Former People: The Destruction of the Russian Aristocracy (Paperback)
  • Former People: The Destruction of the Russian Aristocracy (Paperback)
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Former People: The Destruction of the Russian Aristocracy (Paperback)

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£11.99
Paperback 496 Pages / Published: 09/05/2013
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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.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9780330520294
Number of pages: 496
Weight: 361 g
Dimensions: 197 x 129 x 29 mm
Edition: Unabridged edition


MEDIA REVIEWS

" """Former People" provides a fascinating window onto a lost generation. Filled with intimate detail, drama, and pathos, this is a book as much about renewal and reinvention as about the end of an era." --Amanda Foreman, author of "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire "and "A World on Fire: an Epic History of Two Nations Divided"


"""Douglas Smith's "Former People" is a passionate and vivid story of the destruction of an entire class--the Russian aristocracy--during the Bolshevik Revolution. What the Communists began with the nobility, they were to continue with writers, poets, artists, peasants, and workers. Smith restores the dignity, pathos, and endurance of a vanished and fabled elite." --Michael Ignatieff, author of "The Russian Album"; professor, Munk School, University of Toronto.

""Former People" provides a fascinating window onto a lost generation. Filled with intimate detail, drama, and pathos, this is a book as much about renewal and reinvention as about the end of an era." --Amanda Foreman, author of "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire "and "A World on Fire: an Epic History of Two Nations Divided"


"Absolutely gripping, brilliantly researched, with a cast of flamboyant Russian princesses and princes from the two greatest noble dynasties and brutal Soviet commissars, "The Former People" is an important history book--but it's really the heartbreaking human story of the splendors and death of the Russian aristocracy and the survival of its members as individuals."--Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of "Jerusalem" and "Catherine the Great and Potemkin"

"""Douglas Smith's "Former People" is a passionate and vivid story of the destruction of an entire class--the Russian aristocracy--during the Bolshevik Revolution. What the Communists began with the nobility, they were to continue with writers, poets, artists, peasants, and workers. Smith restores the dignity, pathos, and endurance of a vanished and fabled elite." --Michael Ignatieff, author of "The Russian Album"; professor, Munk School, University of Toronto.

""Former People" provides a fascinating window onto a lost generation. Filled with intimate detail, drama, and pathos, this is a book as much about renewal and reinvention as about the end of an era."--Amanda Foreman, author of "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire "and "A World on Fire: an Epic History of Two Nations Divided"


"Smith examines the much-neglected 'fate of the nobility in the decades following the Russian Revolution, ' when they were sometimes given the Orwellian title 'former people.' The author of several books on Russia ("The Pearl"; "Working the Rough Stone"), Smith focuses on three generations of two families: the Sheremetsevs of St. Petersburg and the Golitsyns of Moscow. He begins by showing their extravagant wealth before the revolution; in the late 19th century, Count Dmitri Sheremetsev owned 1.9 million acres worked by 300,000 serfs. From the 1917 Bolshevik revolution until Stalin's death in 1953, these families and others suffered, at best, severe persecution and impoverishment; at worst, murder by mobs or the secret police, or a slow death in the gulag. In his sprawling but well-paced narrative, Smith tells many memorable stories, including one of Vladimir Golitsyn's son-in-law, who hid the fact that he'd been sentenced to death from his wife, who'd been allowed a three-day visit. Smith also provides fascinating background information, such as the Bolsheviks' jaundiced view of 'decadent' Western culture. Maxim Gorky said the foxtrot, popular among nobles during the 1920s and early '30s, 'fostered moral degeneracy and led inexorably to homosexuality.' This is an anecdotally rich, highly informative look at decimated, uprooted former upper-class Russians. "--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review)

"When the Bolshevik Revolution came in 1917, the new order began transforming aristocrats into paupers, exiles and corpses--a transformation that consumed decades.

Smith, a former U.S. diplomat and authority on the Soviets and author of several previous works ("The Pearl: A Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great's Russia," 2008, etc.), takes a different approach to revolutionary history, focusing on the fallen class: Who were they? What had their lives been like? What happened to them? The author follows two aristocratic families (later, they intermarried), the


"An engaging and absorbing book."--Jennifer Siegel, "The Wall Street Journal"

