100 books like For Prophet and Tsar

By Robert D. Crews,

Here are 100 books that For Prophet and Tsar fans have personally recommended if you like For Prophet and Tsar. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Child of Christian Blood: Murder and Conspiracy in Tsarist Russia: The Beilis Blood Libel

Stefan B. Kirmse Author Of The Lawful Empire: Legal Change and Cultural Diversity in Late Tsarist Russia

From my list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

You can experience Russia by exploring the churches and palaces of St Petersburg and Moscow. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not my approach. For me, it has always made more sense to look at the largest country on earth from its edges, the distant mountains, steppes, forests, and waters that surround it. For three decades, I have travelled across this space, studied its languages, written books and articles about it. And I have tried to look through the lens of the diverse peoples and cultures that have been part of Russian history, for better or worse. The rise and fall of the Russian Empire are unthinkable without them.    

Stefan's book list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire

Stefan B. Kirmse Why did Stefan love this book?

This early 20th-century courtroom drama, set in late imperial Kiev, is a truly satisfying read: suspenseful and riveting, yet also persuasive as a scholarly work.

I have rarely come across an academic book on the Russian Empire so difficult to put down, with virtually every chapter ending on a cliffhanger.

Telling the true story of a ritual murder charge against a Jewish factory clerk in 1911, his sufferings, and ultimate acquittal, the book is a meticulously researched and deeply captivating story of desperation and hope.

I might disagree with some of its claims about the judiciary, and yet, with its multitude of Jewish, Russian, and Ukrainian actors and ever more unexpected twists, the story told is as multilayered and diverse as the late imperial court system as a whole. 

By Edmund Levin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Child of Christian Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Jewish factory worker is falsely accused of ritually murdering a Christian boy in Russia in 1911, and his trial becomes an international cause célèbre.
 
On March 20, 1911, thirteen-year-old Andrei Yushchinsky was found stabbed to death in a cave on the outskirts of Kiev. Four months later, Russian police arrested Mendel Beilis, a thirty-seven-year-old father of five who worked as a clerk in a brick factory nearby, and charged him not only with Andrei’s murder but also with the Jewish ritual murder of a Christian child. Despite the fact that there was no evidence linking him to the crime,…


Book cover of The Volga: A History of Russia's Greatest River

Stefan B. Kirmse Author Of The Lawful Empire: Legal Change and Cultural Diversity in Late Tsarist Russia

From my list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

You can experience Russia by exploring the churches and palaces of St Petersburg and Moscow. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not my approach. For me, it has always made more sense to look at the largest country on earth from its edges, the distant mountains, steppes, forests, and waters that surround it. For three decades, I have travelled across this space, studied its languages, written books and articles about it. And I have tried to look through the lens of the diverse peoples and cultures that have been part of Russian history, for better or worse. The rise and fall of the Russian Empire are unthinkable without them.    

Stefan's book list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire

Stefan B. Kirmse Why did Stefan love this book?

The Volga is key to understanding Russian history.

The river helped the empire to spread and rule, it carried dangers and diseases, protected and divided people. As a frequent site of battle, it also helped to shape collective memory. Janet Hartley’s history of the Volga captures these dimensions beautifully.

Containing a wealth of detail and written in elegant and accessible language, her book delivers new insights on a broad range of topics, from religious policy and piracy to the Volga in poetry and painting.

It is a great introduction to Russian empire-building, while, at the same time, offers even historians of Russia new insights in almost every chapter.

Take a long river cruise – down the Danube or Mississippi – and enjoy.

By Janet M. Hartley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Volga as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A rich and fascinating exploration of the Volga River and its vital place in Russian history-named a Best Book of 2021 by the Financial Times

"A memorable journey into the heart of Russian social, political, and cultural history."-Jennifer Eremeeva, Moscow Times

"'Without the Volga, there would be no Russia.' The final words of Janet Hartley's book sound sweeping. But its 400 pages make the case powerfully."-The Economist

The longest river in Europe, the Volga stretches more than three and a half thousand km from the heart of Russia to the Caspian Sea, separating west from east. The river has played…


Book cover of The Elusive Empire: Kazan and the Creation of Russia, 1552-1671

Stefan B. Kirmse Author Of The Lawful Empire: Legal Change and Cultural Diversity in Late Tsarist Russia

From my list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

You can experience Russia by exploring the churches and palaces of St Petersburg and Moscow. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not my approach. For me, it has always made more sense to look at the largest country on earth from its edges, the distant mountains, steppes, forests, and waters that surround it. For three decades, I have travelled across this space, studied its languages, written books and articles about it. And I have tried to look through the lens of the diverse peoples and cultures that have been part of Russian history, for better or worse. The rise and fall of the Russian Empire are unthinkable without them.    

