The Empire Must Die

Russia's Revolutionary Collapse, 1900-1917


By Mikhail Zygar

Formats and Prices




$46.00 CAD



  1. Hardcover $36.00 $46.00 CAD
  2. ebook $16.99 $21.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 7, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

From Tolstoy to Lenin, from Diaghilev to Stalin, The Empire Must Die is a tragedy of operatic proportions with a cast of characters that ranges from the exotic to utterly villainous, the glamorous to the depraved.

In 1912, Russia experienced a flowering of liberalism and tolerance that placed it at the forefront of the modern world: women were fighting for the right to vote in the elections for the newly empowered parliament, Russian art and culture was the envy of Europe and America, there was a vibrant free press and intellectual life. But a fatal flaw was left uncorrected: Russia’s exuberant experimental moment took place atop a rotten foundation. The old imperial order, in place for three hundred years, still held the nation in thrall. Its princes, archdukes, and generals bled the country dry during the First World War and by 1917 the only consensus was that the Empire must die.

Mikhail Zygar’s dazzling, in-the-moment retelling of the two decades that prefigured the death of the Tsar, his family, and the entire imperial edifice is a captivating drama of what might have been versus what was subsequently seen as inevitable. A monumental piece of political theater that only Russia was capable of enacting, the fall of the Russian Empire changed the course of the twentieth century and eerily anticipated the mood of the twenty-first.



I am not a historian, but a journalist. As such, this book was written according to the rules of journalism: as if the characters were alive and I had been able to interview them—rather like my previous book, All the Kremlin’s Men.

Fortunately, most of my protagonists told their own stories, having left behind detailed diaries, letters, memoirs, and public statements. In order to recreate the picture of early twentieth-century Russia, I tried to read as many of the available sources as I could. There is no doubt that although many people lied (especially in their memoirs), most did so sincerely, convinced that they were telling the truth.

My primary objective was to view the world through contemporary eyes. I did not have a ready-made answer to the question of why the Russian revolution happened. I did not have a theory that I wanted to prove to the reader; that would have required some fact-filtering. On the contrary, it took me a great deal of work to clear the picture of prejudices and stereotypes, and to peel away the layers of sediment deposited by dozens of professional historians. Many had their own preconceived concepts and off-the-shelf answers. Many looked upon Russia’s revolution as a single, irreversible process.

My protagonists knew—or rather, know—nothing about this. They live their own lives, little suspecting that many years later they will be considered grains of sand in the historical process.

The book starts at the turn of the twentieth century. It is a fascinating time. Many of Russia’s young metropolitan intellectuals—the “noughties” generation—are apolitical and totally unlike the older generation of dissidents. They consider politics to be yesterday’s game, something old-hat and unfashionable. But politics enters their lives uninvited as the tsarist regime stifles creative freedom, banning and blocking arbitrarily. The result is a gradual swelling of mass protest—the first in Russian history, which is only bolstered by the regime’s cack-handed response. During this brief window of opportunity, Russia has a civil society that is active, demanding, and self-aware. Many of the most vibrant figures from this time are forgotten or willfully misunderstood in Russia today.

Russian intellectuals are outraged by the unprovoked shooting of a workers’ demonstration on 9 January 1905, Bloody Sunday, after which the protest mood becomes overwhelming. The creative class demands general elections, a parliament, freedom of speech, and equality before the law. What’s more, it is sure that it will have its way. But the euphoria lasts barely a year. The authorities seem to reach out at first, but soon backtrack on their promises. Yesterday’s optimism gives way to bitter disappointment, and society braces itself for a crackdown. At that point, for many, the time has come to topple the regime.

Curiously, this period—from 1905 to 1914—is regarded by some contemporaries as the most prosperous time in the history of the Russian Empire, a “corpulent” decade, while others see it as a gloomy age of repression, electoral rigging, and nod-and-wink justice. Power and influence fall into the hands of religious radicals and witch-hunters, who demand that cultural figures be biblically “chastised with scorpions” for daring to insult the authorities or the feelings of Orthodox believers. Many intellectuals leave Russia for Europe, where they engage in endless debates about the fate of their homeland. Bizarrely, Europe is also home to many imperial family members and courtiers, who shock the locals with their lavish lifestyle. The intellectual and aristocratic Russian elites are hardly in Russia at this time.

