Donald Rayfield

The Boy Scout & the Butcher

The Last of the Tsars: Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution


Macmillan 282pp £25 order from our bookshop

Lenin the Dictator: An Intimate Portrait


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 569pp £25 order from our bookshop

These two books, published to coincide with the centenary of the Russian Revolution, are linked by the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. This event forms the climax of Robert Service’s magnificent account of the Tsar’s last years and is just one of the atrocities to appear in Victor Sebestyen’s ‘Intimate Portrait’ of Lenin. But the only things that victim and murderer had in common were an inability to distinguish the trivial from the important and a conviction that they incarnated some non-human power: the Tsar believed that he had been anointed by God; Lenin regarded the Russian Revolution as the consequence of a Hegelian historical process.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,
    • 'It is a scent of animal wrath, of instinctive need, of brutal life which affects the cultured nostrils of our civi… ,