Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Oct 2, 2012 - History - 496 pages
10 Reviews

Epic in scope, precise in detail, and heart-breaking in its human drama, Former People is the first book to recount the history of the aristocracy caught up in the maelstrom of the Bolshevik Revolution and the creation of Stalin's Russia. Filled with chilling tales of looted palaces and burning estates, of desperate flights in the night from marauding peasants 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 Tsar and Empire, and its promotion of the arts and culture, was dispossessed and destroyed along with the rest of old Russia.

Yet Former People is also a story of survival and accommodation, of how many of the tsarist ruling class—so-called "former people" and "class enemies"—overcame the psychological wounds inflicted by the loss of their world and decades of repression as they struggled to find a place for themselves and their families in the new, hostile order of the Soviet Union. Chronicling the fate of two great aristocratic families—the Sheremetevs and the Golitsyns—it reveals how even in the darkest depths of the terror, daily life went on.

Told with sensitivity and nuance by acclaimed historian Douglas Smith, Former People is the dramatic portrait of two of Russia's most powerful aristocratic families, and a sweeping account of their homeland in violent transition.


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User Review  - sscarllet - LibraryThing

Russia is such an interesting and almost mysterious country. This book makes a sometimes shadowy time in history come alive and tells stories of people who were long forgotten. I sometimes struggle ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - xuebi - LibraryThing

Douglas Smith has written a fascinating and informative account of the end of the Russian aristocracy during the early twentieth century. The story of how an entire class of people were subjected to ... Read full review

Selected pages


Expropriating the Expropriators
The Corner House
Spa Town Hell
Dr Golitsyn
School of Life
Noble Remains

The Fall of the Romanovs
A Country of Mutinous Slaves
The Bolshevik Coup
The FoxTrot Affair
Stalins Russia

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About the author (2012)

Douglas Smith is an award-winning historian and translator and the author of three previous books on Russia. Before becoming a historian, he worked for the U. S. State Department in the Soviet Union and as a Russian affairs analyst for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two children.

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