This existence—carefree for some, forlorn for others—comes to an abrupt end with the outbreak of World War I, which no one expects. It is not the war itself that plunges Russia into the abyss, but the fact that the Russian state, with its veritable army of bureaucrats and officials, is unable to cope. The early frontline successes are derailed by corruption and incompetence.

Post factum, the course of history seems logical. Armed with hindsight, we are able to trace the hatching of plans and the exposing of plots; good and evil are clearly labeled. But on stepping into the shoes of history’s participants, our preconceived concepts turn to dust. Nothing is preordained. Everyone is fallible and error-prone. No one can foresee the future even a couple of days ahead. No one can map out their own life—let alone that of a dying empire—because the circumstances are in such flux. Even Lenin is convinced of his imminent failure just hours before his ultimate triumph.

In turning the stories of the dramatis personae into a narrative, I have not attempted to write a complete history of the Russian state. Russian history, in my view, already concentrates too heavily on the state, or rather on the Sovereign, in whatever guise. Russians are accustomed to viewing their history as a set of biographies of leaders—an elegant array of tsars, general secretaries, and presidents behind which Russian society is obscured. What did the people want? What did they fear? For me, what they did and how they went about doing it are far more important than the dreams and desires of the inhabitants of Tsarskoye Selo or the Kremlin. This book is an attempt to tell the history of Russian society, an attempt to study what it strove for and why, by force of popular pressure, the empire had to die.

I selected as my protagonists the most luminous members of society: the leaders and shapers of public opinion—not only politicians, but also writers, journalists, artists, and preachers.

This book is certainly not an academic work. For the sake of the reader, I have taken the liberty of using modern vocabulary and modern geographical names. At the same time, I do not adhere to the customs often found in historical literature: for example, I call the characters by the names that they called themselves and each other, and not as they are usually known in historical literature. Also, in order to speak to the reader in a clear and modern language I provided all the money sums with their today’s equivalents. It should be mentioned that these calculations do not pretend to be absolutely precise, giving only approximate numbers.

This work is the result of the efforts of a huge number of people. First of all, I would like to thank my friends and colleagues from the Future History Lab. We have spent the past two years developing Project1917 (—a unique database of diaries, letters, memoirs, and articles written by people in 1917. All the materials are structured as a series of social media exchanges, creating an online drama that offers a glimpse inside 1917 through the eyes of its inhabitants.

This book would not have been written without the editorial direction of Karen Shainyan, the tenacious editing of Anna Shur, or the help of Pavel Krasovitsky, who performed heroic research in the archives, and organizational efforts of Vera Makarenko. In writing this book, I was greatly assisted by the professional advice of the illustrious historians Kirill Solovyov and Boris Kolonitsky. I also wish to thank Clive Priddle and the whole PublicAffairs team for their patience and professionalism. And I am endlessly grateful to Thomas Hodson for his careful and creative translation of the book into English.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this book to my daughter, Liza. I hope that it will be of interest to her—and her generation. If they can avoid the mistakes that we and the people herein are guilty of, the world will be better for it.

Chapter 1

in which Leo Tolstoy becomes a symbol of the fight against the regime and the main ideologist of the opposition


On 24 February 1901 the Church Gazette, the official magazine of the prerevolutionary Russian Orthodox Church, publishes the text of an edict issued by the Holy Synod on the excommunication of the renowned Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. It is the church’s first excommunication in more than one hundred years, the turbulence of the previous century notwithstanding. But Tolstoy is a special case.

Petersburg society, which considers itself the epitome of modernity, is shocked by such archaism. “It must be the first time such news has been conveyed by telegraph,” quips Tolstoy’s friend, the journalist and writer Vladimir Korolenko. “Excommunication by telegraph is indeed a paradoxical start to the new century.”

The next day, 25 February, papers across the Russian Empire reprint the article in the Church Gazette, from which Tolstoy learns that he is now officially persona non grata. He is in Moscow at the time, on his estate at Khamovniki. According to his wife, Sofia Andreyevna, Count Tolstoy is deeply upset, and the whole family is at a loss: what next?

For many years Tolstoy has lived not so much outside the law as beyond it. His books have been banned, and people imprisoned and exiled for printing and distributing them. Tolstoy’s closest friend and loyal follower, the publisher Vladimir Chertkov, has been expelled from Russia. Yet the persecution has not yet extended to Tolstoy personally, perhaps because the writer is now seventy-two years old.

