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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating subject and a great read
Potemkin is nowadays mostly known in the expression "Potemkin village", describing achievements that are basically a sham.
In reality Potemkin was a fascinating character responsible for a great number of very real achievements. Very Russian in a lot of ways, he was on the other hand way ahead of his time - and very un-Russian - in his treatment of common...
Published on 9 Nov 2001

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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars IRISH COLEEN
OH PARTS OF IT WAS QUITE A STRUGGLE BUT I HAVE TO SAY IM NOT A HISTORY BUFF JUST AN ORDINARY READER WHO ENJOYS A BIT OF RUSSIAN HISTORY ESPECIALLY SIMON SEBAG MONT. I THINK ALL COULD HAVE BEEN WRITTEN MORE COMPACTLY (he will kill me for saying that) BUT OVERALL ITS A GREAT INSIGHT INTO RUSSIA OF THAT TIME AND A FABULOUS LOVE STORY. A NICER SIDE SHOWN TO POTEMKIN. FOR...
Published on 5 Feb 2009 by IRISH COLEEN


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating subject and a great read, 9 Nov 2001
By A Customer
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Potemkin is nowadays mostly known in the expression "Potemkin village", describing achievements that are basically a sham.
In reality Potemkin was a fascinating character responsible for a great number of very real achievements. Very Russian in a lot of ways, he was on the other hand way ahead of his time - and very un-Russian - in his treatment of common soldiers and labourers. Simon Sebag Montefiore has managed to write an eminently readable book on this man, his complex relationship with his Empress and his very eventful life. I will gladly forgive his slight tendency to try and find a deep meaning or strategic reasoning behind almost any of Potemkin's acts: he probably was a true Russian in doing a lot of things just for the hell of it. Beautifully illustrated as well as well written, this book is very hard to put down. And since the author has had the good sense of starting the book with the last chapter - Potemkin's death - you are saved the trouble of searching through the last chapters for an advance peek on the subject. Well worth all of it's 5 stars!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first-rate biography!, 17 Nov 2000
By A Customer
As a scholar of Imperial Russia, I can say that Mr. Sebag-Montefiore offers us a masterful and fair treatment of Prince Potemkin in his book. To put matters bluntly, history has treated Potemkin poorly, and it is only now, what with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the return to long-ignored subjects of Russia's past, that we are beginning to get a clearer, more objective view of events and personalities such as Potemkin. Sebag-Montefiore's biography, based on significant archival research and written with a good feel for the dramatic quality of his life, represents a major contribution to the reassessment of Catherine's most trusted advisor. This is a first-rate biography, and I recommend it most highly. It will be the book in English on Potemkin for decades to come.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest love stories of history, impeccably researched, beautifully written, 31 Aug 2010
What an exhilarating read! If it was a novel you wouldn't believe it, but it really happened in 18th century Russia! A splendid biography, as magnificent and exotic as its subjects, Potemkin, the prince of princes, most beautiful man in St.Petersperg, most extraordinary man in all Europe. Born a son of a poor Nobleman, he was not made by his friendship with Catherine the Great, but by her recognition of his talents, he became important because of his intelligence, originality, drive, and imagination, he brought himself to her attention with irresistible exuberance on the day she seized power, he was an impossible man, but a wonderful character! a control freak and an appalling hypochondriac who always made his point in a characteristically flamboyant manner, one can't help but become a fan.

He died at the young age of 52. Running a country at the time was immense pressure, not only was he co-emperor of Russia, he was also running the army, building a navy, founding cities all around the black sea, conducting umpteen love affairs, sending shopping expeditions to Paris and Milan, he was collecting art, he was building English gardens, this was a man who was living every minute of his life, an insomniac, so he did a lot of it at night!

Catherine the Great, a legendary figure, an incredibly talented and adept politician, second to none, she survived almost 20 years before she became empress herself, ruled triumphantly for thirty years, a very sensuous woman, married at the age of 14, a marriage arranged by her very ambitious mother, she had a very miserable life, in fact the marriage she had with Peter was so unhappy and so unsatisfying for such passionate inelegant woman. She needed a life partner, and after going through a series of lovers , finally there was Potemkin who (as the letters would prove) was the love and the best friend of her life, it was very romantic, for she knew him for 12 years before she took him as a lover, all that time he was passionately in love with her. They shocked Europe by taking younger lovers, yet they secretly married and ruled together as best friends and lifelong lovers.

Their secret letters, are the most romantic and unique letters ever written, simply because of the intelligence, politics,and power all mixed in with an incredible sexual passion and friendship. He carried her letters by his heart, and when he died he had them out and wept on them.

