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AN ECONOMIST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag and the National Book Award finalist Iron Curtain, a revelatory history of one of Stalin's greatest crimes—the consequences of which still resonate today

In 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization—in effect a second Russian revolution—which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. At least five million people died between 1931 and 1933 in the USSR. But instead of sending relief the Soviet state made use of the catastrophe to rid itself of a political problem. In Red Famine, Anne Applebaum argues that more than three million of those dead were Ukrainians who perished not because they were accidental victims of a bad policy but because the state deliberately set out to kill them.

Applebaum proves what has long been suspected: after a series of rebellions unsettled the province, Stalin set out to destroy the Ukrainian peasantry. The state sealed the republic’s borders and seized all available food. Starvation set in rapidly, and people ate anything: grass, tree bark, dogs, corpses. In some cases, they killed one another for food. Devastating and definitive, Red Famine captures the horror of ordinary people struggling to survive extraordinary evil.

Today, Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union, has placed Ukrainian independence in its sights once more. Applebaum’s compulsively readable narrative recalls one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century, and shows how it may foreshadow a new threat to the political order in the twenty-first.
Drawing on her own memory, her parents’ written reflections, interviews with contemporaries, and newly-available documents, former US Secretary of State and New York Times bestselling author Madeleine Albright recounts a tale that is by turns harrowing and inspiring.

Before she turned twelve, Madeleine Albright’s life was shaken by some of the most cataclysmic events of the 20th century: the Nazi invasion of her native Prague, the Battle of Britain, the attempted genocide of European Jewry, the allied victory in World War II, the rise of communism, and the onset of the Cold War. 

In Prague Winter, Albright reflects on her discovery of her family’s Jewish heritage many decades after the war, on her Czech homeland’s tangled history, and on the stark moral choices faced by her parents and their generation. Often relying on eyewitness descriptions, she tells the story of how millions of ordinary citizens were ripped from familiar surroundings and forced into new roles as exile leaders and freedom fighters, resistance organizers and collaborators, victims and killers. These events of enormous complexity are shaped by concepts familiar to any growing child: fear, trust, adaptation, the search for identity, the pressure to conform, the quest for independence, and the difference between right and wrong. 

Prague Winter is an exploration of the past with timeless dilemmas in mind, a journey with universal lessons that is simultaneously a deeply personal memoir and an incisive work of history. It serves as a guide to the future through the lessons of the past, as seen through the eyes of one of the international community’s most respected and fascinating figures. Albright and her family’s experiences provide an intensely human lens through which to view the most political and tumultuous years in modern history.

The first complete history of Central Eurasia from ancient times to the present day, Empires of the Silk Road represents a fundamental rethinking of the origins, history, and significance of this major world region. Christopher Beckwith describes the rise and fall of the great Central Eurasian empires, including those of the Scythians, Attila the Hun, the Turks and Tibetans, and Genghis Khan and the Mongols. In addition, he explains why the heartland of Central Eurasia led the world economically, scientifically, and artistically for many centuries despite invasions by Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Chinese, and others. In retelling the story of the Old World from the perspective of Central Eurasia, Beckwith provides a new understanding of the internal and external dynamics of the Central Eurasian states and shows how their people repeatedly revolutionized Eurasian civilization.

Beckwith recounts the Indo-Europeans' migration out of Central Eurasia, their mixture with local peoples, and the resulting development of the Graeco-Roman, Persian, Indian, and Chinese civilizations; he details the basis for the thriving economy of premodern Central Eurasia, the economy's disintegration following the region's partition by the Chinese and Russians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the damaging of Central Eurasian culture by Modernism; and he discusses the significance for world history of the partial reemergence of Central Eurasian nations after the collapse of the Soviet Union.



Empires of the Silk Road places Central Eurasia within a world historical framework and demonstrates why the region is central to understanding the history of civilization.

