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NONFICTION

THE RUSSIAN CENTURY: A Photographic History of Russia’s 100 Years. Text by Brian Moynahan, photographs researched by Annabel Merullo and Sarah Jackson (Random House: $45; 320 pp.) While most books of photographs are intent on making the unfamiliar familiar, this collection of 327 mostly unpublished shots has the opposite effect: it makes you gasp with astonishment at its uncanny selection of scenes and situations that seem too vivid and unexpected to be real. One photo, a long-suppressed 1923 look at a catatonic Lenin, the unwilling victim of a serious stroke, has become a revisionist icon, but other shots are equally arresting: the csarinas (above), a restless Svetlana Stalin squirming on Lavrenti Beria’s knee, Leonid Brezhnev equally ill-at-ease with his granddaughter, the czar’s family looking more human than we’ve ever seen them. Violence and horror are a strong theme, with looks at peasants reduced to cannibalism, the hanging of Father Gapon and the bomb wreckage intended for the Czar’s minister Stolypin. The book’s extensive captions and text by prize-winning journalist Moynahan are solidly done, but it is doubtful many people will investigate them closely. The pictures are that engrossing.


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