The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution


Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
6.25 X 9.5 X 2.25 inches | 3.35 pounds

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About the Author

Yuri Slezkine is the Jane K. Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include The Jewish Century (Princeton), which won the National Jewish Book Award.


"Winner of the 2018 PROSE Award in World History, Association of American Publishers"
"Honorable Mention for the 2019 Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies, Nanovic Institute, University of Notre Dame"
"Winner of the 2018 George L. Mosse Prize, American Historical Association"
"Shortlisted for the 2018 Pushkin House Russian Book Prize"
"Selected as a New York Times Editors' Choice, Aug 24, 2017"
"One of The Spectator 2017 Books of the Year"
"One of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017"
"One of The Times Literary Supplement's Books of the Year 2017"
"One of The Guardian's Best Books of 2017"
"One of Open Letters Monthly's "Our Year in Reading 2017"
"One of the "Wise Words 2017 Books of the Year" in History"
"One of the "A Year in Reading 2017: Stephen Dodson""
"One of World's 2017 Books of the Year in "History""
"Selected for Le Monde's "Monde des livres" 2017 (chosen by Nicolas Weill)"
"One of The Australian's Books of the Year 2017 (chosen by Louis Nowra)"
"One of the Times Colonist Favorite Books of 2017 (chosen by Adrian Dix)"
"One of Mosaic's Best Books of 2018 (Ruth Wisse)"
"A brilliant retelling of, mainly, the first two decades of the Soviet era in a sprawling saga centered around a famous and infamous Moscow apartment building created for the new elite."---Andrew Stuttaford, Wall Street Journal
"A Soviet War and Peace."---Sheila Fitzpatrick, London Review of Books
"A Must-Read."---Margaret Atwood
"Yuri Slezkine, Mercurian par excellence, has caught an extraordinary set of lives in this book. Few historians, dead or alive, have managed to combine so spectacularly the gifts of storyteller and scholar."---Benjamin Nathans, New York Review of Books
"An absolute delight to read, a masterpiece of the odd, almost unclassifiable kind that Russian literature is so adept at producing."---Steve Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor
"The author's command of the narrative, woven together with innumerable testimonies, is compelling. The effect is like Solzhenitsyn with photographs."---Tom Stoppard, Times Literary Supplement
"This panoramic history plotted as an epic family tragedy describes the lives of Bolshevik revolutionaries who were swallowed up by the cause they believed in. The story is as intricate as any Russian novel, and the chapters on the Stalinist Terror are the most vivid."-- "New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)"
"Magisterial. . . . A twelve-hundred-page epic that recounts the multigenerational story of the famed building and its inhabitants--and, at least as interesting, the rise and fall of Bolshevist faith."---Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker
"[The House of Government] is a dizzying book, a hall of mirrors, panoramic and bizarre, as puzzlingly esoteric and thrillingly fervent as the doctrines it describes."---Owen Hatherley, The Guardian
"What more fitting monument to a millenarian movement could there be than a thousand-page 'saga'? Yuri Slezkine's guiding argument in this remarkable, many-layered account of the men (rarely women) who shaped the October Revolution is that the Bolsheviks were not a party but an apocalyptic sect. The House of Government is a compelling microhistory of the interwar Soviet elite, but it is also a literary-rhetorical tour de force."---Stephen Lovell, Times Literary Supplement
"A story that is as Russian in scope as it is symbolic of what Russia and the Russian revolution eventually became."-- "The Economist"
"To roam the corridors of the House of Government, following the endlessly intersecting stories of Bolshevik families at home, is to come as close as a distant reader can to the horror, strangeness and disorientating pathos of the revolution. Slezkine's scholarship and his powerful historical imagination take us into the heart of the confrontation between the everyday reality of Bolshevism and its extreme millenarian metaphysics. . . . The meaning of The House of Government is in reading it, right to the end. It is a monumental edifice of scholarship and historical insight."---Rachel Polonsky, Standpoint
