Stalin’s Singing Spy: The Life and Exile of Nadezhda Plevitskaya

Pamela A. Jordan. Rowman & Littlefield, $42 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4422-4773-4
In this dense, fascinating biography, political scientist Jordan (Defending Rights in Russia) traces the notorious career of a popular Russian folk singer turned Soviet spy. Born near Kursk sometime around 1879 (the exact date is disputed; Plevitskaya herself gave conflicting birth years up to 1886), Plevitskaya grew up in a large peasant family. She entered a convent intending to become a nun but abandoned it to work as a circus performer before signing on as a singer with the Lipkina Choir. Jordan shines when she describes the whirl of early 20th-century Russian culture and politics. Plevitskaya tried to keep them separate, claiming she had no interest in taking sides in the Russian Revolution. That proved impossible. In the 1920s, she and her third husband, Nikolai Skoblin, a White Army officer, were forced to flee to France. Lured by patriotic rhetoric and generous payments, the couple later agreed to spy on the Russian émigré community for the Soviets. Unfortunately for both of them, they were implicated in the 1937 kidnapping of Gen. Evgeny Miller, a prominent anti-Soviet exile. There’s an exciting story here, though Jordan’s scholarly approach slows it down and subordinates Plevitskaya’s outsized personality to the details of history. Illus. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/18/2016
Release date: 01/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 380 pages - 978-1-4422-4774-1
Show other formats
Discover what to read next