Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy

Written by Douglas Smith
Review by Kathryn Johnson

In his brilliant, insightful study of the disappearance of two of the noble families of Russia—the Sheremetevs and Golitsyns—Douglas Smith notes: “History, we are told, is written by the victors. What is less often stated…is that history is usually written about the victors.” And therefore we can read much about the Bolsheviks, but the nobility were no longer written about, or even dared to be spoken of, after 1917. Only in recent times have their stories come to light for historians.

Smith chronicles the terrifying fate of these two families: exile for the lucky ones; imprisonment, forced labor and execution for others. This is as accurate a picture as we have of the upheaval of a great and powerful elite, vividly portrayed through letters, documents, and diaries. A deeply moving, accurate and compassionate treatment of the lost aristocracy of Russia.