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Russian Language Mentor's
Recommended Readings, Films and Websites
If you were to read just ONE work in English by each of
the great 19th century Russian authors,
the RLM recommends the following:
If you were to read just ONE novel in all of Russian literature,
the RLM recommends:
- Mikhail Bulgakov - The Master and Margarita.
An online version of the Russian original is available HERE.
You can also link to an English version HERE.
The following NON-FICTION books related to Russian culture
are highly recommended:
- Suzanne Massie - Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia
(Simon and Schuster, 1980.).
Published in 1980, Ms. Massie's wonderful study of Russian culture remains
the most readable and interesting work on Russian culture available.
- James Billington - The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History
of Russian Culture. (Vintage Books, 1970.)
Dr. Billington is the Librarian of Congress and a Russian scholar. This
thick book is brilliant and the closest one has gotten to explaining the
Russian mind and soul.
- James Billington - The Face of Russia.(Harper Collins, 1998.)
The text that gave rise to the PBS series noted below in "Websites."
- Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia. (Oxford University
There are a lot of Russian history books out there, some better than others.
Riasanovsky's is one of the best, both for reading and for research.
- George Fedotov, The Russian Religious Mind (Harvard University
Sixty-some years old and still the best work on the topic. You might find
a copy at your library or online at a used book website. Worth reading
- John Fennel, A History of the Russian Church to 1448 (Longman,
Another important work on the Russian religious mind. This one is still
- Joanna Hubbs, Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture
(Indiana University Press, 1988.)
A very important work on matriarchical themes in Russian culture. Also
offers interesting insights into Russian pegan rituals.
- S. John Ross, Russia: Empire, Enigma, Epic (Steven Jackson
Games, www.sjgames.com; ISBN 1-55634-258-6)
In his quest to bring you the best, the RLM wandered into a Gen-X
game/book/resource store in the basement of a shop on Franklin Street
in Chapel Hill, NC, and stumbled upon this "book." It's intended as a
GURPS system resource for, I guess, playing some game. Who cares! It's
a great resource, with excellent essays on the history, folklore and culture
of Old Russia.
- Serge Zenkovsky, Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales
(E.P. Dutton, 1963.)
The best anthology in English for works ranging from the "Primary Chronicle"
to the "Life of the Archpriest Avvakum by Himself." Excellent introduction
and notes supplement the translations.
The following FILMS are highly recommended by the RLM
and by your fellow users:
- Sergey Eisenstein -
- The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
- Alexander Nevsky (1938)
- Ivan the Terrible, Part 1 (1943)
- Nikita Mikhalkov -
- Oblomov (1979) - a wonderful picture of 19th century
Russian life in general and of "Oblomovism" in particular.
- Burnt by the Sun - Mikhalkov's classic film on Stalin
- Andrei Tarkovsky -
- Andrei Rublev - it might be about a Medieval monk icon
painter but it is also one of the greatest films ever made!
- King Vidor -
- War and Peace (1956) - you can read the 1500 page book
or you can watch this 3 1/2 hour movie starring Audrey Hepburn (as
- Sergei Bondarchuk -
- War and Peace (VOINA I MIR) (1967) - you can read the
1500 page book or you can watch this 6 3/4 hour movie and work on
your Russian to boot!
- David Lean -
- Dr. Zhivago - based on Pasternak's novel on the Revolution
and Civil War, this remains one of the greatest epic films on Russia.
Of course, you'll come away from it humming "Lara's Theme," but it's
a minor side effect that gradually fades away - until you open a music
- Woody Allen -
- Love and Death (1975) - "the greatest parody of Russian
literature ever made!" - V.T.
- Others -
- Prisoner of the Mountains (Kavkazkij Plennik) - Leo Tolstoy's
famous tale retold in a modern Chechen setting.
- Zhizn' i neobychajnye priklyucheniya soldata Ivana Chonkina - based on Vladimir Voinovich's story, "possibly the funniest movie
ever made!"- M.R.B.