Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar

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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.
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About the author

Edvard Radzinsky is the author of the bestselling The Last Tsar, Stalin, and The Rasputin File. He is one of Russia's most celebrated playwrights. He lives in Moscow, where he is also an award-winning television personality.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Oct 18, 2005
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Pages
480
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ISBN
9780743281973
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / General
History / Europe / Eastern
History / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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“[A] tale of power, perseverance and passion . . . a great story in the hands of a master storyteller.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure German princess who became one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history. Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. For thirty-four years, the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution. Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly brought to life. History offers few stories richer than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, an eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
 
“[A] compelling portrait not just of a Russian titan, but also of a flesh-and-blood woman.”—Newsweek
 
“An absorbing, satisfying biography.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Juicy and suspenseful.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“A great life, indeed, and irresistibly told.”—Salon
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • USA Today • The Boston Globe • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Salon • Vogue • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Providence Journal • Washington Examiner • South Florida Sun-Sentinel • BookPage • Bookreporter • Publishers Weekly

BONUS: This edition contains a Catherine the Great reader's guide.
Although millions of Russians lived as serfs until the middle of the nineteenth century, little is known about their lives. Identifying and documenting the conditions of Russian serfs has proven difficult because the Russian state discouraged literacy among the serfs and censored public expressions of dissent. To date scholars have identified only twenty known Russian serf narratives.
Four Russian Serf Narratives contains four of these accounts and is the first translated collection of autobiographies by serfs. Scholar and translator John MacKay brings to light for an English-language audience a diverse sampling of Russian serf narratives, ranging from an autobiographical poem to stories of adventure and escape. “Autobiography” (1785) recounts a highly educated serf’s attempt to escape to Europe, where he hoped to study architecture. The long testimonial poem “News About Russia” (ca. 1849) laments the conditions under which the author and his fellow serfs lived. In “The Story of My Life and Wanderings” (1881) a serf tradesman tells of his attempt to simultaneously escape serfdom and captivity from Chechen mountaineers. The fragmentary “Notes of a Serf Woman” (1911) testifies to the harshness of peasant life with extraordinary acuity and descriptive power.
These accounts offer readers a glimpse, from the point of view of the serfs themselves, into the realities of one of the largest systems of unfree labor in history. The volume also allows comparison with slave narratives produced in the United States and elsewhere, adding an important dimension to knowledge of the institution of slavery and the experience of enslavement in modern times.
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.
From the author of The Last Tsar, the first full-scale life of Stalin to have what no previous biography has fully obtained: the facts. Granted privileged access to Russia's secret archives, Edvard Radzinsky paints a picture of the Soviet strongman as more calculating, ruthless, and blood-crazed than has ever been described or imagined. Stalin was a man for whom power was all, terror a useful weapon, and deceit a constant companion.

As Radzinsky narrates the high drama of Stalin's epic quest for domination-first within the Communist Party, then over the Soviet Union and the world-he uncovers the startling truth about this most enigmatic of historical figures. Only now, in the post-Soviet era, can what was suppressed be told: Stalin's long-denied involvement with terrorism as a young revolutionary; the crucial importance of his misunderstood, behind-the-scenes role during the October Revolution; his often hostile relationship with Lenin; the details of his organization of terror, culminating in the infamous show trials of the 1930s; his secret dealings with Hitler, and how they backfired; and the horrifying plans he was making before his death to send the Soviet Union's Jews to concentration camps-tantamount to a potential second Holocaust. Radzinsky also takes an intimate look at Stalin's private life, marked by his turbulent relationship with his wife Nadezhda, and recreates the circumstances that led to her suicide.

As he did in The Last Tsar, Radzinsky thrillingly brings the past to life. The Kremlin intrigues, the ceaseless round of double-dealing and back-stabbing, the private worlds of the Soviet Empire's ruling class-all become, in Radzinsky's hands, as gripping and powerful as the great Russian sagas. And the riddle of that most cold-blooded of leaders, a man for whom nothing was sacred in his pursuit of absolute might--and perhaps the greatest mass murderer in Western history--is solved.
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