Book Reviews

Book Review: Red Fortress


The Moscow Kremlin represents the heart of the Russian state. It is a vast fortress, the blood-red walls of which have changed their shape and construction several times over centuries. Tsars initiated some of the changes, others were due to fires and other disasters.

These walls have witnessed more than 800 years of political intrigue and extraordinary violence. Kremlin is a byword for enduring power; from Ivan The Terrible to Vladimir Putin.

Generations of Russian leaders have sought to use the fortress to legitimize their vision of statehood. V. Putin initiated the latest structural major change by commissioning the building of a helipad so that he doesn’t have to “fight” the now famous Moscow traffic gridlocks.

Dr. Merridale is an English scholar and professor with another widely acclaimed book on Russia.

This title is the result of many years of research both in London and Moscow and deals from the earliest Moscow Kremlin structure to Ivan The Terrible, to Peter The Great, Catherine The Great, the Romanov tsars, and Nicholas II the last tsar that ended the dynasty.

Bolsheviks started to rule in 1918 and the state changed from absolute dictatorship of J.V. Stalin to Nikita Khrushchev, then to Brezhnew, Yury Antropov, Konstantin Chernenko, Gorbatchev, Boris Yeltsin, and V. Putin.

She not only writes about Kremlin politics but also how a number of tsars commissioned Italian architects, technicians, and craftsmen to build cathedrals or renew walls.

The history of Russia is also explored, but for the reader unfamiliar with Russian history, I recommend an introductory guide to basic Russian history. The reader will then relate to the text better.

She explains how corrupt and cold-blooded any of the highly placed officials siphoned of millions of rubels and priceless historical documents as well as paintings.

Much of the material presented is new to the western audience and literature thanks to the author’s unprecedented access in Kremlin’s old books.

The Red Fortress is an invaluable book for anyone with an interest in Russian history, and by all accounts it is violent, rich, triumphant, and sad, all at the same time.

Moscow Kremlin is a UNESCO world heritage site and has endured many incarnations.

The stories of Stalin’s policies, his thinking, and those of his ministers would provide with good material for a doctoral dissertation.

Although the focus of the Red Fortress is narrow, occasionally the author writes about Russian history in general.

Dr. Merridale’s writing is clear, concise, a flow well, explains events in detail and points out how hypnotic, beautiful, and historic it is.

There is nothing accidental about Kremlin’s current appearance.

A marvellous book to read and from which to learn.

Highly recommended.

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