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The Empire Must Die: Russia's Revolutionary Collapse, 1900-1917

(Империя должна умереть)

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,054 ratings  ·  120 reviews
From Tolstoy to Lenin, from Diaghilev to Stalin, The Empire Must Die is a tragedy of operatic proportions with a cast of characters that ranges from the exotic to utterly villainous, the glamorous to the depraved.
In 1912, Russia experienced a flowering of liberalism and tolerance that placed it at the forefront of the modern world: women were fighting for the right to vote
...more
Hardcover, 558 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by PublicAffairs
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Always Pouting
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book felt really long but it might just be because I read it for such an extended period of time because things kept getting in the way of actually sitting down and reading it. I had a hard time keep tracking of names and who was who because it talked about a lot of different people through out and because I kept putting it down for periods of time before I could pick it up again. I actually really enjoyed this however. I didn't really know much about the Russian Revolution, I know we actua ...more
Ellie
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pros: 
+ Russian author who uses history to give insight into current Russian politics.
+ A super in-depth look at the Russian revolution
+ I’ve read a fair amount about the revolution but never from such varied perspectives
+ All rubles are converted from 1900s values into modern USD, which REALLY helps put things into perspective
+ Because it’s told in a journalistic way, there is little bias that colors the presented people and events
+ The epilogue is so powerful it bumped my rating from a 4 to a
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BAM The Bibliomaniac
Many thanks go to Mikhail Zygar, Hachette Book Group, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
Zygar immediately clarified that he is a journalist and that this book is written from that perspective not necessarily from a purely historical standpoint. It begins around the turn of the twentieth century when the royal family was still on the throne, but social and economic reform was being shouted from the rooftops and the country's most hated man was callin
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John Plowright
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the Preface to ‘The Empire Must Die’ Zygar states that “I am not a historian, but a journalist”. He is, indeed, a very distinguished journalist and as brave as any war correspondent, having been the editor-in-chief of Dozhd, the only independent news TV channel in Russia between 2010-15, and winner of the International Press Freedom Award.

Zygar says that his book “was written according to the rules of journalism: as if the characters were alive and I had been able to interview them”. What thi
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Lauren Albert
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-european
I thought this was a solid, well-researched book especially for someone who I believe is a journalist rather than a historian. My one beef with the book was his constant footnotes saying how much like some element of the past the present is. I think it would have made more sense and interrupted less, if he had done it as an afterward. Overall, an excellent look at the revolutionary period in all its complications.
Chris Jaffe
This is a frustrating and disappointing book. It has one big advantage: lots of stuff. Lots of info. Piles and piles and knowledge on it. But .... Zygar has trouble doing anything with it. A lot of times this just reads like a bad undergraduate paper where it just gives paragraph after paragraph of stuff, with out any clear reason why it's there.

I'll give an example. Let's look at the first chapter, titled, "In which Leo Tolstoy becomes a symbol of the fight against the regime and the main ideol
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Florian Bieber
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great book on pre-revolutionary Russia. Sometimes too many efforts to make it sound contemporary and too many names and strands at times.
Hasso von Moltke
In this work Mr. Zygar has penned a fascinating of an often overlooked period of Russian history. While much has been written about the fall of Tsarist Russia and the rise of the USSR under the Bolsheviks, the civil society centered on non-Bolshevik revolutionaries and reactionary forces are often overlooked.

Mr. Zygar seeks to correct this imbalance in this exhaustive account of the period between Tsar Nicholas II's coronation and the collapse of Kerensky's provisional government. A vast array o
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Ilya Salamatov
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional. A dive into Russia's history of 1900-1917. Truly an eye-opening experience.
Vladimir Semenov
Again, for me the book shines a light on a period in Russian history that's not covered by history lessons and which is most important for the todays generation.Excellent book
Al Berry
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
A book that attempts too much within its length with a lot of time wasted on tertiary topics such as the ballet Rus.

I learned a lot however; it could have been leaner, longer and more in depth, maybe a two volume book; just certain parts were far far too rushed.
Mahdi Mirhoseini
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Whithout a shadow of doubt, this was the best book I've read about russian revolution so far. Fantastic.
Kislyuk
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The more I know, the less I understand.

The best book on Russian revolution I have ever read. The way it is written literally puts you in main characters' shoes. I lived all 17 years, day-by-day, being in those shoes of ministers, Romanovs, revolutioners, secret police agents - that is much more than reading a classical history book, which provides facts only, lacking true touch of the reader's soul. I have got this touch and have a lot to think about, to analyze. Epiloge is very powerful. Cannot
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Fernando Pestana da Costa
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Russian Revolutions of 1917 are one of my favorite History subjects and over the years I have read a good number of books dedicated to it, either general histories or books about parts of the overall event: just in 2017, when the Revolutions complete their first centenary and a flurry of books have been published (or reprinted), this is the fifth one I read. And it is, by a very large margin, one of the most interesting ones I have ever read! The author, Mikhail Zygar is not an historian (an ...more
Mickael
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
An engaging account – despite an occasionally sloppy English translation - of the last two decades of the Tsarist Empire, ending with the fall of Kerensky’s provisional government.

