Russka

RUSSKA is a mighty novel that spans 1,800 years of Russia's history, people, politics and culture from the ancient wandering tribes on the great Eurasian plain to the present day. The story follows the fortunes of five intertwined families: the noble Bobrovs, serf Romanovs, Cossack Karpenkos; the Suvorins - Old Believers, capitalists and patrons of the arts; and lastly the Popovs, parish priests and revolutionaries.

Members of these families seek their destinies through the old Russian period of golden Kiev, with its famous Orthodox cathedrals and monasteries, the terrible invasions of the Mongol descendants of Genghis Khan, the rise of Moscow and the boyars, and the dark days of Ivan the Terrible and his secret police. Modern times begin with the wild, romantic story of the Cossacks, the conflict between the indomitable westernizer, Peter the Great, and the religious Old Believers who burn themselves alive rather than enter the europeanised world of St Petersburg. From this time the story follows Russia's on-and-off flirtation with freedom, from the extraordinary reign of Catherine the Great, and the idealist democrats in the days of WAR AND PEACE, to the opportunist Bolsheviks of the Russian Revolution, and the tyrants of the twentieth century.

Warriors and hermits, boyars and serfs, romantic heroines and rich old ladies, fortune-builders and exiles - the characters in RUSSKA inhabit the rich, astonishing, evocative and contradictory world of forest and steppe, icon and axe, Orthodox faith and Jewish persecution, of gorgeous churches, magnificent palaces, and squalid villages; of Russian folk art and sumptuous opera, of Tolstoy and Lenin, Tchaikovsky and Rasputin.


REVIEWS

From the Times:
'It is a series of ingeniously linked short novels, with a great deal of history painlessly delivered... a very good read indeed.'

From the Sunday Telegraph:
'Even textured with just the right amount of spice, it is the literary equivalent of hot cakes.'

From the Washington Post:
'What's impressive about RUSSKA is Edward Rutherfurd's audacity - and his erudition.'

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
'Rutherfurd's RUSSKA succeeds where others . . . have failed. [He] can take his place among an elite of chroniclers such as Harold Lamb, Maurice Hindus and Henri Troyat.'

From the New York Daily News:
'Rutherfurd literally personifies history'

From the Washington Post Book World:
'Impressive...Rutherfurd has indeed embraced all of Russia'

From the Houston Chronicle:
'An example of how a skillful historical novelist can illuminate the present by dramatically re-cretating the past.'

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
'FAST-MOVING...Rutherfurd believes in adding color and adventure to facts that are exhaustively researched, making history palatable if not delicious.'

From the Boston Sunday Herald:
'Simply to call RUSKA a historical novel is like calling the Queen Elizabeth 2 a boat - true, but a serious understatement...Impressive for the background research it represents, RUSSKA makes both the geography and the history of Russia come alive...Through his village and its inhabitants Rutherfurd presents his readers with clear descriptions and explanations of institutions such as serfdom, and the Orthodox Church, and of events such as Peter the Great's efforts at modernization, the Decembrist revolt and the creation of the duma.

RUSSKA ...is rewarding reading. Besides telling an engrossing story...it is a thoughtful attempt to explain the Russian character with all its apparent contradictions. The novel manages - commendably - to capture and convey the vastness of Mother Russia, her history and her potential.'

From the Orlando Sentinel:
'The more things change the more they stay the same, at least for the Russian people, who for centuries have struggled against a succession of tyrannical rulers. That's one of the themes of Edward Rutherfurd's RUSSKA, a timely and powerful story in the James Michener mold that provides insight into a vast nation about which few westerners are well informed.

Like Michener, Rutherfurd makes his characters play second fiddle to the place and historical events. But fortunately for Russia and the reader, Rutherfurd is a much better writer than Michener. The pace of RUSSKA builds steadily throughout the generations so there is almost a sadness about bidding farewell at the book's end.'

From Kirkus Reviews:
'A well-written, episodic...complex historical saga of Russia by the author of the similarly massive Sarum...Crammed with exhaustive and obviously well-researched historical, geographical, and cultural detail, this epic novel traces Russia's quest for freedom and identity from A.D. 180 to the present. The primary storyline that finally emerges depicts three rival families who have ties in the quintessential village of Russka: the Bobrovs, gentried noblemen who ultimately lose their precious land to the very serfs they once owned; the cunning Suvorins who amass great wealth as merchants and industrialists; and their distant relations the Romanovs, peasant farmers-cum- revolutionaries. Through the intricacies of marriage, accidents of birth, and other twists and turns of fate, the ancestors and descendants of these proud people move from one century to the next, turning up as warring Alans, barbarous Tatars, bloodthirsty Cossacks, and eventually the more familiar Socialists, Bolsheviks, and Marxists. Rutherfurd's immense canvas allows a fictional cast in the hundreds to populate the same world as Genghis Khan, Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, Tolstoy, Voltaire, Pushkin, Lenin, Stalin, Shevchenko, Rasputin, etc., as they grapple with catastrophic events--such as ritual self-immolation, torture by knouting, cholera, and the pogroms...Rutherfurd's opus extraordinaire may captivate readers of the genre as well as serious history buffs.'

From Library Journal:
'In his newest novel, Rutherfurd does for Russia what his last novel, Sarum ( LJ 9/15/87), did for England. Focusing on a small farming community in the Russian heartland between the Dnieper and the Don at the edge of the steppes, he traces its growth through its inhabitants from the first Tatar raid on the Slavs through the Cossacks, aristocrats, and an emigre's recent return...These interconnected lives present a vast panoramic portrait of Russia and its history...Recommended for devotees of James Michener and Sarum.

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Did You Know?
Hope for Novelists ! The great Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, had an important avenue named after him in his own lifetime. His address was: The House of Monsieur Hugo, In his Avenue. When he died in 1885, he was given a state funeral.


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