Thursday, August 23, 2012

Featured Book: Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith

 Lately, I've been on a little bit of a Russian history kick. And since I've always, like many people, had a fascination with revolutions and the concept of "fallen aristocracy," I thought that this upcoming book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux looked particularly interesting.

Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith recounts the story of the aristocrats of Russia, many of whom found their homes burned, their wealth and liveliehoods lost, and even their lives threatened--or ended.


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   dddby 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.

Former People is due to be released on October 2, 2012.


  1. This looks very interesting. I'm also interested in Russian royal history. Actually any royal history, but for some reason I have this strange facination with fallen royal houses.

    1. I agree, Luli! Something about the fall of royalty is just so intriguing.