Formally, the Russian Orthodox Church is not separate from the state, which means that a lapse of faith is a crime punishable under secular laws, including exile or imprisonment. For the past two decades, rumors have circulated that the writer could be dispatched to the Suzdal Monastery, effectively a prison for religious offenders, including a number of Old Believers—members of the Russian Orthodox Church who refused to accept the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon in 1653. But so far Tolstoy has remained at liberty. Will the new edict change that?

Tolstoy used to enjoy the patronage of Emperor Alexander III, who loved to read the writer’s early works in childhood. But the tsar passed away seven years ago, in 1894, at the tender age of fifty. Still very much alive, however, is the tsar’s former tutor and éminence grise, Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev, who is Tolstoy’s peer (just one year older) and sworn enemy. Pobedonostsev also tutored Nicholas II and retains a grandfatherly influence over the new emperor.

On learning of the Holy Synod’s decree, Tolstoy goes into town, where there is public unrest. It has nothing to do with his excommunication: student rioting began in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in 1899 when a university rector ordered that the most politically active students should be conscripted. Battles have been raging in Russia’s two capitals ever since, and February 1901 has seen a new surge. Tolstoy arrives at Lubyanka Square in central Moscow* and gets mixed up in a brawl between students and police. News of his excommunication has already spread through the city, and the writer is recognized by the students. In between throwing punches, they give him an ovation.

But not everyone is supportive. “Look, it’s the devil in human form,” someone shouts at Tolstoy on Lubyanka Square. “The mood of the crowd was split between adoration and loathing. Tolstoy hailed a cab and quickly drove off,” is how police officer Alexander Spiridovich later describes the scene. “If there hadn’t been so many students, I could have been beaten up,” recalls the writer himself.

Waiting for him back at the house are letters from total strangers. On opening them, he realizes that the persecution has begun: “You will die like a dog and rot in hell!”, “If the government doesn’t get rid of you, we will,” and “I’ll come and get you, you scum” are some of the more polite sentiments. “Even face-to-face some people expressed similar animosity,” writes Tolstoy.

Not all the messages are hostile, but Tolstoy does not note them in his diary.

The Ministry of Interior prohibits all discussion of the Holy Synod’s edict, and the ensuing lull generates plenty of rumor and speculation. Vladimir Chertkov, exiled in England, is frantic with worry about stories of Tolstoy’s arrest and showers his friend with telegrams. Pobedonostsev watches for the hateful (in his eyes) intelligentsia to react to the Holy Synod’s decision, despite the fact that officially all publications on this topic are forbidden by the censor. Even Emperor Nicholas II is perturbed by the hullabaloo surrounding Tolstoy, for he does not like scandals. He summons the ageing Pobedonostsev and asks indignantly why he was not consulted before the decision was taken to excommunicate Tolstoy. Pobedonostsev, whose official title is ober-procurator of the Holy Synod (essentially, “minister of the church”) smiles in reply: “What do you mean? I came and showed you the text. You just weren’t paying attention.”

Pobedonostsev, the personal tutor of two emperors, has a low opinion of Nicholas II. He often recalls how the young tsar would stand there picking his nose while being advised about state business.


The now-excommunicated Leo Tolstoy’s position in Russia is undoubtedly remarkable. At the age of seventy-two he is one of the most famous people in Russia, yet for the past twenty years he has been at war with the state.

Step back to 1880, and Tolstoy is to be found about to undergo a spiritual revolution. “My father’s Orthodox faith ended quite unexpectedly,” describes Tolstoy’s son, Ilya. “It was Lent. A special meal was prepared for my father and others who were fasting, while the young children, governesses and tutors were served meat. A servant had just put the meat dish on the table when my father turned to me (I always sat next to him) and said, pointing to the meat: ‘Ilyushka, pass me a meat chop, there’s a good lad. No, I haven’t forgotten it’s Lent, but I’m not going to fast anymore, so no more Lenten fare for me.’ To everyone’s dismay, he ate it up and licked his lips. Seeing our father’s attitude to Lent, we soon became indifferent to religion.”

In terms of global cultural impact, those meat chops can be compared to the Ninety-Five Theses that Martin Luther allegedly nailed to the door of Wittenberg Church in 1517. By renouncing Lent, Tolstoy embarks on his own reformation of Christianity.