"A Grain of Truth, like every great crime novel, digs up more unsettling questions than it does answers; it also demonstrates the seemingly endless possibilities of the form itself to serve as smart social criticism." --Maureen Corrigan, on NPR's Fresh AirPraise for the first novel in the Teodor Szacki series:"In Entanglement Miloszewski takes an engaging look at modern Polish society in this stellar first in a new series starring Warsaw prosecutor Teodor Szacki. Readers will want to see more of the complex, sympathetic Szacki."—Publishers WeeklyIt is spring 2009, and prosecutor Szacki is no longer working in Warsaw—he has said goodbye to his family and to his career in the capital and moved to Sandomierz, a picturesque town full of churches and museums. Hoping to start a "brave new life," Szacki instead finds himself investigating a strange murder case in surroundings both alien and unfriendly.The victim is found brutally murdered, her body drained of blood. The killing bears the hallmarks of legendary Jewish ritual slaughter, prompting a wave of anti-Semitic paranoia in the town, where everyone knows everyone. The murdered woman's husband is bereft, but when Szacki discovers that she had a lover, the husband becomes the prime suspect. Before there's time to arrest him, he is found murdered in similar circumstances. In his investigation Szacki must wrestle with the painful tangle of Polish–Jewish relations and something that happened more than sixty years earlier.

Zygmunt Miloszewski was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1975. His first novel The Intercom was published in 2005 to high acclaim. In 2006 he published The Adder Mountains; in 2010, the crime novel Entanglement; and this year its sequel, A Grain of Truth.


Alexander II was Russia's Lincoln, and the greatest reformer tsar since Peter the Great. He was also one of the most contradictory, and fascinating, of history's supreme leaders. He freed the serfs, yet launched vicious wars. He engaged in the sexual exploits of a royal Don Juan, yet fell profoundly in love. He ruled during the "Russian Renaissance" of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev -- yet his Russia became the birthplace of modern terrorism. His story could be that of one of Russia's greatest novels, yet it is true. It is also crucially important today.
It is a tale that runs on parallel tracks. Alexander freed 23 million Russian slaves, reformed the justice system and the army, and very nearly became the father of Russia's first constitution and the man who led that nation into a new era of western-style liberalism. Yet it was during this feverish time that modern nihilism first arose. On the sidelines of Alexander's state dramas, a group of radical, disaffected young people first experimented with dynamite, and first began to use terrorism. Fueled by the writings of a few intellectuals and zealots, they built bombs, dug tunnels, and planned ambushes. They made no less than six unsuccessful attempts on Alexander's life. Finally, the parallel tracks joined, when a small cell of terrorists, living next door to Dostoevsky, built the fatal bomb that ended the life of the last great Tsar. It stopped Russian reform in its tracks.
Edvard Radzinsky is justly famous as both a biographer and a dramatist, and he brings both skills to bear in this vivid, page-turning, rich portrait of one of the greatest of all Romanovs. Delving deep into the archives, he raises intriguing questions about the connections between Dostoevsky and the young terrorists, about the hidden romances of the Romanovs, and about the palace conspiracies that may have linked hard-line aristocrats with their nemesis, the young nihilists.
Alexander's life proves the timeless lesson that in Russia, it is dangerous to start reforms, but even more dangerous to stop them. It also shows that the traps and dangers encountered in today's war on terrorists were there from the start.
Ryszard Kapuscinski's last book, The Soccer War -a revelation of the contemporary experience of war -- prompted John le Carre to call the author "the conjurer extraordinary of modern reportage." Now, in Imperium, Kapuscinski gives us a work of equal emotional force and evocative power: a personal, brilliantly detailed exploration of the almost unfathomably complex Soviet empire in our time.

He begins with his own childhood memories of the postwar Soviet occupation of Pinsk, in what was then Poland's eastern frontier ("something dreadful and incomprehensible...in this world that I enter at seven years of age"), and takes us up to 1967, when, as a journalist just starting out, he traveled across a snow-covered and desolate Siberia, and through the Soviet Union's seven southern and Central Asian republics, territories whose individual histories, cultures, and religions he found thriving even within the "stiff, rigorous corset of Soviet power."

Between 1989 and 1991, Kapuscinski made a series of extended journeys through the disintegrating Soviet empire, and his account of these forms the heart of the book. Bypassing official institutions and itineraries, he traversed the Soviet territory alone, from the border of Poland to the site of the most infamous gulags in far-eastern Siberia (where "nature pals it up with the executioner"), from above the Arctic Circle to the edge of Afghanistan, visiting dozens of cities and towns and outposts, traveling more than 40,000 miles, venturing into the individual lives of men, women, and children in order to Understand the collapsing but still various larger life of the empire.