"A remarkable, deeply affecting book."--David Walton, GuideLive

"Smith examines the much-neglected 'fate of the nobility in the decades following the Russian Revolution, ' when they were sometimes given the Orwellian title 'former people.' The author of several books on Russia ("The Pearl"; "Working the Rough Stone"), Smith focuses on three generations of two families: the Sheremetsevs of St. Petersburg and the Golitsyns of Moscow. He begins by showing their extravagant wealth before the revolution; in the late 19th century, Count Dmitri Sheremetsev owned 1.9 million acres worked by 300,000 serfs. From the 1917 Bolshevik revolution until Stalin's death in 1953, these families and others suffered, at best, severe persecution and impoverishment; at worst, murder by mobs or the secret police, or a slow death in the gulag. In his sprawling but well-paced narrative, Smith tells many memorable stories, including one of Vladimir Golitsyn's son-in-law, who hid the fact that he'd been sentenced to death from his wife, who'd been allowed a three-day visit. Smith also provides fascinating background information, such as the Bolsheviks' jaundiced view of 'decadent' Western culture. Maxim Gorky said the foxtrot, popular among nobles during the 1920s and early '30s, 'fostered moral degeneracy and led inexorably to homosexuality.' This is an anecdotally rich, highly informative look at decimated, uprooted former upper-class Russians."--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review)

"When the Bolshevik Revolution came in 1917, the new order began transforming aristocrats into paupers, exiles and corpses--a transformation that consumed decades.

Smith, a former U.S. diplomat and authority on the Soviets and author of several previous works ("The Pearl: A Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great's Russia," 2008, etc.), takes a different approach to revolutionary history, focusing on the fallen class: W


""Former People" is ultimately an incredibly readable, vivid, emotional human story of survival, accommodation, and reconciliation."--Sean Guillory, "New Books Network"

"Engrossing . . . with richly detailed event and anecdote." --Liesl Schillinger, "The New York Times"

"An engaging and absorbing book."--Jennifer Siegel, "The Wall Street Journal"

"A remarkable, deeply affecting book."--David Walton, GuideLive

"Smith examines the much-neglected 'fate of the nobility in the decades following the Russian Revolution, ' when they were sometimes given the Orwellian title 'former people.' The author of several books on Russia ("The Pearl"; "Working the Rough Stone"), Smith focuses on three generations of two families: the Sheremetsevs of St. Petersburg and the Golitsyns of Moscow. He begins by showing their extravagant wealth before the revolution; in the late 19th century, Count Dmitri Sheremetsev owned 1.9 million acres worked by 300,000 serfs. From the 1917 Bolshevik revolution until Stalin's death in 1953, these families and others suffered, at best, severe persecution and impoverishment; at worst, murder by mobs or the secret police, or a slow death in the gulag. In his sprawling but well-paced narrative, Smith tells many memorable stories, including one of Vladimir Golitsyn's son-in-law, who hid the fact that he'd been sentenced to death from his wife, who'd been allowed a three-day visit. Smith also provides fascinating background information, such as the Bolsheviks' jaundiced view of 'decadent' Western culture. Maxim Gorky said the foxtrot, popular among nobles during the 1920s and early '30s, 'fostered moral degeneracy and led inexorably to homosexuality.' This is an anecdotally rich, highly informative look at decimated, uprooted former upper-class Russians."--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review)

"When the Bolshevik Revolution came in 1917, the new order began transforming aristocrats into paupers, exiles and corpses--a transformation that consumed d


"Although many of the aristocrats thought the end of their caste 'obvious and unavoidable, ' few foresaw the destruction of a way of life. Smith's engaging and, at times, heartbreaking account is an essential record of that loss."--"The New Yorker"

""Former People" is ultimately an incredibly readable, vivid, emotional human story of survival, accommodation, and reconciliation."--Sean Guillory, "New Books Network"

"Engrossing . . . with richly detailed event and anecdote." --Liesl Schillinger, "The New York Times"

"An engaging and absorbing book."--Jennifer Siegel, "The Wall Street Journal"

"A remarkable, deeply affecting book."--David Walton, GuideLive

"Smith examines the much-neglected 'fate of the nobility in the decades following the Russian Revolution, ' when they were sometimes given the Orwellian title 'former people.' The author of several books on Russia ("The Pearl"; "Working the Rough Stone"), Smith focuses on three generations of two families: the Sheremetsevs of St. Petersburg and the Golitsyns of Moscow. He begins by showing their extravagant wealth before the revolution; in the late 19th century, Count Dmitri Sheremetsev owned 1.9 million acres worked by 300,000 serfs. From the 1917 Bolshevik revolution until Stalin's death in 1953, these families and others suffered, at best, severe persecution and impoverishment; at worst, murder by mobs or the secret police, or a slow death in the gulag. In his sprawling but well-paced narrative, Smith tells many memorable stories, including one of Vladimir Golitsyn's son-in-law, who hid the fact that he'd been sentenced to death from his wife, who'd been allowed a three-day visit. Smith also provides fascinating background information, such as the Bolsheviks' jaundiced view of 'decadent' Western culture. Maxim Gorky said the foxtrot, popular among nobles during the 1920s and early '30s, 'fostered moral degeneracy and led inexorably to homosexuality.' This is an anecdotally rich, highly informative loo


