Red Fortress The Secret Heart of Russia's History PDF/EPUB

Red Fortress The Secret Heart of Russia's History The extraordinary story of the Kremlin from prize winning author and historian Catherine MerridaleBoth 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 authenticityCatherine 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 baleful inhabitants

10 thoughts on “Red Fortress The Secret Heart of Russia's History

  1. Dimitri Dimitri says:

    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 bannersNeither 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 knowledgeMerridale'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 by Simon Sebag Montefiore

  2. Mary Mary says:

    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 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

  3. Emily Emily says:

    35 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

  4. Enrique Enrique says:

    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 Suare 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

  5. Mandy Mandy says:

    “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. Antenna Antenna says:

    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 goingThe 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 marriageFor 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. Ed Ed says:

    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 1617th century Time of Troubles period the Civil War and the early 1990s is 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. Barbara Barbara says:

    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. Katie Katie says:

    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 moveThis 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. Julian Douglass Julian Douglass says:

    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

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