Molotov’s Secret Lantern

Molotov’s Secret Lantern: Uncovering Russia’s Secret History by Rachel Polonsky

It was completely inevitable that I would read a book with this title. In fact I heard a review on Radio 4 and marked it out, but for some reason never got it. Back in August I got an email from Amazon listing books about Russia, I had most of them, but not this, and so I bought it. Just showing the value of that type of marketing.

It is an interesting book, and hard to completely pigeonhole into one category, it can be read on many levels. Russian political and cultural history, history of the Soviet nomenklatura, travelogue, architectural description of Moscow, etc… Really just an incredible amount of material, she is probably an interesting person to walk through Moscow with.

But the theme that came through the most was the love of books it promotes. It had many good quotes/ideas about books. One I remember is the story of Alexander Men who used to say that books found their way to him, like relatives and friends arriving at a birthday celebration. I like this idea.

I would have liked notes and pictures.

Finally, I’m sorry about the business with the fake review from Orlando Figes, it is obviously not something he can remember with pride, and while it perhaps helped with publicity for the book, it is not really the point about the book.


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