Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy

Front Cover
Macmillan, Oct 2, 2012 - History - 464 pages
44 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.


What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy

User Review  - Goodreads

(review written Nov 2015) I actually read this book a while ago, either early this year or late last year but in a period when I was away from Goodreads and I only remembered it now when looking for ... Read full review

Review: Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy

User Review  - Kelley - Goodreads

This book, Former People, caused me to deeply ponder the fate of the Russian aristocracy/nobility during the Revolution and beyond in that country. My own family history is deeply rooted in these ... Read full review

All 2 reviews »

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2012)

Douglas Smith is an award-winning historian and translator and the author of three previous books on Russia: The Pearl, Love and Conquest, and Working the Rough Stone. 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.

Bibliographic information