Having mastered Ancient Greek, Tolstoy writes his own version of the New Testament in 1880-1881 entitled The Gospel in Brief. At heart it is a psychological novel about a young Jesus who is not the son of God, rather his mother Mary knows only that his father is not her husband Joseph. Aware of this fact, Jesus experiences a profound internal drama. His conversations with the devil, for instance, are presented by Tolstoy as an inner dialogue between Jesus and himself. Tolstoy’s text makes no mention of miracles, for he does not believe in them, and his Gospel ends with Jesus dying on the cross—with no resurrection to speak of. Tolstoy’s Christ is an ordinary man, a teacher, and a philosopher, but possessing exemplary moral fiber. For Tolstoy, Christ’s gift to mankind lies in his love for humanity, ability to forgive, and rejection of violence, not in ecclesiastical rites.

Tolstoy rejects what the church has become, along with all its rituals, because all they do is divide the Christian world. He sees himself as the creator and founder of a new universal Christianity, free of impurities. Interestingly, in Tolstoy’s Gospel the word “Pharisees” is replaced with pravoslavniye, or “orthodox,” meaning those who worship correctly—which is not in fact a literal translation.

Tolstoy knows that The Gospel in Brief cannot be published in Russia, so the book is printed in Switzerland. It only appears in Russia in 1906, and even then not in its entirety. Tolstoy’s version of the New Testament is followed by the novel Confession, the treatise What I Believe, and other religious works. His spiritual transformation completely changes his life and upsets his wife. Countess Sofia does not accept her husband’s new religion and ceases to be his creative helper and muse. Tolstoy’s new “spiritual partner” and chief promoter of his ideas is now Vladimir Chertkov. Sometime in the 1880s, Chertkov and Sofia Tolstoy develop a mutual antipathy for each other, which lasts a lifetime.

Tolstoy’s attitude to his work, status, and success also changes. The copyright to all his works printed before 1881 he transfers to his family, and all those printed afterwards he declares to be in the public domain. The pre-1881 period, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina, he considers less important. Many years later, in response to guests eulogizing about his great novels, he would say: “It’s like praising Edison for being able to dance the mazurka.” Henceforth, he regards only his religious writings as worthy of attention.

And it is his religious musings that turn Tolstoy into an underground writer, for publishers are no longer allowed to print his works in Russia. Yet his teaching continues to spread. There is a spike in the number of army recruits who refuse to serve, citing that they are followers of Tolstoy and that violence goes against their religious beliefs. The “Tolstoyans,” as they are known, continue to multiply, despite the state’s persecution of them.

But Tolstoy himself remains untouched, which displeases him. All around, people are under threat, yet he seems to live in a vacuum. He himself would be happy to suffer punishment. In 1890 Tolstoy holds a conversation with the religious philosopher Konstantin Leontiev, a staunch opponent of his: “It’s a pity, sir, that there is so little fanaticism inside me,” an angry Leontiev says to Tolstoy. “For I would surely send a letter to Saint Petersburg, where I have connections, and ask that you be exiled to Tomsk, and for your wife and daughters not to visit you, and for you to be provided with very little wherewithal. You, sir, are positively harmful!” “My dear, Konstantin!” replies the writer. “For God’s sake, please do write that letter. That is my dream. I’m doing everything I can to endanger myself, yet the government turns a blind eye. I implore you to write it.”

Tolstoy’s protection comes from Emperor Alexander III himself, who values his worth as a writer and reasons that martyrdom would only disseminate his ideas even more. Although Tolstoy’s new works are not printed, his popularity grows thanks to his social activity. In 1891, central Russia is hit by a famine. Tolstoy travels to Ryazan and opens up a provincial network of soup kitchens, collecting huge amounts of money to help the starving. On one of his trips he learns that a local priest is telling the starving peasants not to accept help from Tolstoy, because he is the Antichrist. And many take it to heart. Tolstoy’s daughter, Tatiana, remembers being told by the starving, as she tried to help them, “Go away, my dear, and take your bread with you. We don’t need alms from the Antichrist.” Afterwards, the peasants begin to realize that Tolstoy does not mean them any harm and start to wonder why the clergy call him the Antichrist.

Just a few years later several thousand people will describe themselves as Tolstoyans in the Russian Imperial Census of 1897.

Meanwhile, the teaching is denounced as a harmful sect, and the struggle against it is headed by none other than the omnipotent “Minister of the Church” Pobedonostsev. Yet even he is powerless to do anything against Tolstoy himself. Censoring Tolstoy’s work brings him into conflict with the tsar. Alexander III overrides Pobedonostsev and personally allows the publication of The Kreutzer Sonata, despite the censor having banned it. Yet Pobedonostsev scores a minor victory by stopping a staging of The Power of Darkness, despite the fact that Alexander III has seen a rehearsal at the Alexandrinsky Theatre and is reported to have enjoyed it.


