Dominic Lieven, a senior research fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, has won the fourth annual Pushkin House Russian book prize for his work Towards the Flame: Empire, War and the End of Tsarist Russia (Penguin).
The winner was selected from a shortlist of six for the prize of £5,000, awarded to the best non-fiction writing published in English. Lieven’s book explores the Russian decision to mobilise for war in 1914, and the disastrous consequences of the conflict and subsequent revolutions for the country’s ruling elite.
Geoffrey Hosking, emeritus professor of Russian history at University College London and one of the judges for this years award, said: “Professor Lieven has written a uniquely perceptive account of the opinions and mentalities of leading Russian statesmen on the eve of world war and revolution, placed in the context of their own life experience.
“He gives a sympathetic but not uncritical exposition of their calculations, their hopes and fears, set against the geopolitical opportunities and dangers which Russia faced at the time. We have much to learn from this book today when trying to understand Russian behaviour.”
A second prize of £2,000 for the best Russian book in translation was also awarded to Oleg Khlevniuk from Moscow’s Higher School of Economics and his translator Nora Favorov for Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator (Yale).
Another of the judges, Serhii Plokhy, professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, said: “Oleg Khlevniuk’s book is the result of his decade long study of the history of Stalin and Stalinism. He set the record straight on the contentious issues of Stalinism and provided solid foundations for future research in the field.”
Along with Hosking and Plokhy, the judging panel for the 2016 prize featured Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg; Baroness Elizabeth Smith of Gilmorehill, founding trustee of the John Smith Trust; and Anne McElvoy, senior editor at the Economist.
The award, which is supported by Waterstones and donors Douglas Smith and Stephanie Ellis-Smith, aims to actively encourage and support the exchange of ideas between Russian and English.
James Daunt, m.d of Waterstones, said: “We are delighted that the judges have rewarded such a strong winner, and showcased the very best in Russian scholarship in translation.”
Smith and Ellis-Smith, added: “Dominic Lieven has produced an important, fascinating book. And to have Oleg Khlevniuk’s magisterial new biography available to the English-speaking world in this fabulous translation is hugely important.”
Pushkin House’s co-chair Andrew Jack, said: “These two books perfectly encapsulate our mission: to showcase and encourage the best in scholarship from and about Russia. They are exemplary winners.”