• Natasha's Dance

  • A Cultural History of Russia
  • By: Orlando Figes
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 29 hrs and 23 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (109 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

History on a grand scale - an enchanting masterpiece that explores the making of one of the world's most vibrant civilizations.

A People's Tragedy, wrote Eric Hobsbawm, did 'more to help us understand the Russian Revolution than any other book I know'.

Now, in Natasha's Dance, internationally renowned historian Orlando Figes does the same for Russian culture, summoning the myriad elements that formed a nation and held it together.  

Beginning in the 18th century with the building of St. Petersburg - a 'window on the West' - and culminating with the challenges posed to Russian identity by the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself - its character, spiritual essence and destiny. 

He skillfully interweaves the great works - by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall - with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons and all the customs of daily life, from food and drink to bathing habits to beliefs about the spirit world. 

Figes' characters range high and low: the revered Tolstoy, who left his deathbed to search for the kingdom of God, as well as the serf girl Praskovya, who became Russian opera's first superstar and shocked society by becoming her owner's wife.  

Like the European-schooled countess Natasha performing an impromptu folk dance in Tolstoy's War and Peace, the spirit of 'Russianness' is revealed by Figes as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory - a powerful force that unified a vast country and proved more lasting than any Russian ruler or state.

©2018 Orlando Figes (P)2018 Audible, Ltd
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Natasha's Dance

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A Kaleidescopic panorama of an enigmatic culture.

There's something very attractive and repulsive about the Russian culture in its Malinowskian sense. One senses even in Tolstoy at his best as an artist. But, this feeling is something vague, and when one tries to find out why, nothing tangible comes out of it. Orlando Figes has filled this large gap with brilliant work in breadth and depth. It is magnificeint.

The reader is splendid, and I cannot recommend this book more highly. Many thanks to the author and the reader for the great pleasure they have afforded me.

6 people found this helpful

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Effusive, energetic, and generous

This cultural history of Russia was exactly what I was looking for in my reading of Russian history. I was particularly interested by Figes discourse on Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol, and Chekhov in the section “In Search of the Russian Soul.” Figes addresses cultural topics in separate sections. His style is clear, energetic and generous. He provides an effusive bibliography for further reading. By and large Ric Jerrom did a good job narrating; however, I found his tempo a bit slow so I boosted the pace to 1.25 and i found it to be a nice average, although I could have moved it to 1.5 to orient to my optimum pace. Overall, Jerrom did a pretty good job, sometimes a little too over dramatized for my taste.

5 people found this helpful

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Very Detailed...Listen at 1.1. or 1.2

I did not know what to expect when I started listening to this. Orlando Figes always writes in such a richness of voice about Russian life and hardships, and with such vividness that the reader feels transported to anther place and time. With this work, Russian culture is fully espoused in every possible way. However, the detail is very overwhelming, and it's easy to get wrapped up in them and lose one's focus. So I highly recommend listening at a faster rate than 1.0 speed. This keeps the reader on his or her toes. It did mine. And it helps with getting bogged down overly detailed segments. I settled at 1.2. Perfect.

Ric Jerron is a masterful reader for this work. Perfect pairing or author and narrator. Looking forward to the next work.

4 people found this helpful

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The heart and soul of Russia

I was planning a trip to Petersburg and needed a comprehensive introduction to not only this great Western Russian city, but also an introduction to the people who made it the link between the east and the west. I was familiar with Pushkin, Chekhov, Doestevsky as well as many other Russian authors, poets and musicians but I was not prepared for the overwhelming contributions to western thought supplied by the creative geniuses of this Asiatic melting pot. Figes’s presentation of the cultural Rus, primarily Pre Revolution was an amazing explosion of information I did not expect. It was a joy traveling through the minds and souls of the Russian people. It was just as much a sad journey following the terrorizing depths and loss of civilization presented through the Stalin and Soviet debacle.
This book is a must read ( or listen)for everyone who would rather learn the post Petrov Russian story through the culture of it’s people rather than through a timeline of events. The book was my best preparation for my first trip to Petersburg.
Andy Wolin aka Andre Pavelovitch Volinsky

4 people found this helpful

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Comprehensive Cultural Study of Russia

Excellent book that will be best enjoyed by those who have a genuine interest in Russia and an extensive introoduction to her history, literature, music and visual arts. Knowledge of the Russian language is not required.

