ST. PETERSBURG: Russia's Window to the Future. The First Three Centuries

Arthur L. George, Author, Gloria Teles Pushker, Author, Elena George, With
Arthur L. George, Author, Gloria Teles Pushker, Author, Elena George, With . Taylor $35 (512p) ISBN 978-1-58979-017-9
Reviewed on: 06/02/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
Paperback - 654 pages - 978-0-7509-3805-1
Hardcover - 654 pages - 978-0-7509-3804-4
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The Russian city of St. Petersburg has long been celebrated as Russia's window onto the West. In this detailed volume, the Georges attempt to make the city a window onto Russia as well. Arthur George, a businessman who lived for two decades in Russia, displays a thorough knowledge of published work on the country and the city, which is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. From its founding in the early 18th century by Peter the Great as Russia's "western" city to its leading role in 19th-century cultural life, the Russian Revolution of 1917 and WWII (when, as Leningrad, it suffered a horrific Nazi siege), the Georges barely miss a beat. St. Petersburg has long played a central role in Russian life and the seemingly never-ending pain of its people. As the authors put it, "No modern city has experienced such excruciating upheavals, violence, losses of its people, and suffering as Petersburg/Petrograd/Leningrad experienced in the first half of its 20th century." The Georges cover it all, focusing on political, economic and cultural matters, with a few overtures toward social history. In fact, the book is particularly strong, like the city it covers, on intellectual life, describing such personalities as the poet Anna Akhmatova. But history is not just a matter of compilation, it is one of interpretation as well, and here the Georges fall short. On the whole, they fail to convincingly interpret their information—how the history of St. Petersburg has been different from Moscow's, for example—and many readers are likely to feel lost in the mass of details provided. (Sept.)

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