And I mean that literally: the buildings. This talks about who built them, what happened to them, how their use has changed; Merridal knows a whole lot about architecture and art, and uses this to then explain how those things fit into historical patterns... including right up to the present day, which is a frankly very gutsy move. This is an approach that really works for me. I love being shown the evidence first and then the explanation: I work well going from Exhibit A to how that ties into Theory B. This book also includes a lot of lovely pictures to help guide you. Thoroughly recommended if you are even slightly interested in Russian history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julian Douglass

    Very detailed history of the Kremlin, spanning basically a millennium of Russian History. Ms. Merridale really did her homework while writing this book as it was full of information. However, being so full of information can be a blessing and a curse. With each chapter being on average 30+ pages, the chapters can really drag out especially when she rambles on about art and the way a building looks. I also think she spent too much time in the beginning and not as much time with Modern Russian his Very detailed history of the Kremlin, spanning basically a millennium of Russian History. Ms. Merridale really did her homework while writing this book as it was full of information. However, being so full of information can be a blessing and a curse. With each chapter being on average 30+ pages, the chapters can really drag out especially when she rambles on about art and the way a building looks. I also think she spent too much time in the beginning and not as much time with Modern Russian history, but that can also be because I am biased towards modern history. Very detailed book, just too detailed for what I was expecting.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Samerdyke

    I'd give this 4-and-a-half if it were possible. I enjoyed this more than I expected. Merridale does a terrific job bringing the "Muscovite" era to life. Her coverage of the Time of Troubles is masterfully done. Even after the capital moved to St. Petersburg, her coverage of the cultural meaning of Moscow and the Kremlin proved fascinating. The last two chapters, basically from Stalin's death to the present, seemed a little out of focus to me, more about the USSR/Russia as a whole than the Kremlin, I'd give this 4-and-a-half if it were possible. I enjoyed this more than I expected. Merridale does a terrific job bringing the "Muscovite" era to life. Her coverage of the Time of Troubles is masterfully done. Even after the capital moved to St. Petersburg, her coverage of the cultural meaning of Moscow and the Kremlin proved fascinating. The last two chapters, basically from Stalin's death to the present, seemed a little out of focus to me, more about the USSR/Russia as a whole than the Kremlin, but overall, this was a superb book, one of the best on Russia I have read in recent years.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Arup Guha

    This is a good book to get you started on Russian history. The scope is sweeping and you will have to work through centuries of details compressed in around 350 pages. But it will intrigue you. Two things stand out for me. First, how in Russia, every time any regime tries to introduce reforms, it comes to a violent end. This discouraged any future regime from introducing changes. Second, the mystique of kremlin. How the mysterious silent fortress has managed to remain the guardian of Russian pow This is a good book to get you started on Russian history. The scope is sweeping and you will have to work through centuries of details compressed in around 350 pages. But it will intrigue you. Two things stand out for me. First, how in Russia, every time any regime tries to introduce reforms, it comes to a violent end. This discouraged any future regime from introducing changes. Second, the mystique of kremlin. How the mysterious silent fortress has managed to remain the guardian of Russian power for 800 years. Few rambling sentences shouldn’t discourage you. If required read this book in two or more instalments, one for each regime

  13. 5 out of 5

    Zhi Chen

    Captivating narrative throughout; interweaving the history of the Kremlin with Russian history. With that being said, this book is not entirely focused on the physical Kremlin but on its inhabitants and their affairs as well.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Such an interesting book, couldn't put it down! Such an interesting book, couldn't put it down!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    4. 0 / 5.0 Surprised that after reading I still have only a fuzzy picture and understanding of "The Kremlin". That said the book is a informative romp through Russian / Moscow History. Shallow but broad with links to Moscow / Kremlin that are not stretched. Format follows Historical timeline and Pre Peter the Great Sections are particularly informative. Intriguing and point may really be that the idea of The Kremlin is elusive. 4. 0 / 5.0 Surprised that after reading I still have only a fuzzy picture and understanding of "The Kremlin". That said the book is a informative romp through Russian / Moscow History. Shallow but broad with links to Moscow / Kremlin that are not stretched. Format follows Historical timeline and Pre Peter the Great Sections are particularly informative. Intriguing and point may really be that the idea of The Kremlin is elusive.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brad Rousse