Stefan's book list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire

Stefan B. Kirmse Why did Stefan love this book?

Why read a book on the early modern frontier?

You may think that all you need to know about Russia in the 1500s is Ivan the Terrible, but this gripping book will teach you otherwise.

It’ll ring familiar bells for those fascinated by the American West: it’s about an expanding state struggling to secure an unruly frontier. It features plenty of competition, even conflict, between local governors and distant lawmakers, between secular and church figures.

It also shows the suppression, but also systematic cooptation (nearly absent in the American case!), of an indigenous population.

As the title suggests, though, the Russian colonial system remained “elusive” – more rhetorical than real – as accommodation became the key form of interaction across many frontier regions.

This is bold, but argued pretty convincingly.          

By Matthew P. Romaniello,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Elusive Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1552, Muscovite Russia conquered the city of Kazan on the Volga River. It was the first Orthodox Christian victory against Islam since the fall of Constantinople, a turning point that, over the next four years, would complete Moscow's control over the river. This conquest provided a direct trade route with the Middle East and would transform Muscovy into a global power. As Matthew Romaniello shows, however, learning to manage the conquered lands and peoples would take decades.

Russia did not succeed in empire-building because of its strength, leadership, or even the weakness of its neighbors, Romaniello contends; it succeeded…


Book cover of Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, Volume One: From Peter the Great to the Death of Nicholas I

Stefan B. Kirmse Author Of The Lawful Empire: Legal Change and Cultural Diversity in Late Tsarist Russia

From my list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

You can experience Russia by exploring the churches and palaces of St Petersburg and Moscow. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not my approach. For me, it has always made more sense to look at the largest country on earth from its edges, the distant mountains, steppes, forests, and waters that surround it. For three decades, I have travelled across this space, studied its languages, written books and articles about it. And I have tried to look through the lens of the diverse peoples and cultures that have been part of Russian history, for better or worse. The rise and fall of the Russian Empire are unthinkable without them.    

Stefan's book list on how cultural diversity sustained the Russian Empire

Stefan B. Kirmse Why did Stefan love this book?

Recommending a two-volume tome may seem odd at first sight.

But this is a truly majestic work (no pun intended). Ingeniously, Richard Wortman attributes a distinctive “scenario of power” to every Russian emperor from the 1700s to the downfall of the Romanovs in 1917, with some rulers promoting a national myth and others framing their reign as a bond of love with their subjects.

The account is deeply captivating and honest, showing every emperor and empress with all their quirks and human weaknesses, but also helping us understand their enigmatic appeal.

While the other books I recommend explore the Russian Empire “from below”, through the eyes of the people, this one is top down, focusing on how the empire and its rulers saw themselves.

The read is worth every page.        

By Richard S. Wortman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Scenarios of Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Russian imperial court, with its extravagant ceremonies and celebrations, was perhaps the most impressive theater in the world. The show, however, was no mere diversion, as Richard Wortman demonstrates in this first scholarly study of the principal myths, symbols, and rituals of Russian monarchy. Focusing on the period from the reign of Peter the Great to the death of Nicholas I, Wortman shows how the presentations and representations of the Russian ruler played a central role in the exercise of monarchical power. These presentations--from ceremonies and staged events to architectural and literary monuments--sustained an image of a supreme and…


Book cover of Riot Days

Henry Virgin Author Of Exit Rostov

From my list on psychological enquiry in alternative formats.

Why am I passionate about this?

Certain books have the ability to inspire you or help you go beyond the boundaries of your understanding, to teach you something new or to show you how to look at things differently, to alter and enhance your perception. Each of these texts have encouraged and enchanted me, with hard-won truths. I appreciate the style of writing which draws you further and further into the author's psyche, and thus into your own, like deep diving into uncharted depths. Also, as someone who tries to write poetry and prose, I find each of these writers have a refreshing and interesting technique and method of communicating their thoughts and ideas.

Henry's book list on psychological enquiry in alternative formats

Henry Virgin Why did Henry love this book?

