Stalin

How does today’s world compare with Orwell’s nightmare vision?

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Apart from a passionate relationship with the common toad, what do George Orwell and David Attenborough have in common? H.G.…

Vasily Grossman: eye-witness to the 20th century’s worst atrocities

20 April 2019 9:00 am

Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate (completed in 1960) has been hailed as a 20th-century War and Peace. It has…

Maneki-neko at the Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo. A common Japanese talisman thought to bring good luck to its owner, the ‘welcoming cat’ is often displayed in shops, restaurants and other businesses

What makes Kim Jong-il cute — and Barack Obama not?

30 March 2019 9:00 am

Ordinarily, I love books that answer questions I’ve never asked, but Simon May’s baffling book has blown my mind. The…

Eric Hobsbawm, photographed in 1996. He admitted late in life that he had developed in youth ‘a facility for deleting unpleasant or unacceptable data’

How Eric Hobsbawm remained a lifelong communist — despite the ‘unpleasant data’

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Sir Richard Evans, retired regius professor of history at Cambridge, has always been a hefty historian. The densely compacted facts…

Teffi’s satire was always on target, but she balanced it with compassion

The best way to defeat totalitarianism? Treat it as a joke

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Is there anything one can never laugh about? A question inevitably hanging over humour writing, it’s best answered by the…

‘The Conversation’, by Henri Matisse, 1908–1912, the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

It is not the masterpieces that were lost, but the collectors, Natalya Semenova rights a wrong

6 October 2018 9:00 am

It is not as surprising at it sounds that two of the greatest collectors of modern art should have been…

Now you see him, now you don’t: Nikolai Yezhov, nicknamed ‘the poison dwarf’, who as head of the NKVD presided over mass arrests and executions at the height of the Great Purge, was airbrushed from Soviet history after his own execution in 1940

The spying game: when has espionage changed the course of history?

30 June 2018 9:00 am

Espionage, Christopher Andrew reminds us, is the second oldest profession. The two converged when Moses’s successor Joshua sent a couple…

Rarely have I sat through such a chaotic and whimsical script: Describe the Night reviewed

19 May 2018 9:00 am

Describe the Night opens in Poland in 1920 where two Russian soldiers, Isaac and Nikolai, discuss truth and falsehood. Next…

Millions of copies of Stalin’s works were printed,but few survive

From Stalin’s poetry to Saddam’s romances: the terrible prose of tyrants

28 April 2018 9:00 am

‘Reading makes the world better. It is how humans merge. How minds connect… Reading is love in action.’ Those are…

Cover illustration for the magazine Garm 1944, by Tove Jansson

A chance to see the Moomins’ creator for the genius she really was: Tove Janssons reviewed

18 November 2017 9:00 am

Tove Jansson, according to her niece’s husband, was a squirt in size and could rarely be persuaded to eat, preferring…

‘Soviet Union Art Exhibition’, Zurich 1931, by Valentina Kulagina

The art of persuasion

28 October 2017 9:00 am

It’s hard to admire communist art with an entirely clear conscience. The centenary of the October revolution, which falls this…

Mykola Bokan’s photograph of his family, including a memorial to ‘Kostya, who died of hunger’, July 1933. Bokan and his son were arrested for documenting the famine — both died in the gulag

The hunger

23 September 2017 9:00 am

In 1933 my aunt Lenina Bibikova was eight years old. She lived in Kharkov, Ukraine. Every morning a polished black…

The mystery of socialism’s enduring appeal

23 September 2017 9:00 am

One of the mysteries of our age is why socialism continues to appeal to so many people. Whether in the…

Playing Stalin for laughs

22 July 2017 9:00 am

Christopher Wilson’s new novel is much easier to enjoy than to categorise. And ‘enjoy’ is definitely the right word, even…

The new age of the refugee

22 July 2017 9:00 am

After years of estrangement in a foreign land, what can immigrants expect to find on their return home? The remembered…

The hopeless wasteland of modern Russia

4 June 2016 9:00 am

‘Gilded doorknobs,’ spits a Party diehard as she contemplates the blessings of the Soviet Union’s collapse. ‘Is this freedom?’ Dozens…

Enver Hoxha: Stalin’s devilish disciple

14 May 2016 9:00 am

In his final public appearance, the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha addressed a Tirana crowd to commemorate the capital’s liberation from…

Britain needs a museum of communist terror

5 March 2016 9:00 am

I went to Budapest last year and did the usual touristy things. I climbed up the hill to the fantasy…

A child freedom fighter in Budapest, 1956

1956: the year of living dangerously

13 February 2016 9:00 am

The book of the year has long been a favoured genre in popular history, and is a commonplace today. While…

The tortured genius of Shostakovich

23 January 2016 9:00 am

When I look at the black-and-white photograph of Julian Barnes on the flap of his latest book, the voice of…

What happened to British communism?

16 January 2016 9:00 am

Like most trade unionists in the 1970s and 80s I worked with a fair few communists. Men like Dickie Lawlor,…

A 19th-century view of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (Kiev’s Monastery of the Caves) Russian School

The history of Ukraine — from Herodotus to Hitler

9 January 2016 9:00 am

At the beginning of the historical record, the lands that we now call Ukraine were a reservoir of fantasy. Achilles…

Monumental change: the overthrow of the statue of Napoleon I, which was on top of the Vendôme Column. The painter Gustave Courbet is ninth from the right

A short history of statue-toppling

9 January 2016 9:00 am

One of the stranger disputes of the past few weeks has concerned a Victorian figure that has occupied a niche…

General Anders to the rescue

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Until Poland joined the EU in the 1990s, the biggest single influx of Poles into this country was in the…

Ferdinand Porsche, the inventor of the Doodlebug and the Panzer tank, was treated with rare deference by Hitler, bordering on idolatry

Ferninand Porsche: from the Beetle to the Panzer tank

7 November 2015 9:00 am

The aggressive character of the famous German sports car, in a sort of sympathetic magic, often transfers itself to owner-drivers.…