Bringing the book to a close is a collection of notes which, Kapuscinski writes, "arose in the margins of my journeys" -- reflections on the state of the ex-USSR and on his experience of having watched its fate unfold "on the screen of a television set...as well as on the screen of the country's ordinary, daily reality, which surrounded me during my travels." It is this "schizophrenic perception in two different dimensions" that enabled Kapuscinski to discover and illuminate the most telling features of a society in dire turmoil.

Imperium is a remarkable work from one of the most original and sharply perceptive interpreters of our world -- galvanizing narrative deeply informed by Kapuscinski's limitless curiosity and his passion for truth, and suffused with his vivid sense of the overwhelming importance of history as it is lived, and of our constantly shifting places within it.
The battle for Moscow was the biggest battle of World War II -- the biggest battle of all time. And yet it is far less known than Stalingrad, which involved about half the number of troops. From the time Hitler launched his assault on Moscow on September 30, 1941, to April 20, 1942, seven million troops were engaged in this titanic struggle. The combined losses of both sides -- those killed, taken prisoner or severely wounded -- were 2.5 million, of which nearly 2 million were on the Soviet side. But the Soviet capital narrowly survived, and for the first time the German Blitzkrieg ended in failure. This shattered Hitler's dream of a swift victory over the Soviet Union and radically changed the course of the war.

The full story of this epic battle has never been told because it undermines the sanitized Soviet accounts of the war, which portray Stalin as a military genius and his people as heroically united against the German invader. Stalin's blunders, incompetence and brutality made it possible for German troops to approach the outskirts of Moscow. This triggered panic in the city -- with looting, strikes and outbreaks of previously unimaginable violence. About half the city's population fled. But Hitler's blunders would soon loom even larger: sending his troops to attack the Soviet Union without winter uniforms, insisting on an immediate German reign of terror and refusing to heed his generals' pleas that he allow them to attack Moscow as quickly as possible. In the end, Hitler's mistakes trumped Stalin's mistakes.

Drawing on recently declassified documents from Soviet archives, including files of the dreaded NKVD; on accounts of survivors and of children of top Soviet military and government officials; and on reports of Western diplomats and correspondents, The Greatest Battle finally illuminates the full story of a clash between two systems based on sheer terror and relentless slaughter.

Even as Moscow's fate hung in the balance, the United States and Britain were discovering how wily a partner Stalin would turn out to be in the fight against Hitler -- and how eager he was to push his demands for a postwar empire in Eastern Europe. In addition to chronicling the bloodshed, Andrew Nagorski takes the reader behind the scenes of the early negotiations between Hitler and Stalin, and then between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill.

This is a remarkable addition to the history of World War II.
A sweeping yet intimate narrative about the last hundred years of turbulent European history, as seen through one of Mitteleuropa’s greatest houses—and the lives of its occupants
 
When Norman Eisen moved into the US ambassador’s residence in Prague, returning to the land his mother had fled after the Holocaust, he was startled to discover swastikas hidden beneath the furniture in his new home. These symbols of Nazi Germany were remnants of the residence’s forgotten history, and evidence that we never live far from the past.
 
From that discovery unspooled the twisting, captivating tale of four of the remarkable people who had called this palace home. Their story is Europe’s, and The Last Palace chronicles the upheavals that transformed the continent over the past century. There was the optimistic Jewish financial baron, Otto Petschek, who built the palace after World War I as a statement of his faith in democracy, only to have that faith shattered; Rudolf Toussaint, the cultured, compromised German general who occupied the palace during World War II, ultimately putting his life at risk to save the house and Prague itself from destruction; Laurence Steinhardt, the first postwar US ambassador whose quixotic struggle to keep the palace out of Communist hands was paired with his pitched efforts to rescue the country from Soviet domination; and Shirley Temple Black, an eyewitness to the crushing of the 1968 Prague Spring by Soviet tanks, who determined to return to Prague and help end totalitarianism—and did just that as US ambassador in 1989.
 
