History focus for Pushkin House Russian Book Prize shortlist

History focus for Pushkin House Russian Book Prize shortlist

The books on the shortlist for the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize 2014 cover a wide range of Russian history.

The Prize, which is now in its second year and runs in association with Waterstones, rewards the best non-fiction writing on Russia.
The shortlisted titles include The Black Russian by Vladimir Alexandrov (Head of Zeus), a biography of Frederick Bruce Thomas, a black American and son of former slaves who made a fortune in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. There is also an expat memoir of 1960s Soviet Moscow by Sheila Fitzpatrick, titled A Spy in the Archives: a Memoir of Cold War Russia (I.B. Tauris), and Owen Matthew’s Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of a Russian America (Bloomsbury) about the eccentric Russian Empire builder.

Also shortlisted are: Red Fortress: the Secret Heart of Russia’s History by Catherine Merridale (Allen Lane), a study of the Kremlin’s past and present; Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: a Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya von Bremzen (Transworld), seven decades of Soviet life explored through food and cookery; and a musical history of the five great nationalist Russian composers of the 19th century titled Musorgsky and His Circle: a Russian Musical Adventure by Stephen Walsh (Faber & Faber).

Williams said the shortlist offers “lively, diverse and expert perspectives on Russia” and “vividly shows the breadth and depth of interest in Russian matters in the English-speaking world”. He added: “These books deal both with ‘mainstream’ cultural and political history and also with utterly unexpected dimensions of the Russian heritage and some unforgettable individuals who have contributed to it.”  
The shortlist, revealed at the Independent Bath Literature Festival today (6th March) was selected by a panel chaired by Dr Rowan Williams  and including Russian crime author Boris Akunin; Catriona Kelly, professor of Russian at New College, Oxford; writer Viv Groskop; and historian Douglas Smith, whose Former People won the inaugural Pushkin House Russian Book Prize in 2013.

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, commented: “Again, this Prize has identified some fascinating writing on an eclectic range of subjects. Many of these books will not have yet reached a wide audience, but they deserve to and the Prize should be commended for throwing light upon them.”
Andrew Jack, journalist at the Financial Times and co-chairman of Pushkin House, said: “We established this Prize to spark debate and a deeper understanding of Russia. With such a stellar and richly diverse shortlist, I am confident that we will achieve just that.”
The winner of the 2014 Prize will be announced on Wednesday 30th April at a ceremony at Pushkin House and will be awarded £5,000.