Former People

Former People

The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy

Book - 2012
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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 by 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.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012, ©2012.
ISBN: 9780374157616
Branch Call Number: 305.52 Smith 10/2012
Characteristics: xvii, 464 pages :,illustrations, maps :,24 cm


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Apr 14, 2017

Very interesting book on how the Russian Aristocracy was wiped out by the the Soviets. It tells how life was before the Russian revolution and the factors such as inequality over hundreds of years (the peasants were slave labour), that lead to the peasants built up anger towards the aristocracy that the communists then used to their advantage to rile up the peasants to join their cause. Of course, when it was all over, the Soviets took all the wealth and land for themselves, but claimed the possessions belonged to the state and they were just borrowing them, har har. The Soviets became the aristocracy, but with a brutal tyranny of epic proportions.
There's a lot of personal stories from family members of the aristocracy and they are terrifying to read if you picture what it would be like to go through such things, from being kicked out of your home and losing all your possessions, to family members being sent to concentration camps and doing slave labour or killed, or shunned and not allowed to work to make a living based on your previous social class.

Jan 11, 2014

Easy to read, photos add interest, family trees and place names on map help to follow two family histories. Well researched with bibliography, notes showing sources of facts, quotes, and information. Amazing stories of how wealthy Russian people became nonentities during the Russian Revolution as they were stripped of their wealth: land and estates seized so they were cut off from their source of income, bank accounts cleared out by Bolsheviks, robbed of personal treasures, forced out of their homes, jailed, hounded and killed by secret police.

145e Feb 11, 2013

Absolutely fascinating. A must read for anyone with the slightest intrest in history; Russian or otherwise.


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