Former People : the Destruction of the Russian Aristocracy, Paperback

Former People : the Destruction of the Russian Aristocracy Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Epic in scope, intimate in detail, heartbreaking in its human drama, this is the first book to recount the history of the nobility caught up the maelstrom of the Bolshevik Revolution and the creation of Stalin's Russia.

It is a book filled with chilling tales of looted palaces, burning estates, of desperate flights from marauding thugs 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, was dispossessed and destroyed along with the rest of old Russia.

Drawing on the private archives of two great families -- the Sheremetovs and the Golitsyns -- Former People is also a story of survival, of how many of the tsarist ruling class, so-called "former people" and "class enemies," abandoned, displaced, and repressed, overcame the loss of their world and struggled to find a place for themselves and their families in the new, hostile world of the Soviet Union.

It reveals how even at the darkest depths of the terror, daily life went on--men and women fell in love, children were born and educated, friends gathered, simple pleasures were cherished. Ultimately, Former People is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9780330520294



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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 brutal and often arbitrary repression is heart-breaking - even more so as Smith focuses on two families: the Sheremetevs and the Golitsyns whose personal stories bring a human perspective to the end of an era. Yet, not all the events are so grim: often there are glimmers of hope, love, and simple pleasures that provide some comfort amid the terror of Communist Russia.<br/><br/>Smith has used unprecedented access to family archives and utilises a number of important secondary sources too. This has allowed him to write one of the first books on this subject ever. This book is epic in scope and yet intimate in detail and is illuminating for the resilience of those described therein, and their perspective on the most tumultuous forty years of Russian history.

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