Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History Of Russia” as Want to Read:
Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History Of Russia
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History Of Russia

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  1,516 ratings  ·  137 reviews
A history of Russia's mighty culture. It covers the lives of those who have shaped its culture, and the enduring spirit of a people.
Paperback, 586 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Penguin Group(CA) (first published 2002)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Natasha's Dance, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Natasha's Dance

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Katya
Figes has gathered a lot of cultural information and organized it into one book, which is very helpful if you want to get a general review of Russia's culture without referring to multiple sources. Some threads that go through the entire book and tie the narrative together, such as the history of the Fountain House in St. Petersburg, almost give you an impression that you are reading fiction. However, some of the information that Figes offers is incorrect. For example, when talking about Dostoev ...more
Chiara Pagliochini
« L’odore della terra russa è diverso, e queste sono cose che non si possono dimenticare… Un uomo ha un solo luogo di nascita, una sola patria, un solo paese – può avere un solo paese – e il luogo di nascita è il fattore più importante della sua vita. […] Non ho lasciato la Russia di mia volontà, anche se c’era molto che non mi piaceva nella mia Russia e nella Russia in genere. Ma il diritto di criticare la Russia è mio, perché la Russia è mia e perché io l’amo, e non concedo questo diritto a ne ...more
Susan
I'm tempted to say that this is a great book because like Russian art it has a soul, but that sounds presumptuous since I've not an expert on any Russian art and I've never been to Russia. But I've been a fan of Russian literature--especially the great novels of the 19th century, and of Russian music and particularly of the Russian ballet and its offshoots in the West.

The book starts with an episode from War and Peace in which Natasha and her brother visit an retired army officer (their uncle) w
...more
Chris
Debating between a three and four star rating for this. It wasn't necessarily 'bad' in most regards but it didn't stand out as being exceptional either. There were a couple factual errors but others have pointed those out so I will concede to them. Mostly, I was aggravated with its structure. There were many interesting avenues it mentioned but never really explored. I understand this is just supposed to be an overview of Russian culture and I did learn quite a bit from it but I think I would ha ...more
Janet
I found this a great, wide net for Russian culture--I read it before a trip to Russia, and despite Figes continuing to be controversial figure in Russian scholarship, no one ever questioned his thoroughness. A great great introduction to Russian history and culture.

The book was assigned reading for an alumni trip to Russia I took in 2006, and I was SO glad I'd tackled it--though it's a monster, to be sure. Easy reading, and divided thematically rather than chronologically, which prevents it fro
...more
rosshalde
Nataşa’nın dansı ismini Tolstoy’un "Savaş ve Barış" isimli eserindeki Nataşa karakterinin bir soylu olmasına rağmen bir köy müziği eşliğindeki dansından alıyor. Yazar burada karakterin farklı öğretilerle büyütülmüş olmasına rağmen içindeki Rus ruhunu her daim korumasından etkilenerek bu tarih kitabına bu ismi vermiş.

Kitap 8 ana bölümden oluşan bir kültürel tarih incelemesi. Salt bilgi içerikli olduğu için bir kurgu romandan beklenilen akıcılık bu eserden beklenmemeli ancak muadillerine göre kol
...more
Rebecka
I've been reading this book on and off for years, often re-reading the same passages since if you study just about anything related to Russia, you can use this book in a paper. It's an awesome book, and it should be obligatory reading in any Russian class. I love the way in which it is written, which shows immense skill and planning on behalf of Figes. Authors or composers are not just presented in the manner birth-life-death, but interwoven in a specific time frame. Each chapter jumps back and ...more
John Carter McKnight
A cultural history of Russia that's immensely readable and absolutely exhaustively referenced: it's a goldmine of primary sources. The structure is thematic, ratcheting forward and back across topics in a way that actually reinforces nicely the broad structure of Russian history by returning to key places and times from different perspectives.

Natasha's Dance is hefty, at some 580 pages, but some of the most fluid and engaging nonfiction I've read. Figes' style is conversational but never shallo
...more
Mike
As a schoolboy I wrote to Orlando Figes as part of the project to write my graduation paper. It was 1998 and the questions I asked did not make much sense, but ask I did before getting on with writing my piece. I had read the recently published 'A People's Tragedy' and Figes could do no wrong in my eyes.