Weaving in the life of Eisen’s own mother to demonstrate how those without power and privilege moved through history, The Last Palace tells the dramatic and surprisingly cyclical tale of the triumph of liberal democracy.
The searing accounts of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Evgeniia Ginsberg and Varlam Shalamov opened the world's eyes to the terrors of the Soviet Gulag. But not until now has there been a memoir of life inside the camps written from the perspective of an actual employee of the Secret police. In this riveting memoir, superbly translated by Deborah Kaple, Fyodor Mochulsky describes being sent to work as a boss at the forced labor camp of Pechorlag in the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle. Only twenty-two years old, he had but a vague idea of the true nature of the Gulag. What he discovered was a world of unimaginable suffering and death, a world where men were starved, beaten, worked to death, or simply executed. Mochulsky details the horrific conditions in the camps and the challenges facing all those involved, from prisoners to guards. He depicts the power struggles within the camps between the secret police and the communist party, between the political prisoners (most of whom had been arrested for the generic crime of "counter-revolutionary activities") and the criminal convicts. And because Mochulsky writes of what he witnessed with the detachment of the engineer that he was, readers can easily understand how a system that destroyed millions of lives could be run by ordinary Soviet citizens who believed they were advancing the cause of socialism. Mochulsky remained a communist party member his entire life--he would later become a diplomat--but was deeply troubled by the gap between socialist theory and the Soviet reality of slave labor and mass murder. This unprecedented memoir takes readers into that reality and sheds new light on one of the most harrowing tragedies of the 20th century.
From the New York Times bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan, named one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, comes a riveting journey through one of Europe’s frontier countries—and a potent examination of the forces that will determine Europe’s fate in the postmodern age.

Robert Kaplan first visited Romania in the 1970s, when he was a young journalist and the country was a bleak Communist backwater. It was one of the darkest corners of Europe, but few Westerners were paying attention. What ensued was a lifelong obsession with a critical, often overlooked country—a country that, today, is key to understanding the current threat that Russia poses to Europe. In Europe’s Shadow is a vivid blend of memoir, travelogue, journalism, and history, a masterly work thirty years in the making—the story of a journalist coming of age, and a country struggling to do the same. Through the lens of one country, Kaplan examines larger questions of geography, imperialism, the role of fate in international relations, the Cold War, the Holocaust, and more.

Here Kaplan illuminates the fusion of the Latin West and the Greek East that created Romania, the country that gave rise to Ion Antonescu, Hitler’s chief foreign accomplice during World War II, and the country that was home to the most brutal strain of Communism under Nicolae Ceaușescu. Romania past and present are rendered in cinematic prose: the ashen faces of citizens waiting in bread lines in Cold War–era Bucharest; the Bărăgan Steppe, laid bare by centuries of foreign invasion; the grim labor camps of the Black Sea Canal; the majestic Gothic church spires of Transylvania and Maramureş. Kaplan finds himself in dialogue with the great thinkers of the past, and with the Romanians of today, the philosophers, priests, and politicians—those who struggle to keep the flame of humanism alive in the era of a resurgent Russia.

Upon his return to Romania in 2013 and 2014, Kaplan found the country transformed yet again—now a traveler’s destination shaped by Western tastes, yet still emerging from the long shadows of Hitler and Stalin. In Europe’s Shadow is the story of an ideological and geographic frontier—and the book you must read in order to truly understand the crisis Europe faces, from Russia and from within.

Praise for In Europe’s Shadow

“[A] haunting yet ultimately optimistic examination of the human condition as found in Romania . . . Kaplan’s account of the centuries leading up to the most turbulent of all—the twentieth—is both sweeping and replete with alluring detail.”—Alison Smale, The New York Times Book Review

“This book reveals the confident, poetical Kaplan . . . but also a reflective, political Kaplan, seeking at times to submerge his gift for romantic generalization in respectful attention to the ideas of others.”—Timothy Snyder, The Washington Post

“A serious yet impassioned survey of Romania . . . Kaplan is a regional geographer par excellence.”—The Christian Science Monitor

“Kaplan is one of America’s foremost writers on the region. . . . In a series of deep dives into the region’s past—Byzantine, Ottoman, Habsburg and Soviet—he finds parallels and echoes that help us understand the present.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Kaplan moves seamlessly from sights, sounds, and conversations to the resonance of history.”—Foreign Affairs
The 1992–1995 battle for Sarajevo was the longest siege in modern history. It was also the most internationalized, attracting a vast contingent of aid workers, UN soldiers, journalists, smugglers, and embargo-busters. The city took center stage under an intense global media spotlight, becoming the most visible face of post-Cold War conflict and humanitarian intervention. However, some critical activities took place backstage, away from the cameras, including extensive clandestine trading across the siege lines, theft and diversion of aid, and complicity in the black market by peacekeeping forces.

