Russian culture: Six thrill rides through Soviet history shortlisted for 2019 Pushkin House Book Prize

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The 2019 shortlist for the Pushkin House Book Prize, which honors English-language nonfiction about the Russian-speaking world, was announced today in Moscow. This year’s shortlist is a boon for Soviet history buffs, with every finalist shedding light at least in part on the events of the mid- and late 20th century.

The complete list of shortlisted titles is as follows:

The prize’s panel of judges have emphasized that they aim to promote works that are accessible and engaging as well as informative, and the works they chose do come from a group of writers who have a record of publishing widely popular books.

Both 1983 and Chernobyl center on the often catastrophic technological and military tensions of the 1980s by following world leaders on the brink of nuclear war and recreating nuclear disaster, respectively. Plokhy is a previous winner of the Pushkin Prize for The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union. Maybe Esther approaches the 20th century from a more personal angle, tracing the author’s remarkable family history in a series of meditative reflections. To See Paris and Die also shines a spotlight on everyday people as an influx of Western cultural products into the Soviet Union activates their imaginations. The Vory and The Spy and the Traitor will appeal to political drama fans: the former explores the unusual counterculture of high-ranked Russian organized criminals, and the latter describes the risky escape of a high-ranking British double agent from the Soviet Union.


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