"With urgency and precision, [Smith] chronicles the fate of the nobility from the dawn of the revolution . . . He is invested in their (former) cause, and narrates the events of their lives with passion . . . "Former People "is a thorough, extensively sourced history, and also something of a spiritual restitution."--Yelena Akhtiorskaya, "The New Republic"

"Although many of the aristocrats thought the end of their caste 'obvious and unavoidable, ' few foresaw the destruction of a way of life. Smith's engaging and, at times, heartbreaking account is an essential record of that loss."--"The New Yorker"

""Former People" is ultimately an incredibly readable, vivid, emotional human story of survival, accommodation, and reconciliation."--Sean Guillory, "New Books Network"

"Engrossing . . . with richly detailed event and anecdote."--Liesl Schillinger, "The New York Times"

"An engaging and absorbing book."--Jennifer Siegel, "The Wall Street Journal"

"A remarkable, deeply affecting book."--David Walton, GuideLive

"Smith examines the much-neglected 'fate of the nobility in the decades following the Russian Revolution, ' when they were sometimes given the Orwellian title 'former people.' The author of several books on Russia ("The Pearl"; "Working the Rough Stone"), Smith focuses on three generations of two families: the Sheremetsevs of St. Petersburg and the Golitsyns of Moscow. He begins by showing their extravagant wealth before the revolution; in the late 19th century, Count Dmitri Sheremetsev owned 1.9 million acres worked by 300,000 serfs. From the 1917 Bolshevik revolution until Stalin's death in 1953, these families and others suffered, at best, severe persecution and impoverishment; at worst, murder by mobs or the secret police, or a slow death in the gulag. In his sprawling but well-paced narrative, Smith tells many memorable stories, including one of Vladimir Golitsyn's son-in-law, who hid the fact that he'd been sentenced to death from his wife, who'd


"Smith has performed a real service in drawing attention to this widely overlooked segment of the Russian population and the horrifying persecutions its members endured. His book inspires awe and pity in equal measure, and expands our understanding of a forgotten people. It's hard to believe that this it he first book of its kind devoted to the 10 percent of White Russians who remained in the society Union after the revolution and civil war and we can hope it will lead to others."--Michael Scammell, "The New York Review of Books"

"With urgency and precision, [Smith] chronicles the fate of the nobility from the dawn of the revolution . . . He is invested in their (former) cause, and narrates the events of their lives with passion . . . "Former People "is a thorough, extensively sourced history, and also something of a spiritual restitution."--Yelena Akhtiorskaya, "The New Republic"

"Although many of the aristocrats thought the end of their caste 'obvious and unavoidable, ' few foresaw the destruction of a way of life. Smith's engaging and, at times, heartbreaking account is an essential record of that loss."--"The New Yorker"

""Former People" is ultimately an incredibly readable, vivid, emotional human story of survival, accommodation, and reconciliation."--Sean Guillory, "New Books Network"

"Engrossing . . . with richly detailed event and anecdote."--Liesl Schillinger, "The New York Times"

"An engaging and absorbing book."--Jennifer Siegel, "The Wall Street Journal"

"A remarkable, deeply affecting book."--David Walton, GuideLive

"Smith examines the much-neglected 'fate of the nobility in the decades following the Russian Revolution, ' when they were sometimes given the Orwellian title 'former people.' The author of several books on Russia ("The Pearl"; "Working the Rough Stone"), Smith focuses on three generations of two families: the Sheremetsevs of St. Petersburg and the Golitsyns of Moscow. He begins by showing their extravagant wealth before the


"Smith re-creates what [the Russian nobility] experienced with an intimacy that brings the whole history of these years vividly and grotesquely alive."--Robert Legvold, "Foreign Affairs"

"Smith has performed a real service in drawing attention to this widely overlooked segment of the Russian population and the horrifying persecutions its members endured. His book inspires awe and pity in equal measure, and expands our understanding of a forgotten people. It's hard to believe that this it he first book of its kind devoted to the 10 percent of White Russians who remained in the society Union after the revolution and civil war and we can hope it will lead to others."--Michael Scammell, "The New York Review of Books"

"With urgency and precision, [Smith] chronicles the fate of the nobility from the dawn of the revolution . . . He is invested in their (former) cause, and narrates the events of their lives with passion . . . "Former People "is a thorough, extensively sourced history, and also something of a spiritual restitution."--Yelena Akhtiorskaya, "The New Republic"

"Although many of the aristocrats thought the end of their caste 'obvious and unavoidable, ' few foresaw the destruction of a way of life. Smith's engaging and, at times, heartbreaking account is an essential record of that loss."--"The New Yorker"

""Former People" is ultimately an incredibly readable, vivid, emotional human story of survival, accommodation, and reconciliation."--Sean Guillory, "New Books Network"