The book describes the performance, arrest, and prison term, of Maria Alyokhina, in deft, immediate, and succinct ‘beat’ style lingo, illustrated with her drawings. The text is refreshing on the open page, well spaced out. As one of the key members of Pussy Riot, her bravery shines out for her courageous activism which continues to this day. On 21 February 2012 the band performed their anti-Putin, anti-patriarchy Punk Prayer, called "Holy Shit", on the altar at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Critical of the relationship between the orthodox Church and Putin, with lines including “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, chase Putin out”, or “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Be a feminist! Be a feminist!” the band managed to escape after the performance, but the video went viral, leading to their arrest and imprisonment. Testament to her punk character and iron resolve, the book describes the terrible prison conditions, and…

By Maria Alyokhina,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Riot Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From activist, Pussy Riot member and freedom fighter Maria Alyokhina, a raw, hallucinatory, passionate account of her arrest, trial and imprisonment in a penal colony in the Urals for standing up for what she believed in.

'One of the most brilliant and inspiring things I've read in years. Couldn't put it down. This book is freedom' Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick

'Reading: RIOT DAYS, by PussyRiot member MariaAlyokhina. A women's prison memoir like no other! One tough cookie!' @MargaretAtwood

'In oppressive political systems, some of the most effective weapons are sarcasm and dark humour. It is exactly these…


Book cover of The Russian Conquest of Central Asia: A Study in Imperial Expansion, 1814-1914

Shoshana Keller Author Of Russia and Central Asia: Coexistence, Conquest, Convergence

From my list on modern Central Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of Russia and Eurasia at Hamilton College. I teach courses on Russian history, Central Asia, and the modern Middle East. We usually think of these as separate regions of the world, but in fact they are all connected across the vast Eurasian continent. Russians, Turks, Iranians, Mongols and more have been intertwined with each other throughout their histories. My formal research specialty is Soviet Central Asia. I have written on Stalin’s attempt to destroy Islam, on education and creating a historical narrative for Uzbekistan, and on cotton and manual labor under Khrushchev.

Many people are fascinated by the ancient Silk Road, but don’t know much about how we got from there to the “Stans” that emerged out of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. These books showcase the most recent scholarship on how Central Asia was gradually taken over by the Russian and Chinese empires, and how the republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were created, as well as Xinjiang Province in the People’s Republic of China.

Shoshana's book list on modern Central Asia

Shoshana Keller Why did Shoshana love this book?

Morrison’s book is the first in-depth account of Russia’s military campaigns in over 50 years. It is both a good read for fans of military and imperial history and an important corrective to the image of the “Great Game” between the Russian and British empires. Morrison not only gives readers extensive and telling quotes from Russian military and diplomatic documents, but from Bukharan and Khoqandi sources as well. No other historian has written such a comprehensive history of the conquest.

By Alexander Morrison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Russian Conquest of Central Asia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Russian conquest of Central Asia was perhaps the nineteenth century's most dramatic and successful example of European imperial expansion, adding 1.5 million square miles and at least 6 million people - most of them Muslims - to the Tsar's domains. Alexander Morrison provides the first comprehensive military and diplomatic history of the conquest to be published for over a hundred years. From the earliest conflicts on the steppe frontier in the 1830s to the annexation of the Pamirs in the early 1900s, he gives a detailed account of the logistics and operational history of Russian wars against Khoqand, Bukhara…


Book cover of Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895

Riaz Dean Author Of Mapping the Great Game: Explorers, Spies and Maps in 19th-Century Asia

From my list on the Great Game.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have travelled much of the area described in this book, including the two halves of what was once Turkestan, and on the Roof of the World which divides them. I collect old maps and books (including historical fiction titles) about the exploration of the region and the machinations of the Great Game. My book is the result of four years of research and writing.

Riaz's book list on the Great Game

Riaz Dean Why did Riaz love this book?

This is a medium-length book by another well-established historian, who writes in a reasonably accessible manner. His is a more in-depth treatment of the Great Game, aided by Geoffrey Wheeler, an expert on Central Asia, who wrote the book’s Epilogue. It contains three maps and appendices (but no illustrations).

By Gerald Morgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published in 1981, Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895 is a valuable contribution to the field of Middle Eastern Studies.


Book cover of Silk and Cotton: Textiles from the Central Asia that Was

Peter Koepke Author Of Patterns, Inside the Design Library

From my list on textile for your design library.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nearly 50 years ago I was completely taken with the patterns drawn, woven, or embroidered by the Indigenous Peoples of the Upper Amazon of Peru. This was my first experience with the power of pattern and led to a career in collecting and curating the pottery and textiles from that area. By the end of the 1980s, I was ready to start a family and a more settled job. The Design Library was the perfect segue. The patterns created in Europe, Africa, and Asia over the past 250 years are also important cultural statements and are continually re-interpreted by our clients for today's market.