Orlando Figes is an interesting writer, and one who should take a lot of credit for his part in steering mass-published Russian history away from the cover-all texts of a decade ago (including th
...more
Korri
Does what it says on the tin.

Broken down into thematic sections, Figes offers analysis of the roles Europe and Asia played in the Russian imagination and world view, social and architectural differences between St. Petersburg and Moscow, peasant traditions and their influence on high culture, the love affair and dismal breakup between the avant garde and the Soviet state, and many more aspects of Russia's diverse cultural history, often following key players' biographical details to illustrate h
...more
K.M. Weiland
I've always been nominally interested in Russian history (the Romanovs mostly), but I've never really studied anything beyond the 1917 Revolution. This mammoth approach to Russia's cultural history provides a fascinating glimpse into the heart of a foreign nation - and, in so doing, an interesting, if perhaps unintended, perspective on my own national ideology.

I can't comment on Figes's historicity or accuracy, since much of what's here is new material to me. But I will say that I found it fasc
...more
Peter Ellwood
I read this, knowing that Orlando Figes' name was under a bit of a cloud because he had admitted to writing one or two positive reviews of his own work on the likes of Amazon or Goodreads; and because one or two jealous academics had claimed he made up one or two of the quotes he put in The Whisperers.

Well. All I can say is that I read it too, at the recommendation of a pretty intellectual Russian national, who said "read this book and you will understand Russia".

So I did. And, maybe, I do. It's
...more
Simon
I couldn't put this down. Figes' writing is splendid, and his insights into the Russian character and history are provocative, he supports them with what appears to be a masterful understanding of her literature and arts. I don't think anyone can better his descriptions of the differences between Moscow and St. Petersburg as illustrative of the deep bifurcation in the Russian soul. It is particularly interesting when he discusses the artificiality of the cultural construct for Russian "identity" ...more
Nguyen Santiago
Commonsensical and repetitious, Natasha's Dance is centred around a never-ending list of well-known dualities in Russian culture. West/East, aristocrat/serf, good serf/bad serf, Russian Orthodox/various Christianities, etc/etc - over and over we are given accounts of people's lives to illuminate these binaries, in no particular order and with no overarching analysis or intellectual depth.

There are large holes in the telling, for example the ignoring of the Jews and their place in Russian histor
...more
Katia Nosenko
Well written journey into the Russian cultural and social history. I liked the most the first part of the book. Of course it is a bit sketchy as the subject is huge, but there are a lot of interesting facts and you can see that the research has been done for the book.
Jessica
Someone called it a mixed bag and this is true. However, you have to admire the breadth and scope he attempts to cover. I enjoyed this as a jumping off point to many new avenues of investigation in Russian history, music and art and for that I am grateful.
Elise Noorda
"A Cultural History of Russia" about sums it up. This book looks at the history of Russia through the arts - the influence of Russia's history on the arts and the influence of the arts on Russia's history. Such an interesting perspective.
John Alexander
One of my favorite books. It's written thematically rather than chronologically; typically this would put me off a historical text, but for Figes's purposes it works. (And to be clear, it is roughly chronological, but there is definitely some skipping around in order to fully realize some of the concepts.) It is rife with wonderful trivia, like the story about the Russian aristocrat in St. Petersburg who had so many servants that, in order to have them perform a symphony, rather than teach a gro ...more
Carey Combe
Apart from the stuff on music - which had my head spinning - I totally lived this book. Almost an anthropological as well as a cultural look at Russia. If you love Russian literature you'll love this.
Masha
An amazing look into Russian culture with a good spread of lifestyles and social classes. While it is heavy with bias towards the upper classes, it still gives the lower rungs of society the attention the reader needs in order to compare the two. I would have loved to have seen more of the lower class, but the reality is, there was not a lot of change in the daily lives as the decades went by and little documentation. The display of upper class being raised by peasant women as children was very ...more
Liz Polding
A thoroughly enjoyable tour of Russia's cultural history that makes me want to re-read all those Russian novels that I loved so much, especially Tolstoy.
The last chapters convey some of the appalling, bastardised politicism that characterised so much of permitted cultural activity under Lenin and, later, Stalin. Quite a lot of my teenage years were spent in countries in the Eastern Bloc and the prostitution of art to politics interested and repelled me. The use of literature as propaganda, supp
...more
Jacob Aitken
A mixed bag, yet worth reading.