"Engrossing . . . with richly detailed event and anecdote."--Liesl Schillinger, "The New York Times"

"An engaging and absorbing book."--Jennifer Siegel, "The Wall Street Journal"

"A remarkable, deeply affecting book."--David Walton, GuideLive

"Smith examines the much-neglected 'fate of the nobility in the decades following the Russian Revolution, ' when they were sometimes given the Orwellian title 'former people.' The author of several books on Russia ("The Pearl"; "Workin


"Absorbing . . . How could one ever think that these people were monsters? They were gallant souls; and Smith's book memorialises them beautifully."--Mark Le Fanu, "Spear's"

"Smith re-creates what [the Russian nobility] experienced with an intimacy that brings the whole history of these years vividly and grotesquely alive."--Robert Legvold, "Foreign Affairs"

"Smith has performed a real service in drawing attention to this widely overlooked segment of the Russian population and the horrifying persecutions its members endured. His book inspires awe and pity in equal measure, and expands our understanding of a forgotten people. It's hard to believe that this it he first book of its kind devoted to the 10 percent of White Russians who remained in the society Union after the revolution and civil war and we can hope it will lead to others."--Michael Scammell, "The New York Review of Books"

"With urgency and precision, [Smith] chronicles the fate of the nobility from the dawn of the revolution . . . He is invested in their (former) cause, and narrates the events of their lives with passion . . . "Former People "is a thorough, extensively sourced history, and also something of a spiritual restitution."--Yelena Akhtiorskaya, "The New Republic"

"Although many of the aristocrats thought the end of their caste 'obvious and unavoidable, ' few foresaw the destruction of a way of life. Smith's engaging and, at times, heartbreaking account is an essential record of that loss."--"The New Yorker"

""Former People" is ultimately an incredibly readable, vivid, emotional human story of survival, accommodation, and reconciliation."--Sean Guillory, "New Books Network"

"Engrossing . . . with richly detailed event and anecdote."--Liesl Schillinger, "The New York Times"

"An engaging and absorbing book."--Jennifer Siegel, "The Wall Street Journal"

"A remarkable, deeply affecting book."--David Walton, GuideLive

"Smith examines the much-neglected 'fate of the nobilit


"[An] excellent history . . . A sobering tale of the complexities of revolution, told with clarity and sympathy."--"The Independent"

"Absorbing . . . How could one ever think that these people were monsters? They were gallant souls; and Smith's book memorialises them beautifully."--Mark Le Fanu, "Spear's"

"Smith re-creates what [the Russian nobility] experienced with an intimacy that brings the whole history of these years vividly and grotesquely alive."--Robert Legvold, "Foreign Affairs"

"Smith has performed a real service in drawing attention to this widely overlooked segment of the Russian population and the horrifying persecutions its members endured. His book inspires awe and pity in equal measure, and expands our understanding of a forgotten people. It's hard to believe that this it he first book of its kind devoted to the 10 percent of White Russians who remained in the society Union after the revolution and civil war and we can hope it will lead to others."--Michael Scammell, "The New York Review of Books"

"With urgency and precision, [Smith] chronicles the fate of the nobility from the dawn of the revolution . . . He is invested in their (former) cause, and narrates the events of their lives with passion . . . "Former People "is a thorough, extensively sourced history, and also something of a spiritual restitution."--Yelena Akhtiorskaya, "The New Republic"

"Although many of the aristocrats thought the end of their caste 'obvious and unavoidable, ' few foresaw the destruction of a way of life. Smith's engaging and, at times, heartbreaking account is an essential record of that loss."--"The New Yorker"

""Former People" is ultimately an incredibly readable, vivid, emotional human story of survival, accommodation, and reconciliation."--Sean Guillory, "New Books Network"

"Engrossing . . . with richly detailed event and anecdote."--Liesl Schillinger, "The New York Times"

"An engaging and absorbing book."--Jennifer Siegel, "The Walle

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Reviews

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“Thoroughly enjoyed it!”

An excellent and vivid image of the downfall of the royal family and aristocracy and how the latter tried to survive afterwards. Douglas Smith's writing is easy to immerse into as you follow their story.

Paperback edition
27th August 2013
Helpful? Upvote 35

“Former People”

An enjoyable book with lots of information about aristocratic Russian families, some of which I had never heard of before. Quite a hefty read - you definitely want to dedicate some time to getting through it all.... More

Paperback edition
18th April 2016
Helpful? Upvote 31

“Superbly written”

It is difficult to feel too much sympathy for the Russian aristoracy who lived in such fabulous wealth at the disadvantage of the poor... until you read this book that tells the stories of their fates.

Douglas... More

Paperback edition
4th August 2013
Helpful? Upvote 25

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