"Brilliant and suitably monumental. . . . Vivid, engaging and omnivorous in its deployment of anthropological and sociological ideas, The House of Government has a Tolstoyan cast of characters. . . . And as we struggle to balance the benefits of industrial modernity with its huge costs--both human and environmental--Slezkine's gripping history of these latter-day Fausts is especially relevant, even if their mental world seems so remote from our own."---David Priestland, Financial Times
"His work is both mischievous and calmly analytical, wildly provocative and thoughtful at the same time."---Tony Wood, The Nation
"A brilliant book."---Arkady Ostrovsky,
"Mammoth and profusely researched. . . . A work begging to be debated; Slezkine aggregates mountains of detail for an enthralling account of the rise and fall of the revolutionary generation."-- "Publishers Weekly"
"This comprehensive work of scholarship and storytelling will appeal to readers with an interest in the Russian Revolution, the early Soviet Union, and the pitfalls of utopian community building."---Laurie Unger Skinner, Library Journal
"One can be both overwhelmed and inspired, as one often is by a classic Russian novel."---Max Holleran, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Brilliant and extraordinary."---Michael Curtis, American Thinker
"A remarkable work of imaginative historical reconstruction and craftsmanship. Reviewers have already compared its epic style to Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and Vasilly Grossman's Life and Fate, though the more direct inspiration is surely George Perec's Life: A User's Manual. Like Perec's novel about a Parisian apartment building, Slezkine uses the House of Government built by the Soviet regime to peel fascinating layers of the Bolshevik experience up until the onset of the Second World War."---Srinath Raghavan, Mint
"At over 1,000 pages, historian and anthropologist Yuri Slezkine's House of Government is one of the most lauded and innovative new histories of the Russian Revolution published in its centenary year. It's a sprawling book that informs our own age as much as the insurrectionary moments of the 20th century. . . . Slezkine's work, somewhere between novel and history, falls into a long tradition--Tolstoy, Vasily Grossman--of sentimental Russian histories; a tragedy. The "house of government", a physical apartment building in central Moscow built for the new Soviet elite in 1931, becomes a set-piece in this theatrical, allusive account of the first (and last) Soviet generation. . . . The radical millenarianism of the Bolsheviks, as well as the tawdry but somewhat adorable swamp, are vividly brought to life in House of Government: we look through their eyes, all the better to see ourselves with."---Jacob Dreyer, The Calvert Journal
"The House of Government is one of the best books to understand why the Soviet experiment failed. Yuri Slezkine has unmatched academic credentials and command on the subject. It is written in such a brilliant way that everybody interested in history will enjoy it. It is veritably a masterpiece of history."-- "Washington Book Review"
"Gripping. . . . This is a mesmerising view from the inside of a terrible history. It should be read by every student of Russian history, amateur or professional, and find a place in every school and college library."---Christian Tyler, Tribune Magazine
"This extraordinary book is certainly a pleasure to read, but it is also a challenge. Not so much because of its size, but due to its emotional and informational charge--enormous and eye-opening in equal measure. It can indeed be compared to the Bible, again, not in sheer volume, but in its importance for anyone interested in Russia and the Soviet Union. . . . A true cornerstone, not just of the 'House of Government', but of the history of totalitarianism, too."---Vitali Vitaliev, Engineering and Technology
"It's art that self-consciously, and successfully, mimics Tolstoy's War and Peace and Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago."---Matthew Harwood, Reason
"The book is richly layered and multifaceted: it offers a philosophical reflection on religion and its relationship to the intellectual underpinnings of the Russian Revolution, a political and biographical history of the first half of the twentieth century, a study of the period's key literary texts, and an extensive assessment of Stalinist architecture. The book's depth (not to mention its length) invites the reader to luxuriate in it, chapter by chapter, rather than simply plowing through."---Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs
"Reads like a Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita--full of twists and turns, vignettes and stories that shed light onto everyday life in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution from the perspective of 'Old Bolsheviks.' . . . Leaving no corner of the House unexplored, later sections of the book reveal the shift in mentalité from millenarian Bolshevism to disillusionment for the younger generation."-- "EuropeNow"