4 people found this helpful

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  • 05-12-21

Great book, miserable narration

The narrator, Ric Jerrom, almost ruins this one by "performing" the text, turning each phrase into a soliloquy. Almost unbearable. Fortunately the book itself is so good it is worth putting up with his preciousness.

1 person found this helpful

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Not an introduction.

Nice book, but I’m not sure that it is a good introduction for someone not already familiar with Russian literature and art. The Sheremetev and Bolkonsky family history was an interesting thread through the entire book.

The performance of the reader was good, but the mispronunciation of Russian names was disturbing. He often misses the position of the accented syllable and vowel a should be used in place of o if it is immediately before the accented syllable.

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amazing!

One of the most amazing works of history that I have ever read! Love that it was based on so many cultural artifacts from Russia

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the Story Behind the Story

Extremely interesting! The hero is Russia herself. Mother Russia has somehow weathered all the storms.

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The History of Russia from the inside out.

Loved the book. I learned much about Russia's history and culture. The author masterfully describes how Natasha's Dance is inherentl in the Russian culture and its people.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Fergus Lamb
  • 12-29-18

Great

a very interesting book, the narrator is the best I've heard on Audible, give him a pay rise.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-16-21

Figes' masterpiece

This book is among the best which handles Russian culture, really eye opening for a westerner. Rated it at 4 stars because I think Figes ran out of space or time as the part about Soviet Russia is too short and focuses too much on high culture. This book definitely isn't the definitive look into the Russian culture. Still among the best though!

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  • M V Curr
  • 07-14-20

wonderful book, important history

very interesting indeed. only complaint is the fake accents adopted by the reader when quoting people, that was very annoying indeed.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-25-19

Best narrator on audible

Ric Jerrom made an already well-written book an absolute joy to listen to. He should train all other audible narrators as he was hands down the best narrator I’ve ever had. Excellent book that helped inform my recent travels to Russia

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dr. John P. O'Dwyer
  • 07-11-22

beautiful

thr reading was superb and content kept me wanting more and more and more

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  • F. Wynn
  • 06-28-22

A Masterpiece

This book should be read by all who love Russia. All the old Russian life is encompassed within.
The information is well researched.
I would recommend this highly. A wonderful book.

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  • Ann
  • 03-27-22

Illuminating history, outstandingly performed

This is a monumental work that I hadn’t been able to finish, let alone handle in book form. Read, superbly by Ric Jerrom, I couldn’t stop listening.
Orlando Figgs writes cultural history with passion, clarity and a scholarly ease which enables my understanding of a complex nation, linking key cultural figures through the narrative giving coherence and context.
A long way from the one dimensional history I endured at school!
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history for the content and fluid writing and the exceptional performance by Ric Jerrom.

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  • A. J. Taylor
  • 02-02-22

We Danced All Night

If you’re interested in Russia then you must read this book. It is a deep dive into Russian history, based on themes, which loosely are in chronological order. From the building of St Petersburg and the European looking court of Peter the Great and the 18th Century aristocracy, to the aftermath of the Napoleonic invasion of 1812. The cultural home of Russia: Moscow, to the influence of eastern cultures. How culture grew in the Soviet Union (fun fact it was repressed and then pre 1917 culture was brought back) to the culture of Russians who fled the terrors of the Bolsheviks. It is a history of folklore, art, music, poetry and famous figures and how they crossed paths to great the Russian identity. In order to understand this fascinating country this is a must read and I was extremely impressed. There is a lot of information in this book and I had to re read chapters to take it all in. However this is not a problem as Orlando Figes is an excellent writer, his style is simply captivating. In spite of this, I have read in other reviews that Figes has basic facts wrong, especially around the Russian language itself, which is a shame and takes away from the overall achievement of the book. There is more than one reference to this and as I result I cannot give this book five starts as it leaves question over his validity.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-27-20

wonderful natasha

Best book about Russian culture ever written by an Englishman. It's all here, the last 200 years