In Blue Helmets and Black Markets, Peter Andreas traces the interaction between these formal front-stage and informal backstage activities, arguing that this created and sustained a criminalized war economy and prolonged the conflict in a manner that served various interests on all sides. Although the vast majority of Sarajevans struggled for daily survival and lived in a state of terror, the siege was highly rewarding for some key local and international players. This situation also left a powerful legacy for postwar reconstruction: new elites emerged via war profiteering and an illicit economy flourished partly based on the smuggling networks built up during wartime. Andreas shows how and why the internationalization of the siege changed the repertoires of siege-craft and siege defenses and altered the strategic calculations of both the besiegers and the besieged. The Sarajevo experience dramatically illustrates that just as changes in weapons technologies transformed siege warfare through the ages, so too has the arrival of CNN, NGOs, satellite phones, UN peacekeepers, and aid convoys.

Drawing on interviews, reportage, diaries, memoirs, and other sources, Andreas documents the business of survival in wartime Sarajevo and the limits, contradictions, and unintended consequences of international intervention. Concluding with a comparison of the battle for Sarajevo with the sieges of Leningrad, Grozny, and Srebrenica, and, more recently, Falluja, Blue Helmets and Black Markets is a major contribution to our understanding of contemporary urban warfare, war economies, and the political repercussions of humanitarian action.

Reflections of Prague is the story of how a Czech Jewish family become embroiled in the most tragic and tumultuous episodes of the twentieth century. Through their eyes we see the history of their beloved Prague, a unique European city, and the wider, political forces that tear their lives apart. Their moving story traces the major events, turmoil, oppression and triumphs of Europe through the last hundred years – from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the First World War; from the vibrant artistic and intellectual life of Prague in the times of Kafka, the Capek Brothers and Masaryk to years of hunger in a Polish ghetto and the concentration camps of Hitler; from the tyrannous rule of Stalin to the rekindled hopes of Dubcek and the subsequent Soviet occupation to liberation under Havel. Told from Ivan’s perspective, it is a poignant but uplifting tale that tells of life lived with purpose and conviction, in the face of personal suffering and sacrifice.

‘A remarkable book. This archetypical story of the twentieth century is intertwined with an almost stream-of-consciousness narrative of the history of the Czechs, of Prague, interspersed with samples of exquisite poetry by great contemporary poets. So the narrative flows like Eliot’s sweet Thames full of the debris of tragic lives, of horrors, of moments of beauty and testimonies of love – all against the backdrop of man’s inhumanity.’ Josef Škvorecký

‘A poignant and vivid mémoire of a child searching for traces of his father, lost in the murky ideologies of post war Central Europe. An engrossing book.’ Sir John Tusa

In the preparations for the German invasion of the Soviet Union, special units known as the Einsatzgruppen were formed with the special charge of executing Jews, communists, and members of other targeted groups. Drawn from the S.S., the S.D., and the Gestapo, members of the Einsatzgruppen had the reputation of being the most cold-blooded of all Nazi killers.

After the war, the German government investigated 1,770 former Einsatzgruppen members and brought 136 of these men to trial. Helmut Langerbein has systematically examined the trial evidence in search of characteristics shared by these mass murderers. Using a much broader data base than earlier studies had access to, Langerbein identifies a number of factors that could explain their actions, illustrating each with a particular person or group of officers.

Particular traits and degrees of anti-Semitism, self-aggrandizement, sense of duty to obey superiors, and peer pressure may have played a role in the cases of individual officers, but Langerbein concludes that the only characteristic common to all his subjects was the war itself. It was the extraordinary circumstances and brutality of the Eastern Front that shaped their behavior. Given the extent of its database, its detailed analysis, and its careful conclusions, Hitler’s Death Squads: The Logic of Mass Murder will push historians and psychologists toward a reappraisal of the Nazi killing machine, the behavior of the men behind the battle lines, and the overwhelming power of circumstances.

Langerbein’s chilling conclusions challenge the leading theories explaining why people commit mass murder and will be of intense interest to those concerned with World War II, the Holocaust, Eastern Europe, warfare, war crimes, genocide, and human behavior.
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