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Verk av Alan Philps


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Overall, I don't think that this book breaks any new ground, but the stories of ordinary Russians trying to navigate the minefield of Stalin"s Great Terror were compelling. This account should serve as yet another warning against allowing authoritarian governments to take hold.
Anitaw16 | 3 andra recensioner | Feb 22, 2024 |
Interesting account of the issues that faced journalists attempting to cover World War II from the USSR, given the severe restrictions and severe suspicions they were under. Part of the book is set in flashbacks to earlier times, and there's a fairly extensive post-war section, both dealing with the Russians that worked with the journalists. While interesting, it did tend to break up the flow of the narrative. Overall, though, a good read.
EricCostello | 3 andra recensioner | Jan 16, 2024 |
I read "The Red Hotel" alongside Orlando Figes' "The Story of Russia". They make a great pairing. Figes, who has published several books on Russian political and cultural history, provides an overview of 1000+ years of history to track the Russian origin myth up to and through the war in Ukraine. Alan Philps focuses on the journalists who were clustered in the Hotel Metropol during WW2 and especially on the Russian women who acted as their translators and fixers (plus sometimes lovers and spies). Figes provides a cultural background while Philps presents it's practical implementation.

It is popularly believed that Lenin created the Bolshevik propaganda machine that created the glorious vision of the USSR, but reading Figes helps us to understand that Russia has always relied on fiction to refine itself and that Soviet and post-Soviet control of news was little different. Russia has never had a free press and open discussion of ideas.

Figes shows us a Russia that focused its nationalism on the person of the Tsar and that this imagining did not wane in the modern era. Military and political heroes and the Communist Party have served in this role as well. Today we have the cult of Putin. During WW2 there was the cult of Stalin.

Clustering the foreign press corps in Hotel Metropol served Stalin's government by making it easier to keep a watch on possibly dangerous activities and also to present a fiction of plenty in the form of hot water and good food at a time when peasants were starving. The journos enjoyed these luxuries and the useful camaraderie of shared work resources and the congenial social life of living together, but they were not deceived. Individuals varied, though, on their willingness to push against the system in an attempt to do good work.

No one in Moscow or at the international newspapers who published the stories filed from Moscow believed that the stories were accurate. Russians were forbidden to consort with foreigners and government press officers were careful to keep the press corps away from seeing anything that was not carefully orchestrated. Again, some reporters fought harder against these restrictions than others.

The Red Hotel is a popular book, not scholarly, and it is fun to read, especially if you ever visited the USSR. My heart is broken to read that Hotel Metropol has been remodeled to death. I have not stayed there but I have stayed in the Hotel Ukraina and visited many old, architecturally wonderful buildings in Vladivostok.

I want to thank the publishers of this book for putting the footnotes at the bottom of each page instead of as endnotes. I want to scold the editors for not assuring that the footnotes were all in the same style.
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Dokfintong | 3 andra recensioner | Dec 8, 2023 |
‘In 1941 two characteristic traits of the Metropol’s history – its louche reputation and its role as a place to hoodwink influential foreigners – came together in its role as the wartime press centre’, Alan Philps tells the reader of his engaging and insightful account of foreign correspondents living in the Moscow landmark during the Second World War. The hotel also housed journalists in very different circumstances on the last day of the last century. Fears over the ‘millennium bug’ were such that some of the international correspondents then resident in the Russian capital were put up there overnight lest their flats and offices lose power. In the event, something did occur on 31 December 1999 that changed the future of Russia, but it was not a failure of the country’s computers. It was the day that Boris Yeltsin’s surprise resignation as Russian president handed the keys of the Kremlin to Vladimir Putin. He is, of course, yet to hand them on.

This is just one of the reasons why, Philps persuasively argues, the subject of the Metropol – the hotel of the title – is more topical than ever. He reminds us that, under Putin, ‘the Red Army’s victory in what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War is the origin of the militaristic spirit that Putin has instilled in the Russian people during his two decades in power’. It is also instructive, at a time when relations between Russia and the West are by far the worst they have been since the end of the Cold War, to read of a time when bitter ideological enemies were allies. This was a time when Stalin sent Churchill birthday greetings. The correspondents who are the book’s subjects had an important role in sustaining that alliance. As Philps writes, ‘supplies of American and British tanks, aircraft, lorries and other war materiel needed to bolster the struggling Red Army against Nazi Germany depended on positive reports coming out of Moscow from a supposedly independent foreign press’.

The emphasis here is on ‘supposedly’. Philps is clear-eyed about the loyalties some of the correspondents had to people other than their editors and audiences. Ralph Parker came to Moscow having already done work for British intelligence during another posting, but Philps records that the Foreign Office were concerned at how quickly, after his arrival in the Soviet capital, he ‘had been converted from a trustworthy informant of the Secret Intelligence Service – which had endorsed his appointment to Moscow – to an asset of Kremlin propaganda’. Charlotte Haldane arguably went the other way. Haldane – a pioneering British woman among the almost-exclusively male press corps – arrived in the wartime Soviet Union a convinced communist, angered by her experiences working as an air-raid warden in London. During a rare tour to the front that Philps recreates in its muddy and dangerous detail, the correspondents were allowed to meet a captured German aircrew. Haldane discovered that one of them had also bombed Britain. ‘I remembered the corpses of mothers and little children I had inspected as part of my duties, in St Pancras Mortuary’, she later wrote. Of the young German airman, she concluded, ‘I could not see any hope, in a civilized world, for such as he’.

Read the rest at HistoryToday.com

James Rodgers is the author of Assignment Moscow: Reporting on Russia from Lenin to Putin and a former BBC Moscow correspondent.
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HistoryToday | 3 andra recensioner | Aug 7, 2023 |


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