But in 1894 Tolstoy’s protector dies. His successor, the twenty-six-year-old Nicholas II, is interested in neither politics, nor the elderly Tolstoy, nor the equally elderly Pobedonostsev, who intimidates the young tsar. Nicholas learns from Pobedonostsev one thing: imperial power comes from God and any form of constitution from the devil.

Nicholas II’s rule gets off to a bad start. After the coronation the tsar receives delegations from various provinces. During a meeting with a group of subjects from Tver, he reads out a written speech in which he says that all hopes for representative government are nothing but “senseless daydreams.”

Petersburg society is prepared to forgive the tsar’s poorly worded “mission statement,” but Tolstoy is enraged. He writes an article entitled “Senseless Daydreams”—perhaps the most complete exposition of his political views on record—in which he verbally lays into the young emperor.

Having condemned the “insolence of the young lordling,” Tolstoy concludes that the monarchy in its present form is a danger to Russia:

This huge country with a population of over 100 million is managed by one person. And this person is appointed by accident of birth, not according to merit.… No one of sound mind would get inside a cab or a train if the driver did not know how to control the vehicle, but the driver’s father supposedly did. And no one would board a boat with a captain whose only seafaring pedigree stems from the fact that he is the great-nephew of a man who once commanded the vessel. No sensible person would put his family’s life in the hands of such a driver or captain, yet all of us live in a state that is run—and absolutely at that—by the sons and great-nephews of rulers who were themselves no good at managing people.

After giving the monarchy a tongue-lashing, Tolstoy turns his attention to the bureaucracy, concluding that it is Russia’s army of civil servants, and not the emperor, that effectively rules Russia.

Tolstoy ends the article by naming the civil servant who irritates him the most: Pobedonostsev. He is a symbol of the regime, a man who “befuddles and corrupts the people.” It is a direct challenge to the state, as if Tolstoy were deliberately trying to humiliate the powers-that-be and provoke them into punishing him. But still the authorities do not react.


In the early years of the reign of Nicholas II, Tolstoy begins his most high-profile social campaign in defense of the Doukhobors, a Christian sect that is very close to him spiritually, since they reject the rituals of the Orthodox Church and any form of violence. In 1895, the Doukhobor community near Tiflis (today’s Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia) burns all the weapons it possesses as a protest against forced conscription. The oppression of them intensifies as a result, and they are put in prison, sent to serve in penal battalions, or exiled.

Tolstoy and Chertkov launch a wide-reaching campaign in support of the Doukhobors, whose persecution is soon global news. Tolstoy has the idea of helping the Doukhobors to emigrate to places where they will not be pursued. China, Cyprus, and Hawaii are among the options.

He begins raising money and even considers reversing his decision to forsake royalties. He quickly puts the finishing touches to a new novel Resurrection so that all the money from its publication can be given to the Doukhobors.

Tolstoy’s human rights activism goes unpunished, but his publisher Chertkov is exiled. In 1897 he moves to England (not the harshest punishment for a journalist fluent in English), where he becomes Tolstoy’s mouthpiece in the Western world. While in London, Chertkov seeks new ways to help the Doukhobors. The political émigré approaches another native of Russia, Prince Peter Kropotkin, who has lived in exile for more than twenty years, since 1876. The famous geographer, who uncovered the phenomenon of the Ice Age and wrote what are considered classics of anarchist literature, also supports the Doukhobors. Kropotkin’s scientific expeditions have repeatedly taken him to Canada, which, he concludes, is geologically akin to Siberia. He suggests that Canada be the new home of the Doukhobor community.

The great resettlement begins in 1898. At Batumi Port in modern-day Georgia, more than eight thousand people board ships chartered by Tolstoy for Quebec and Halifax. The massive operation to rescue the Doukhobors from state repression comes to an end in 1900, demonstrating that Tolstoy is virtually independent of the Russian authorities.


Nevertheless, the authorities, not to mention the church, are vexed. But still nothing happens. Until, that is, Tolstoy falls seriously ill. In 1899 press reports suggest that the writer’s days are numbered. The higher ranks of the Holy Synod are not quite sure what to do if Tolstoy dies. One member of the church hierarchy, the Archbishop of Kharkov, pens the first draft of what will become the edict to excommunicate Tolstoy from the church. In 1900, the oldest member of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Ioanniky of Kiev, sends a secret letter forbidding all priests in Russia to perform a funeral service for Tolstoy. But the writer recovers, and instead it is the Metropolitan of Kiev who soon departs for the next world.

