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Catherine the Great and Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair by [Montefiore, Simon Sebag]
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Catherine the Great and Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Length: 640 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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For most of the 20th century Grigory Potemkin has existed as no more than an entertaining side-show for Russian historians. And make no mistake--he is very entertaining; in the Russian royal court of Catherine the Great that was noted for its sexual promiscuity, Potemkin stood out as the libertine par excellence. Although his affair with Catherine only lasted a couple of years, after which he moved on to a succession of nieces and became Catherine's procurer-in-chief, Potemkin remained the love of her life and remained a powerful figure at court. In his new doorstop of a biography, Simon Sebag-Montefiore aims to show that Potemkin is much more than a historical divertissement and is instead one of the central figures of political influence in 18th-century Russia--and by and large he succeeds. Sebag-Montefiore refutes the image of the paper tiger who erected cardboard villages along the banks of Dnieper to convince Catherine that the colonisation of the Ukraine was continuing apace, and instead credits him as the architect for the cities of Odessa and Sebastapol that emerged out of his Great Plan to secure the Crimea--and hence a southern coastline--for Russia. At times, one feels that perhaps Sebag-Montefiore doth protest too much and that he pushes his claims for Potemkin too far. But this is more than compensated for by his enthusiasm. Many historians these days write with a jaded eye, looking to debunk popular heroes; Sebag-Montefiore aims to do the opposite and he has combined his journalist's eye for a good story with an academic's attention to research and detail to create a highly readable biography which is accessible even to those who know little of the period. --John Crace


"One of the great love stories of history...Excellent with dazzling mastery of detail and literary flair." --"The Economist"
"Montefiore conveys [Russian] history with vivid detail and narrative momentum...Captures the genius of two extraordinary Enlightenment figures--and of the age as well." --"The Wall Street Journal"
"Biography in the grand tradition...Riveting...The author [is] a gifted storyteller." --"The Washington Post"
"Monumental...Meticulously researched...Dizzily panoramic." --"The New York Times Book Review""

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6980 KB
  • Print Length: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (30 Dec. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004KKXJB8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #188,275 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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By A Customer on 17 Nov. 2000
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With its 634 pages this book seems intimidatingly weighty but is absolutely worth a read. Potemkin was much maligned after his death by those who were jealous of his genius and his powerful position as Catherine the Great's lover, secret husband and in every way her equal. Montefiore puts this to rights, detailing Potemkin's complex character. The extravagance of his nature and lifestyle are almost impossible to grasp in this day and age - with his power and money he could command not only the greatest riches the entire world had to offer but also the best engineers and all manner of experts from all over the world to build his Black Sea navy and carry out his projects of building new towns in record time in conquered territories such as the Crimea. He travelled everywhere with an English landscape gardener who created an instant English garden for him, even in the many battles he fought. Not only that, as he was a great lover of music an orchestra of some 200 musicians and ballet companies were at his beck and call at all times, wherever he went.

I do however have a major criticism of the book : In Potemkin's age a fraction of 1% of Russian society enjoyed an absurd level of privilege and luxury whilst the Russian population starved, died of cold and suffered unimaginable hardship as 'souls' (mostly peasants owned, bought, sold or given by Catherine the Great to her favourites in their thousands). I do not expect Potemkin to have had all that much thought for them, but Simon Sebag Montefiore should at least, in his 634 pages and probably nearly 300,000 words, have found a page or two to include something about the general conditions of the everyday life of the Russian population at the time. It's great to immerse oneself in the life of the rich and powerful, but a little heart and compassion for the remaining millions in Russia would have been in order here.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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