The speed at which events unfolded, both in 1905 (when the Tsarist regime came surprisingly close to an early collapse, with Nicholas II left isolated outside the capital and offered asylum and military intervention by the Kaiser) and February 1917, is remarkable. This partly seems linked to the unique attributes of St
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Rayrumtum
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This was a fascinating approach to Russian history in the last two decades before the revolution. Written by a Russian journalist this gave a new spin. Many other histories were written by Soviet citizens who filled the tale with inevitability or disgruntled emigres who were trying to spin a story. Zygar is free of either of those taints. As a journalist he approaches it as journalist would and avoids the common approach of historians that there were huge social currents that made the outcome in ...more
Kim
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an engaging read. I've read several histories of the Romanov's and also on Stalin but not so much on the other political actors involved in the Russian revolution and all that occurred between March and October 1917. Admittedly, only the later quarter or so of the book covers this particular period, but I found it the most interesting. But the author covers some familiar characters (Tolstoy, Rasputin, Lenin, Gorky, the Imperial family) throughout the book in slightly different ways than ...more
Scott Jeffe
Very interesting premise here: in the pre-WWI era (1900-1914) Russian industry and business were making great strides. In most counties this would have been accompanied by political and social advancement. But Russia is never like other countries, and has a near perfect record of taking the wrong path, being led by idiots, and a people who don’t ever seem to be able to triumph (positively) over the adversity that is constantly thrown in their way.

Unfortunately, there were so many small sloppy f
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Mike Hardin
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The author tells the story of the collapse of the Romanov dynasty in the present tense, making each chapter appear to be one of a series of vignettes. By the end, you realize that you have been given a stunningly complete story of the part all of the parties, from the Tsar to the Bolsheviks, played in this epic and tragic over tune. Several things stand out for me: First, the consistent and incorrigible inability of the various parties to consider, understand, or even comprehend the others’ poin ...more
Arunan Sivakumar
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Belle Meri
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it's nice that it provides other perspectives on the Russian Revolution of 1917 which are often overlooked in books on the rise of the Bolsheviks and the Fall of the Romanov Dynasty. It is also a very readable, narrative style book. However, on the other hand, there's no footnotes referencing the author's sources; the only footnotes in the text are either monetary conversions to present (2017) day amounts or to how something he discussed i ...more
Richard
Apr 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Awful! Rambling and random. Excuses his lack of organization by saying he is a journalist and not an historian. Doesn't describe any of the characters well enough to keep them apart, let alone follow their progress, which can jump 100 pages before they are mentioned again. No explanation of the ins and outs of the political and military maneuvering, so it is difficult to tell if what all these people are doing is intelligent or a mistake. Then makes analogies to current Russian politics. Clearly ...more
Laurie
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This gets five starts for it’s sheer scale and complexity. When I read the last sentence, the first thing that came into my head was: wow. The author does an excellent job of weaving together the various threads that led to the Russian Revolutions. I would be lying if I said I followed it all, but I got enough of it to realize the immensity of the tragedy that befell Russia and how absolutely absurd it is that the Bolsheviks came to power. But yet it happened and so we got the Red Terror and Sta ...more
Mike
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a very good book. There is a lot of meat to it. It presents the players in detail as human beings. None are painted particular good or bad, but as humans. This is key to understanding the historical perspective. The epilogue is extremely well done, much more so than most. Cover to cover this is an interesting, well written book.
Christian Castenskiold
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a really interesting and important story about a true turning point in history. The narrator does a good work but as a audio book it's kind of a tough bite to chew. Loads of names, places and other things, mainly of Russian origin, made it (for me) sometimes hard to follow all the, albeit interesting, characters and story archs.
JJR
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The definite account of the years leading up to the October revolution in 1917. The book introduces plenty of less known—but interesting—historical figures, and described their pivotal roles in the shaping of history.

If you’re interested in knowing more about some of the most impactful events in modern history, you should read this book.
Casey Campbell
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A sweeping review of a 17 year period that shaped the modern world. The cast of characters and listing of events is immense, I feel like I will need to re read it another time, it's a lot to digest. I did thoroughly enjoy it.
BDT
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A well-written and focused book that walks its reader through the twilight of the Romanov dynasty, the tumult of the Provisional Government, and the origins of Bolshevik control. Approachable and informative.
Yuliya
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
'The revolution does not need historians.' But they do need journalists. Interesting approach, great insights, mix of politics and culture was particularly appreciated. I liked how the author attempted to explain current politics through the lenses of the past.
Roman Stasiv
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When reading this book you are immersed into a chain of events in 1900-1917 which derailed the then Russian state and led to 70 years of Soviet nightmare thereafter.

The lesson of those events hints to us where the current flawed Russian regime is heading.

