Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge
Rappaport tells the story of the Russian Revolution through a different perspective: that of the foreigners residing in or visiting St. Petersburg (renamed Petrograd when Russia went to war with Germany) in the fateful year of 1917.
Drawing from letters, diaries, newspaper accounts and memoirs by an array of diplomats, servants, journalists, political activists, socialites, and businessmen—some well-known, some now so obscure that the author was unable to trace their later careers—Rappaport gives an engrossing and fast-paced account of the events that terrified some of her observers, gave others a sense of hope, and left all in a perpetual state of suspense. We meet people such as Phil Jordan, chauffeur to the American ambassador, British ambassador Sir George Buchanan and his formidable wife, the American journalistic duo of writer Florence Thompson and photographer Donald Thompson, and suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. We catch glimpses of author Somerset Maugham, sent on a spy mission to Petrograd by the British Secret Intelligence Service, and the American-born Princess Cantacuzène-Speranksy, a granddaughter of Ulysses S Grant. Through their eyes we see the irritations of the revolution, as accommodations and good food become scarce, and its horrors, as when the posh Hotel Astoria is attacked by a mob.
It’s a cliché to say that Rappaport makes revolutionary Russia come alive, but this book does just that. I recommend it highly.