Absorbing, authoritataive and accessible.,
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This review is from: Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia's History (Hardcover)
Catherine Merridale’s idea to explore Russia’s epic saga through the perspective of the Kremlin works extremely well. The Kremlin has an intriguing story in it’s own right but it really comes to life as the focal point for the great sweep of events and characters which shaped both it and Russia over the centuries. For this alone the book is well worth reading by anyone interested in Russia. I had a patchy understanding of Russian history and found lots of new things in it and new angles from which to consider them. I think newcomers to the topic will also find this a fine starting point.
But the book also introduces us to another aspect of the Kremlin: the way it has been used, abused and adapted by successive regimes as a representation of power, nationalism, ideology, faith, fear, vengeance or even indifference. Merridale's Kremlin is not just a passive product of history. It is both a manipulated political spectacle and a shifting reflection of how heritage has been conscripted to suit whoever happened to be in charge.
I also give special praise for Catherine Merridale’s refreshing style of writing. She achieves an admirable blend of authority and accessibility. As an academic historian she gives a reliable account built on professional research. Sources are given and there is a valuable bibliography with recommendations for anyone wanting to explore further. At the same time the book is comfortable, and sometimes gripping, to read without being dumbed-down in any way. If more academics followed this example they would have a greater impact and we would all be better informed.