Simon Sebag Montefiore is an exceptional historian and writer. After reading his novel Sashenka, I couldn't wait to read all of his work, he tells it with joyful verve, The writing is fluent, with a dazzling mastery of detail. Montefiore's skill really shines in making a page-turner out of the most profound scholarship, that was massively researched in Russian archives as is all of his work, I highly recommend this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary story made difficult by seeming absence of editing, 28 Nov 2011
What a dilemma! The subject matter is extraordinary. Potemkin comes across as way beyond what we would normally think of as a 'polymath'--- this is a virtuoso life by any yardstick. Thus far so good - it is a veritable feast of gossip, history, revisionism (for good reason correcting the slings and arrows of jealous contemporaries and subsequent, politicised, commentators)and 'spectacular' in the tradition of those Cecil B DeMille movies 40 years ago. I cannot stress enough just how mind-boggling the achievements, as laid out for us here, of Potemkin were.

Characterisation is more of a problem. I'm not sure whether I know the man any better now, after many hundreds of pages, than I did at the outset. Given the industrial quantity of source material that Sebag-Montefiori had at his disposal it would surely have been possible to write a chapter just on the man - to help the reader understand his decision-making processes. What we are, in fact, left with is a series of little explained contradictions that either define Potemkin as completely unstable or a beguiling mystery painted over with layer upon layer of 'interpretive varnish'.

The big problem with the book is its construction. Whilst awe-struck by the author's scholarship - years of research, travel, speculation and determination - I ached for evidence that he had had an editor at his side to bring coherence to this gargantuan pile of data. There is none. The book sprawls, loosely in chronological order, but with endless darting about within 'scenes'. I gave up counting the inconsistencies and factual errors.

So, in sum, whilst I heartily commend this epic volume to all who are fascinated by the splendour and grandiloquence of the Court of Catherine the Great and her inseperable partner Potemkin, whilst much of Europe was in international and national turmoil (French Revolution, American War of Independence, umpteen Alliances and bizarre factions everywhere), I must caution that if you are looking for a clear narrative flow and well-structured articulation of this complex web of connections you will be disappointed and, indeed, irked. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the publisher not the author. This is a disgracefully edited but nonetheless vital historical conspectus that, on balance, I was happy to wrestle with. Bravo Mr Sebag-Montefiori and bah to his editor......
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 21 July 2001
By A Customer
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The proper title of this book is "Potemkin, prince of princes" and as such you will find it elsewhere in Amazon's catalogue; together with a extensive description and the rave reviews it fully deserves
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book of the Year for me, 22 Sep 2000
By A Customer
...People are going to be clamouring for this book. I got it two days ago and I've been reading it constantly ever since, it is totally unputdownable. Simon Segab-Monterfiore writes with great gusto and tells the story in such a compelling way, his descriptions are so vivid, I can't tell you how much I wanted to go back in time and meet the Potemkin he describes. Read it read it read it. Buy it for everyone you know for Christmas.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reading, 7 July 2001
By A Customer
Despite the fact that this is not exactly the flimsiest of booklets, you will be sorely tempted to read this book in one go. Mr Sebag has made a fine effort in giving a much-maligned man his rightful place in history; even if he has indeed a slight tendency to find a solid stategic reasoning behind almost every one of Potemkin's actions. The necessity of re-establishing Potemkin's role in Russia's development is made self-evident by one of the other reviewers firmly maintaining that Potemkin worked in a "Guards'restaurant". His old regiment buddies would find this typical of the too low esteem he has been held in over the centuries.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best historical biography since Amanda Foreman's 'Georgiana', 3 Oct 2000
By A Customer
I completely concur with the reader from Oxford, your first reviewer. Since buying the book ten days ago I've barely put it aside. Compulsive stuff about a character I had barely heard of. We talk about Antony and Cleopatra, Victoria and Albert, now thanks to Simon Sebag Montefiore we shall always think of 'Catherine and Potemkin'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant historian, dreadful proof reader, 30 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Catherine The Great & Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair (Kindle Edition)
Simon researches meticulously, writes vividly and has performed a service to the world and to Russia, by correcting the historical record of a quite exceptional warrior and humanitarian.
So the text is quite brilliant.
But the production process of the Kindle edition has not been well done. The book is littered with typos, especially near the end, to the point where some parts are difficult to understand.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed and informative, carefully presented, 12 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Catherine The Great & Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair (Kindle Edition)
I would recommend this work to anyone interested in Russian History. This is an equal and complimentary text to Robert K Massey's biography of Catherine the Great. Montefiore has done a great deal of research, he is sympathetic to the subjects. He understands the contemporary social morals and appreciates the subtleties and complexities of the Russian, European and Asian politics of the time. He releals the juxtaposition of Catherine's autocratic rule with the pressures of the "enlightenment" on her attempts to reconcile serfdom while maintaining equilibrium and effective government in a massive and mysterious country.
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