    The history of the Kremlin is the history of Moscow; and the history of Moscow is the history of Russia. This is essentially the argument of Catherine Merridale's engaging and intriguing history of one of the most foreboding and aloof buildings in the world. Starting with Moscow's far off origins in the Rus, Merridale takes her readers on a step by step, intimate view of the citadel as goes from earthen fort to the heart of a superpower. Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Lenin, Stalin, Putin; The history of the Kremlin is the history of Moscow; and the history of Moscow is the history of Russia. This is essentially the argument of Catherine Merridale's engaging and intriguing history of one of the most foreboding and aloof buildings in the world. Starting with Moscow's far off origins in the Rus, Merridale takes her readers on a step by step, intimate view of the citadel as goes from earthen fort to the heart of a superpower. Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Lenin, Stalin, Putin; all of the mighty people of Russian people have made their impact here, changing the history to its "true" origins to support their views of the Russian past and future. Merridale also serves as architectural critic, describing the individual buildings and how they shaped both their builders and their inhabitants, as well as future refurbishers and residents. Merridale ends with a look at the Putin Kremlin through the eyes of a tourist, bringing it back full circle to show how Russians view the Kremlin as both a mirror and a symbol of their place in the world. We both shape and are shaped by our buildings; Merridale's great book shows how profound and true that statement is.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read this one as research for the current novel in progress, and found its coverage of the subject both broad and deep. The timeline stretches from the earliest foundations of Moscow through recent events. With every generation, there's so much lost in terms of historical buildings and artifacts that it's rather heartbreaking to consider. Perhaps more than any other building on Earth, the Kremlin has come to symbolize the power of its associated government, and Merridale's account makes clear I read this one as research for the current novel in progress, and found its coverage of the subject both broad and deep. The timeline stretches from the earliest foundations of Moscow through recent events. With every generation, there's so much lost in terms of historical buildings and artifacts that it's rather heartbreaking to consider. Perhaps more than any other building on Earth, the Kremlin has come to symbolize the power of its associated government, and Merridale's account makes clear the ways in which the ideal of the Kremlin has been as important, if not more so, than the actuality. Probably my favorite bit involves Ivan the Terrible' lost library--eight hundred irreplaceable volumes buried somewhere underneath Moscow. Intriguing!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alice-Sophie

    It's a very detailed book about the Kreml. I think too detailed, so I stopped at 2/3 of the book. Just too much information. But for those, who are really interested, it's quite astonishing. You learn a lot, not just about Moskow but about Russia and its history. It's a very detailed book about the Kreml. I think too detailed, so I stopped at 2/3 of the book. Just too much information. But for those, who are really interested, it's quite astonishing. You learn a lot, not just about Moskow but about Russia and its history.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    This dragged for me and I can't put my finger on the reason. It wasn't quite about the Kremlin. But it wasn't quite about Moscow or Russia either. This dragged for me and I can't put my finger on the reason. It wasn't quite about the Kremlin. But it wasn't quite about Moscow or Russia either.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    History-writing at its most brilliant and inspiring..

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is a biography of a building - actually a set of buildings - the Kremlin. The story goes back eight centuries and is related with the unfolding of Russia as a powerful state, from the consolidation of the Muscovite state and the reigns of the Ivans (great and terrible) to the Romanov dynasty to the Russian revolutions of 1917 and the emergence of the USSR to the post-Soviet governments of Yeltsin and Putin. The core of the story is how the Kremlin was a tool of various regimes and came to b This is a biography of a building - actually a set of buildings - the Kremlin. The story goes back eight centuries and is related with the unfolding of Russia as a powerful state, from the consolidation of the Muscovite state and the reigns of the Ivans (great and terrible) to the Romanov dynasty to the Russian revolutions of 1917 and the emergence of the USSR to the post-Soviet governments of Yeltsin and Putin. The core of the story is how the Kremlin was a tool of various regimes and came to be seen as a repository of Russian history and culture. The latest efforts to modernize the Kremlin after the fall of Communism led to corruption charges that played a part in the rise of Putin to succeed Boris Yeltsin. In the wrong hands, this story could have been really boring or else a rehash of Russian history. It is neither and is instead a fine book. For me, the standard for a "history of key buildings" has to be the Henry Adams book on Mt. St.Michel and Chartres. When I first visited France a long time ago, I read that book and used it as a guidebook of sorts at both places. It was informative and I still refer to the book from time to time - especially if you get past the touristy parts of Mt. St. Michel. Catherine Merridale is a wonderful scholar and a fine writer and if I every visit the Kremlin (not immediately on my schedule) I will make use of this book. Times are easier now, however, and those parts of the Kremlin that remain and are viewable at all are well documented in travel videos on YouTube. There is no need to imagine anything at all - and there is considerable commentary available for free. For me, the most interesting parts of this book concerned the transitional phases. How did life in the Kremlin change from the end of Ivan IV's reign through the Time of Troubles and into the Romanov dynasty? How did the Bolsheviks adjust to life in the Kremlin, with Stalin's quarters located close by to various churches? How did the Kremlin become open to tourists after the fall of the Soviet Union? The downside of a book like this is that Russian history is long and there are many stories to tell. If you are not comfortable with your Russian history background, this book will be a bit of a slog. Even if you are comfortable, there is a lot of material here and lots of odd sounding names to remember. Merridale writes well, however, and the book is copiously cited. I enjoyed it a lot.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kremlin