About half this book is quite good, and even where it is bad it fails gloriously. Granted, I was more interested in Figes' take on Holy Russia. He did a fantastic job showing the religious depth of Holy Russia. He explored the fine nuances of the Old Believer schism. He showed remarkable skill in dealing with Dostoevsky. Ah, but...



He really wasn't sympathetic to Holy Russia and it shows. He had problems with the Tsar, and it shows. He tried to make the argument tha
...more
Emma
It has been a tour de force getting through this book, but so wonderful and rewarding. Figes covers everything and everyone; at times my lack of real knowledge of Russian history let me down, but as Natasha's Dance renders clearly, Russian culture is so rich and fascinating that there really was no time to get into the whys and wherefores of the Russian revolution and whatnot. (I think I picked up a fair bit of history peripherally from this book anyway). The book is chronological, starting from ...more
Malcolm
Figes begins his discussion of Russian culture with a question – how did the aristocratic Natasha Rostov (in War and Peace) know the dances of the peasantry? He is then able to use this question to explore the idea of a Russian National Cutlure (where the N & the C are my effort to give it some authority). Much as I enjoyed and was engaged by the book it suffers from some real problems, to the extent that I am inclined to agree with Perry Anderson's description of the book as kitsch.

First, i
...more
Celestial Elf
Natascha's Dance by Orlando Figes's is a staggering and well researched panorama of the evolution of Russian culture as expressed in her literature, poetry, plays, music, and art over the centuries.
The book takes its title from a scene in Tolstoy's War and Peace in which the upper-class Natasha Rostov falls instinctively into the rhythms of a peasant dance. Figes employs this scene as a metaphor for his book's central theme which is the conflict between the European cultural ideals of the Arist
...more
David Ranney
'The smell of the Russian earth is different, and such things are impossible to forget . . . A man has one birthplace, one fatherland, one country -- he can only have one country -- and the place of his birth is the most important factor in his life. I regret that circumstances separated me from my fatherland, that I did not give birth to my works here and, above, all, that I was not here to help the Soviet Union create its new music. I did not leave Russia of my own will, even though I dislike
...more
Andriy
“Natasha’s Dance: A cultural history of Russia” by Orlando Figes was a great read. Each chapter out of eight in total was easy and interesting to read. Natasha’s Dance is suited for a very wide audience.

A reader don’t have to be familiar with all of major works of Russian art. I have some knowledge of Russian literature. I had read classics like Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and “Brothers Karamazov”, but I hadn’t read Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” and “War and Peace”. Author’s analysis of Dost
...more
Laurel Bradshaw
Aug 08, 2008 Laurel Bradshaw marked it as partially-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg-a 'window on the west'-and culminating with the challenges posed to Russian identity by the Soviet Regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself-its character, spiritual essence, history, and destiny. What did it mean to be Russian-an illiterte serf or an imperial courtier? And where was the true Russia-in Europe or in Asia? Figes skillful
...more
Ann
I finally finished Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes. At 582 pages of text and another 143 pages of extensive footnotes, timelines, book recommendations and index, it is a serious book.

I studied Russian history when I was young and have read quite a few of the Russian classics, but this book covered a lot of unfamiliar ground for me. Parts, particularly those covering Russian music and art, were slow going for me because I didn't have the proper background to appreci
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture
  • A History of Russia (Sixth Edition)
  • Russian Thinkers
  • The Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn
  • The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine
  • The Russian Revolution 1917-1932
  • Molotov's Magic Lantern: A Journey In Russian History
  • Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy
  • Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia
  • Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia
  • Russia and the Russians: A History
  • Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire
  • Russia Under the Old Regime
  • Peter the Great: His Life and World
  • Lost and Found in Russia: Lives in the Post-Soviet Landscape
  • Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871
  • A History of Modern Russia: From Nicholas II to Vladimir Putin
  • Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, and Power
21461
Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.
More about Orlando Figes...
A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia The Crimean War Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History

Share This Book