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Ru: Михаил Зыгарь
Russian journalist, writer and filmmaker, and the founding editor-in-chief of the only Russian independent news TV-channel, Dozhd (2010–2015). Under Zygar's leadership, Dozhd provided an alternative to Kremlin-controlled federal TV channels by focusing on news content and giving a platform to opposition voices. The channel's coverage of politically sensitive issues, like the Mo
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Other books in the series

Империя должна умереть (3 books)
  • Империя должна умереть: История русских революций в лицах. 1900-1917 (Часть 1)
  • Империя должна умереть. История русских революций в лицах. 1900-1917 (Часть 2)
  • Империя должна умереть: История русских революций в лицах. 1900-1917 (Часть 3)

Related Articles

There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
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“Новое время настает, и оно себя покажет

Российская история и так зациклена на государстве, точнее даже, на Государе. Мы привыкли видеть нашу историю как совокупность биографий вождей — и за этим стройным рядом царей, генсеков и президентов совершенно не видно общества.

Жаркие споры вызывает вопрос, можно ли допускать в Думу неграмотных. Большинство участников обсуждения говорят: конечно да, потому что самые лояльные, самые «истовые» крестьяне — это как раз неграмотные старики, они опора режима и их должно быть как можно больше. Коковцов говорит, что «истовость не принесет никакой пользы, если будущий законодатель не сможет прочитать того, что ему будет предложено рассмотреть». Но Николай II принимает сторону неграмотных. Еще один болезненный вопрос: стоит ли разрешать евреям участвовать в выборах. Решено допустить и их.

Струве профессионально занимается политикой в стране, где нет политики.

Чехов, в свою очередь, все чаще встречается с Ольгой Книппер. В 1901 году они женятся — и проводят медовый месяц в туберкулезном санатории в Башкирии.

Еще во время переговоров Витте заболевает (по его словам, из-за некачественной американской пищи) – и поддерживает себя в форме исключительно «строжайшей диэтой и усиленными смазываниями кокаином».


К примеру, сто лет назад должность, которая сейчас называется «замминистра», именовалась «товарищ министра», тогда как слово «заместитель» имело совсем другой смысл — «преемник».

Гиппиус: Россия — очень большой сумасшедший дом. Если сразу войти в залу желтого дома, на какой-нибудь вечер безумцев, — вы, не зная, не поймете этого. Как будто и ничего. А они все безумцы. Есть трагически-помешанные, несчастные. Есть и тихие идиоты, со счастливым смехом на отвисших устах собирающие щепочки и, не торопясь, хохоча, поджигающие их серниками [спичками].

Мы японцев все хотим бить образами наших святых, а они нас лупят ядрами и бомбами, мы их образами, а они нас пулями.

В итоге 20 декабря 1908 года Ида Рубиншейн дала лишь концерт с танцевальными номерами из «Саломеи». В конце «танца семи вуалей» она осталась в платье из бус на голое тело. Публика шокирована, налицо оскорбление чувств верующих, в зал ворвалась полиция и конфисковала голову Иоанна Крестителя из папье-маше.

Чехов и Горький буквально трепещут перед Толстым. Чехов всегда подолгу и очень тщательно подбирает одежду, когда едет к своему кумиру. «Вы только подумайте, — говорит он Горькому, — ведь это он написал: "Анна чувствовала, что ее глаза светятся в темноте"».

Опять идем мы к срыву в бездну, опять мы вглядываемся в нее, а бездна вглядывается в нас. Это значит, террор опять становится неизбежным.

второй символ перемен — семечки. Свободно гуляющие по улицам городов солдаты и рабочие беспрерывно грызут семечки. Городовых, следящих за порядком, больше нет, улицы не убираются, поэтому тротуар под ногами прохожих густо устлан шелухой.

Политика и религия разъединяют людей; ничто не выпрямляет душу человека так мягко и быстро, как влияние искусства, науки.

1917 год — это родовая травма российского общества. Даже сто лет спустя средний класс неосознанно ждет, что события могут повториться. Начало XXI века не похоже на начало ХХ века: российское общество несравнимо более образованно и благополучно, чем сто лет назад. Тем не менее психологическая травма так просто не проходит. Опыт Гражданской войны и последующего террора заставляет новые поколения россиян вновь и вновь задавать себе вопросы: не пора ли уезжать? Не будет ли потом слишком поздно?

Для страны в целом — это трагедия. Вымывание интеллектуальной и деловой элиты ослабляет ее. Примирения с историей в России не произошло, травмы не вылечены, комплексы не изжиты. Сама по себе российская история — это болезнь, которая на каждом шагу дает о себе знать. Мы больны своей историей. Я не хочу умереть от этой болезни.”
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“The Russian Civil War lasts almost six years and ends in victory for the Bolsheviks. It claims the lives of more than 10 million people—five times more than the number of Russian casualties in the First World War, which the Bolsheviks promised to end. Of that figure, 2.5 million are killed in battle, another 2 million fall victim to the Red (and White) Terror, while around 6 million die from hunger and disease. On top of that, approximately 2 million emigrate.” 0 likes
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