His successor as elder of the Holy Synod is Metropolitan Anthony of Saint Petersburg, who has a reputation as a liberal, and he decides to get things over and done with. Since the decision to excommunicate Tolstoy has already been made, he decides to publish the secret circular penned by his predecessor and have it approved by the state curator of the church (i.e., Pobedonostsev). But the latter amends the text, making it even more puritanical, and his is the version that ends up in the Church Gazette*, signed by seven bishops: Anthony and six other metropolitans. Pobedonostsev declines to put his name to the document.

The edict lists the charges against Tolstoy: preaching the overthrow of Orthodox dogma and denying the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the resurrection, life after death, the Day of Judgment, and all the sacraments of the church. Tolstoy is accused of having “consciously and deliberately torn himself from all communion with the Church,” so that he cannot be considered a member of the flock until he repents. The document ends with a short prayer for Tolstoy, asking God to make him see reason.

Even inside the imperial court, the seventy-two-year-old Pobedonostsev is not held in high esteem. “I’ve read the Holy Synod’s edict regarding Tolstoy. What a load of nonsense. It’s a personal vendetta. It’s clear that Pobedonostsev is behind it and just wants to attack Tolstoy,” writes Vladimir Lebedev, a legal adviser to the government.

Why does Pobedonostsev hate Tolstoy so much when the two men have never even met? Members of the intelligentsia believe they know the answer. Twenty-five years earlier, when Anna Karenina was published, readers began searching for prototypes. Konstantin Levin was clearly the author himself. But who was Karenin—the senior official (powerful, but titleless), whose wife’s infidelity is public knowledge? Pobedonostsev’s wife, Ekaterina, was twenty-one years younger than her husband and rumored to be in a relationship with a military officer. It was even said that after the novel’s publication Ekaterina had begun to dress like Anna Karenina.


  • "This is the kind of historical narrative I like the most: unbiased, balanced, unemotional, and really thrilling at the same time. That's a pretty unique combination."—Boris Akunin, bestselling author and historian
  • "An immensely compelling work....A journalist, Zygar approaches history like he's interviewing it - listening to what those involved had to say and expertly putting that in context. The result is a riveting unfolding of history as it was being lived - and imperfectly understood - by those in the middle....If you want a book that's unlike the avalanche of other Revolutionary titles, that's well researched and better written, that transforms bit players of history into people you feel you know, that lets you experience the death shudders of an era at a century's remove, then The Empire Must Die must be read."—Foreign Policy
  • "We seem to forget how to look back in the past and learn from it; it's a pretty crucial skill for a society that wants to maintain a healthy political environment, though. Zygar is one of those important thinkers who helps us to not lose our memory and, thus, our heads."—Nadya Tolokonnikova, Pussy Riot
  • "By analyzing archives, historical documents, memoirs, [Zygar] created a sort of patchwork that introduces to readers very diverse political and cultural figures - from classic writers Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky to revolutionaries Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin; from ministers Sergei Witte and Pyotr Stolypin to popular leaders of the public protest.... This book is worth describes the country's history through the lenses of the Russian society, not only from the point of view of statesmen and the ruler....the main goal of Zygar's book is to prove that every member of society can contribute to the development of a country's history and make difference."—
  • "Zygar has written a riveting account....A vivid sense of real-time chaos, confusion, and the multitude of ideas for bringing Russia into the 20th century is well documented in a readable journalistic manner.... This lively depiction of prerevolutionary and revolutionary Russia will interest both readers with little background who are curious to learn about this pivotal historical time and those who would like a fresh perspective."—Library Journal
  • "Zygar brings a reporter's eye to history and The Empire Must Die is packed with the sort of fantastic detail for which any newspaper editor would kill."—The Calvert Journal
  • "A combination of unbiased narration and primary source material, The Empire Must Die is a valuable resource, and a readable, often exciting, introduction to modern Russian history."—Historical Novel Society

On Sale
Nov 7, 2017
Page Count
576 pages

Mikhail Zygar

About the Author

Mikhail Zygar is the former editor in chief of the only independent TV station in Russia, TV Rain (Dozhd). Previously, he worked for Newsweek Russia and the business daily Kommersant. Zygar was awarded the 2014 International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Learn more about this author