“Molotov’s Magic Lantern: A Journey into Russian History” – Talk by Dr Rachel Polonsky, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

Dr Rachel Polonsky presented her new book, “Molotov’s Magic Lantern”, which is a refreshingly personal, sincere and thorough attempt at understanding Russia’s history and people.

“Rachel Polonsky’s book starts with serendipity – she rents a flat directly beneath Vyacheslav Molotov’s old apartment in central Moscow and is given access to remnants of his library and to his magic lantern; like Tatyana in Eugene Onegin’s deserted library, she proves adept at reconstructing the person from underlinings and fingernail indentations…” (Sunday Times)

Molotov was Stalin’s Foreign Minister and one of his vicious henchmen – using his personal library as a starting point, Rachel Polonsky set off on an incredible voyage through Russian past and present, myth and reality.

We had an opportunity to follow her from Sandunov’s Baths in Moscow to Russian dachas, where the 19th century country gentry, Soviet scientists, and Communist Party bosses alike mingled and lazed in summer, to Staraya Russa – an obscure provincial setting of Dostoevsky’s Devils, to Novgorod, Rostov, Taganrog, Vologda, Solovki, and, finally, to Siberia, where she met the Shamans, recalled the Decembrists, the last days of Nicholas II, and the still imprisoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky…

There was a lively reception afterwards, with vivid further discussions, and Rachel sold and signed many copies of her book.

Venue: Gordon Cameron Lecture Theatre, Fitzwilliam College, Storey’s Way, Cambridge CB3 0DG
Time and Date: 21st March 2011, 7:30pm

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