    Loved this book. It was very well written, informative, and insightful. The only reasoning I did not rate it 5 stars is that the writing was not compelling. For me, 5 star books are books that linger in my mind after I read them, books that are outstanding above all else. This book was good, but it will not haunt me. If you aren't interested in the subject, you probably would not care to finish it. I, however, was fascinated by a historical insight into the most beautiful political fortress ever Loved this book. It was very well written, informative, and insightful. The only reasoning I did not rate it 5 stars is that the writing was not compelling. For me, 5 star books are books that linger in my mind after I read them, books that are outstanding above all else. This book was good, but it will not haunt me. If you aren't interested in the subject, you probably would not care to finish it. I, however, was fascinated by a historical insight into the most beautiful political fortress ever conceived. It also provided insight into Russia's leaders, from Brezhnev's apparent addiction to sleeping pills, to Stalin's love of wooden paneling. Overall, an excellent read. Would highly recommend for anyone interested in Russian history!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Megi Kartsivadze

    Interesting book, examining ever-changing Kremlin achitecture as a reflection of Russian internal political and cultural transformation throughout the centuries. Merridale explains how Russian rulers from Ivan the Terrible to Putin have used Kremlin to legitimize their power and create a sense of historical continuity. The consistent methodology and writing style she engages in her research makes the narrative very comprehensive.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nicole DiStasio

    I enjoyed this book. But I have to wonder if I could have enjoyed it if I hadn't been to the Kremlin, were I not able to visualize all of those places, buildings, and structures she mentions. I also do not recommend this as a first, second, or even third book on Russian history! You'll need more context to enjoy this. I enjoyed this book. But I have to wonder if I could have enjoyed it if I hadn't been to the Kremlin, were I not able to visualize all of those places, buildings, and structures she mentions. I also do not recommend this as a first, second, or even third book on Russian history! You'll need more context to enjoy this.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Wilkins

    This book is excellent for what it is - a detailed historical account of life in and around the Kremlin, as well as what that symbolised for Russia as a whole. This is a dense text which I would not recommend as a holiday read or to a newcomer on Russian history. In fact, the deeper the reader's understanding of Russian history, the more they will like this book. This book is excellent for what it is - a detailed historical account of life in and around the Kremlin, as well as what that symbolised for Russia as a whole. This is a dense text which I would not recommend as a holiday read or to a newcomer on Russian history. In fact, the deeper the reader's understanding of Russian history, the more they will like this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fred Eisenhut

    This is an awesome read. The detail and explanations about each phase of Russian history really help explain the Russian mindset of its leaders. You may come away wondering if anyone has any sense of ethics in Russian history. Its story is both glorious and deeply distressing.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Claire Biggs

    While the book is a bit hard going and you really have to concentrate, the history of the Kremlin is well researched and the author puts all views in the book, it shows how the country tried to move away from Royalist rule and were no better off with the so called revelation

  28. 4 out of 5

    Etienne Henry

    Excellent overview of some important stages of Russian history since early days and some more specific aspects of the city of Moscow and, of course Moscow Kremlin.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    A good compact history of Russia without too many details to worry about. It was interesting to focus on the Kremlin as a microcosm of Russia as a whole.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Steven Heywood

    An astonishingly readable and comprehensive history of the fortress-cum-political theatre that is the Kremlin.

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