"Absolutely gripping, brilliantly researched, with a cast of flamboyant Russian princesses and princes from the two greatest noble dynasties and brutal Soviet commissars, this is a important history book but it is really the heartbreaking human story of the splendours and death of the Russian aristocracy and the survival of its members as individuals." --Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Jerusalem, The Court of the Red Tsar and Catherine the Great and Potemkin
"Former People provides a fascinating window onto a lost generation. Filled with intimate detail, drama and pathos, this is a book as much about renewal and reinvention as about the end of an era." --Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana and A World on Fire
"The Russian aristocracy attracted fierce persecution in the Bolshevik Revolution, and yet its story has never been properly told until now. Douglas Smith's outstanding book is a vivid and well-researched account of the lives and deaths of prominent families. It is a tour de force." --Robert Service, author of Trotsky: a Biography and Spies and Commissars
"It is very refreshing to see the Bolshevik Revolution described through the eyes of a prominent group of its many victims. The Red Terror of 1918-22 lasted longer than its French counterpart of 1793-4, claimed far more innocent lives, and inflicted immeasurable physical and social damage. Douglas Smith has found a way of exploring this tragedy with empathy, and of exposing the appalling human cost." --Norman Davies, author of Europe: A History and Vanished Kingdoms
"Heartbreaking and harrowing, the till now untold story of the systematic destruction of the former Russian aristocracy under the Soviets is brought chillingly to life by Douglas Smith in this powerful and important new book."
--Helen Rappaport, author of Ekaterinburg and Magnificent Obsession
"Brilliant... Smith masterfully conveys the terrifying isolation of the nobles far flung properties in 1917 as deserting soldiers, brutalised in the First World War, returned to incite the local peasants to murderous vengeance against their landlords" --Evening Standard
"Smith's narrative is pervaded by a profound rage against the savagery with which the victors in the class struggle pursued the vanquished… The author has done well to tell this tale" --Max Hastings, Sunday Times
Epic in scope, intimate in detail, heartbreaking in its human drama, Former People is the first book to recount the history of the nobility caught up the maelstrom of the Bolshevik Revolution and the creation of Stalins Russia. It is a book filled with chilling tales of looted palaces, burning estates, of desperate flights in the night from marauding bands of thugs and Red Army soldiers, of imprisonment, exile, and execution. It is the story of how a centuries-old elite famous for its glittering wealth, its service to the empire, its promotion of the arts and culture, was dispossessed and destroyed along with the rest of old Russia. Drawing on the private archives of two great families the Sheremetovs and the Golitsyns it is also a story of survival and accommodation, of how many of the tsarist ruling class, so-called 'former people', managed to find a place for themselves and their families in the hostile world of the Soviet Union. It reveals, too, how even at the darkest depths of the terror, daily life went on - men and women fell in love, children were born, friends gathered. Ultimately, Former People is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.