Charlotte Hobson rss

‘We will achieve abundance’ promises a propaganda poster of 1949. But by 1952 most free Soviet citizens shared the same diet as the inhabitants of the Gulag

Stalin understood the power of terror so well because he constantly feared for his own life

23 May 2015
Stalin Oleg Khlevniuk

Yale, pp.408, £25, ISBN: 9780300163889

‘Lately, the paradoxical turns of recent Russian history… have given my research more than scholarly relevance,’ remarks Oleg Khlevniuk in his introduction. Indeed, in Putin’s Russia Stalin’s apologists and admirers… Read more

Captain Polina Osipenko (co-pilot and commander of the plane), deputy to the supreme soviet of the USSR Valentina Grizodubova (navigator), and senior lieutenant Marina Raskova Photo: Getty

As deadly as the male: female Russian pilots of the second world war were femmes fatales in every sense

11 April 2015
Defending the Motherland: The Soviet Women who Fought Hitler’s Aces Lyuba Vinogradova, translated from the Russian by Arch Tait

MacLehose Press, pp.352, £20, ISBN: 9780857051929

The name Lyuba Vinogradova may not ring any bells, but her ferrety eye for spotting a telling detail may already have impressed you. As Antony Beevor generously acknowledges in his… Read more

Patrick Gale Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty

Coming in out of the cold: Patrick Gale’s hero sees stars in the Canadian prairies

21 March 2015
A Place Called Winter Patrick Gale

Tinder Press, pp.352, £16.99, ISBN: 9781472205292

Patrick Gale’s first historical novel is inspired by a non-story, a gap in his own family record. His great-grandfather Harry Cane spent the first part of his life as a… Read more

A live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin shown in a restaurant in Moscow Photo: Getty

Sugar-daddy, gangster and Tsar: Vladimir Putin is all things to all men

14 February 2015
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible Peter Pomerantsev

Faber, pp.284, £14.99, ISBN: 9780571308019

‘We all know there will be no real politics.’ A prominent Russian TV presenter is speaking off the record at a production meeting in 2001. ‘But we still have to… Read more

Mayonnaise: a key component of Soviet cooking

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, by Anya von Bremzen - review

12 October 2013
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing Anya von Bremzen

Transworld, pp.335, £16.99, ISBN: 9780857520234

The early 1990s in Russia were hungry years. At the time, I was a student, too idle to barter and hustle for food, and the collapse of the planned economy… Read more

Joy to the world

17 March 2012
A Perfectly Good Man Patrick Gale

Fourth Estate, pp.405, 16.99

Patrick Gale’s new novel could be read as a companion work to his hugely successful Notes from an Exhibition, and in fact, in a satisfying twist, some characters and even… Read more


The Russian connection

7 May 2011
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and Those Who Read Them Elif Batuman

Granta, pp.296, 16.99

It’s impossible not to warm to the author of this book, a perky Turkish-American woman with a fascination with Russian literature and an irresistible comic touch. It’s impossible not to… Read more

The sweet smell of danger

22 January 2011
Snowdrops A.D. Miller

Atlantic Books, pp.288, 12.99

If this novel is ever published with a scratch-and-sniff cover — which incidentally, I think it might be successful enough to warrant — this is what it would smell of:… Read more

Out of time and place

23 October 2010
The Life of an Unknown Man Andrei Makine

Sceptre, pp.250, 16.99

The misleadingly titled Life of an Unknown Man is in fact the story of two men, and the dualities that their characters embody — fame and anonymity, unhappiness and happiness,… Read more


The motherland’s tight embrace

4 September 2010
A Mountain of Crumbs: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain Elena Gorokhova

Windmill Books, pp.323, 8.99

At nursery school, along with her warm milk, little Lena Gorokhova imbibed the essence of survival in the post-war Soviet Union. It consisted of a game called vranyo — pretence:… Read more

Variations on an enigma

25 June 2008

You may have caught Jonathan Dimbleby on television recently travelling across Russia, picking potatoes with doughty Russian women, baring all for a steam bath in Moscow, looking alarmed as a… Read more

A genius for living

15 February 2007
Red Princess: A Revolutionary Life Sofka Zinovieff

Granta, pp.346, 16.99

Perhaps the only drawback to this highly enjoyable biography is the shadow of utter banality that it throws over one’s own life by comparison. Princess Sofka Dolgorouky, the author’s grandmother… Read more

The heart and stomach of a king

15 April 2006
Catherine the Great: Love, Sex and Power Virginia Rounding

Hutchinson, pp.592, 20

When Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst arrived at the Russian court in 1744, one of the many daughters of minor German royal houses who came to St Petersburg in the hope… Read more

A cross-cultural crisis

24 September 2005
Leninsky Prospekt Katherine Bucknell

Fourth Estate, pp.322, 12

If you were a Martian, whiling away the time on an intergalactic beach holiday by reading an account of the Cuban missile crisis, you could be forgiven for dismissing it… Read more

A tale of January and May

5 March 2005
A Short History of Tractors in Ukraine Marina Lewycka

Viking/Penguin, pp.325, 12.99

So you’d like your child to be a successful writer (as the classified ads might say)? Well, the least you can do, in that case, is to ensure that he… Read more