"Unlike many of his fellow academics, Yuri Slezkine, a professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, is also an extremely gifted writer whose insight and erudition extend far beyond his specific discipline. He also has a keen sense of humor, which comes in handy when writing a massive book on a tragically depressing subject. . . . [M]ost of the real people and situations making up his narrative could have stepped directly out of the pages of Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Turgenev or Tolstoy."---Aram Bakshian Jr., Washington Times
"The best non-fiction was Yuri Slezkine's astounding The House of Government. . . a terrifying glimpse of cruelty in Stalin's Russia, reduced from statistics to the human stories of individuals, crouching in terror in one much-raided apartment block."---Philip Hensher, The Spectator
"Yuri Slezkine . . . has written a book for the ages, a Pamir, an instant classic."---Richard G. Robbins, Slavonic & East European Review
"This is a blockbuster of a book, both in size and importance. It is too big to take on the train . . . but too gripping to leave behind."---Christian Tyler, Tribune
"Of all the books marking the centenary of the Russian revolution in 2017, the most significant is The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine."-- "The Economist"
"Yuri Slezkine's The House of Government is a massive, page-turning, almost novelistic take on the Revolution seen through the life of one Moscow apartment complex. It paints a vivid picture of what living messianic utopianism feels like."---Pratap Bhana Mehta, The Indian Express
"Full of fresh thinking, acute descriptions and unforgettable details of a world turned upside down."---Owen Hatherley, Architectural Review
"Brilliant. . . . Magisterial. . . . A darkly enthralling thousand-page history."---David Mikics, Tablet
"In epic, almost Tolstoyan style, Yuri Slezkine charts the fervent ideological beliefs, political careers, everyday lives, and eventual tragic demise of a host of Bolshevik revolutionaries. . . . It is a deeply human story. Indeed, the lasting value of this work is its detailed reconstruction of the hopes, fears, disappointments, and mental anguish of not only well-known Old Bolsheviks, such as Nikolai Bukharin, but also 'lesser' figures like Aleksandr Arosev, Mikhail Koltsov, and Aleksandr Voronsky (among tens of others), who are brought to life pretty much for the first time in existing literature. . . . This is a colossal, thought-provoking, and in many ways impressive piece of work. It will be essential reading for all scholars of Bolshevism and Soviet history for many years to come."---Kevin McDermott, Russian Review
"Out of an astonishing range of diaries, letters, memoirs, novels and interviews, Slezkine has crafted history that qualifies as great literature."---Gideon Haigh, The Australian
"With this truly monumental volume, Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine has masterfully succeeded in offering a comprehensive analysis of the Stalinist political, psychological and intellectual cosmos in the 1930s."---Vladimir Tismaneanu, International Affairs
"I loved The House of Government. . . . It's compelling, gripping and a wonderful read that tells the story of a building in central Moscow that was home to the bigwigs of Bolshevik and communist Russia. I couldn't put it down - despite its weight."---Peter Frankopan, The Tablet
"Part of the book's power is in its unrelenting recounting of the stories not only of those who lived in the apartments of the House of Government, but of those like Bukharin who had family members live there, as well as in the novels and poems of the period expressing the dreams and hopes of the Soviet people."---Wayne Cristaudo, European Legacy
"Lively and engaging."---Deirdre Ruscitti Harshman, Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
"Winner of the 2018 Norris and Carol Hundley Award, Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association"
"One of London Review Bookshop's Best History Books, Christmas 2017"
"Slezkine uses the House of Government, a huge apartment block built in the late 1920s on the banks of the river Moscow to house members of the Soviet elite, as the symbol around which he constructs his view of the Russian Revolution."---Peter Waldron, History Today
"Its virtues once distilled and its longueurs trimmed, the book is certain to become a key point of reference both in the field of Russian history and beyond."---Catriona Kelly, Journal of Modern History
"[A] beautifully written text. . . . Extraordinary study."---Christopher Read, Journal of Contemporary History