Peter's book list on textile for your design library

Peter Koepke Why did Peter love this book?

Among my favorite textiles from anywhere, anytime are the Central Asian woven ikats used to make men’s robes and the superb Suzani embroideries made for young girls' dowries. Both of these exotic forms have inspired and been emulated by countless Western designers from Oscar de la Renta to ABC Carpet and Home. Many fine examples are generously illustrated in this extraordinary, beautiful and meticulous book.

Silk and Cotton combines powerful visuals of pattern and form with the history, use, and cultural significance of a wide sampling of Central Asian textiles. The archival photographs of the region by Max Penson add great depth and connect the objects to the peoples for whom they were, and in many cases still are, part of their daily lives. 

By Susan Meller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Silk and Cotton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The traditional textiles of Central Asia are unknown treasures. Straddling the legendary Silk Road, this vast region stretches from Russia in the west to China in the east. Whether nomadic or sedentary, its peoples created textiles for every aspect of their way of life, from ceremonial objects marking rites of passage, to everyday garments, to practical items for the home. There were suzanis for the marriage bed; prayer mats; patchwork quilts; bridal ensembles; bags for tea, scissors, and mirrors; lovingly embroidered hats and bibs; and robes of every color and pattern.Author Susan Meller has spent years assembling the 590 textiles…


Book cover of Kim (1901) by: Rudyard Kipling

Riaz Dean Author Of Mapping the Great Game: Explorers, Spies and Maps in 19th-Century Asia

From my list on the Great Game.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have travelled much of the area described in this book, including the two halves of what was once Turkestan, and on the Roof of the World which divides them. I collect old maps and books (including historical fiction titles) about the exploration of the region and the machinations of the Great Game. My book is the result of four years of research and writing.

Riaz's book list on the Great Game

Riaz Dean Why did Riaz love this book?

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, Kipling immortalized the phrase ‘the Great Game’ in what was a masterpiece of writing and surely one of the best-loved English language novels of all time. His fictional portrayal of the Great Game forever touched it with a flavor of imperial romance.

By Rudyard Kipling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kim (1901) by as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Born Joseph Rudyard Kipling 30 December 1865 Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India Died 18 January 1936 (aged 70) Middlesex Hospital, London, England, United Kingdom Resting place Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London Occupation Short story writer, novelist, poet, journalist Nationality British Genre Short story, novel, children's literature, poetry, travel literature, science fiction


Book cover of The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

Amelia Dalton Author Of Pages from My Passport

From my list on the lives of those who pushed the boundaries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I ‘fell’ into being at sea by chance, through my father’s insistence I join him on a Scottish fishing boat for a week. I discovered I adored exploring unknown islands and lonely beaches, discovering wildlife and resilient small communities. In the 1990’s a female working amongst fishermen and commercial shipping was unknown, it was a wholly male, chauvinistic world. Using these skills I found a job being paid to explore – a dream job, pioneering but frequently lonely and dangerous. It resulted in my expanding the range and world of small expedition ships into areas with no infrastructure, unexplored and uncharted, lonely, empty coasts from the Arctic to Singapore. 

Amelia's book list on the lives of those who pushed the boundaries

Amelia Dalton Why did Amelia love this book?

This classic brings the secret world of spies and the struggle between countries for control of this vital corridor in the High Atlas within our reach. 

Disguised as holy men or traders, they risked their all for information: many lost their lives in the process. Illustrating the strategic importance and difficulties of such a mountainous and complicated area, Hopkirk’s book is not only vivid and dramatic, it is still relevant to this turbulent area today. 

By Peter Hopkirk,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Great Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE GREATGAME: THE EPIC STORY BEHIND TODAY'S HEADLINES

Peter Hopkirk's spellbinding account of the great imperial struggle for supremacy in Central Asoa has been hailed as essential reading with that era's legacy playing itself out today.

The Great Game between Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia was fought across desolate terrain from the Caucasus to China, over the lonely passes of the Parmirs and Karakorams, in the blazing Kerman and Helmund deserts, and through the caravan towns of the old Silk Road-both powers scrambling to control access to the riches of India and the East. When play first began, the frontiers…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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