Top 5: Russian reads

Following the success of the BBC's adaptation of War and Peace, we select our top five Russian reads

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 3 May 2016, 12:00 BST, Updated 7 Jul 2021, 13:10 BST
Two classic Russian novels
Two classic Russian novels

01 War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
Considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written, Tolstoy's masterpiece is set during Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. Packed with a rich cast of wonderful characters, its brilliance lies in the combination of small-scale family matters with exhaustive accounts of war and politics.

02 Doctor Zhivago Boris Pasternak
A tale of love, loss and struggle for survival during the Russian Revolution, Pasternak's classic may be the most sublime love story ever written. More than a just a simple tale of the relationship between main protagonists Yuri and Lara, it offers readers a fascinating insight into early twentieth-century Rusia.

03 The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoyevsky
A passionate, philosophical novel set in nineteenth-century Russia, The Brothers Karamazv is Dostoyevsky's largest, most ambitious piece of work. Completed just a few months before the author's death, this part murder-mystery, part exploration of faith is filled with memorable scenes and profound reflections.

04 A Hero of our Time Mikhail Lermontov
A brilliant precursor to the great Russian novels of the nineteenth century, this is the story of Pechorin (the anti-hero of the title), a Russian officer posted to the Caucasus. Lermontov's writing delivers wondrously evocative descriptions of the Caucasus region.

05 Russia Jonathan Dimbleby
Based on a 10,000-mile journey the author made from Murmansk to Vladivostok in 2007, this 500-page tome is big, bold and beautifully written. It's an essential read for those looking to learn more about one of the world's most fascinating —yet least understood — countries.

Read more about Tolstoy's St Petersburg in the June 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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