Book & Film Club: Russia!

In this series each person reads a book or watches a film related to the topic of the month.  Then when we get together each person will say what book or movie they took in, give a brief summary of the plot, a little about what they gained/learned from it, and if they'd recommend it. Feel free to do more than one book or film, or a combination, if a topic interests you, pick up to three to discuss.  If you would like to attend but don't have time to take in anything in yourself, that's fine too.

This month we are learning about Russia!

For this event you are asked to read a book and/or watch a film of your choice that has to do with Russia. Below are some recommendations, but feel free to take in anything you choose.


From Russia with Love (1963) - James Bond is back -- and so are the bullets, beauties and bad guys. You'll be shaken and stirred by Sean Connery's second outing as 007, which finds him paying the price for his previous adventure when SPECTRE seeks revenge for Dr. No's death. Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant

Doctor Zhivago (1965 or 2002) - As political turmoil rumbles through Russia, Doctor Zhivago is trapped in a love triangle between his wife and his mistress. Meanwhile, the Bolshevik Revolution will change all their lives forever.  Netflix DVD 1965, Netflix Instant 2002, Amazon instant 1965, Amazon Instant 2002

Fiddler on the Roof (1971) - Director Norman Jewison chronicles the trials of Jewish peasant Tevye, the humble father of three strong-willed daughters and husband to oft-objecting wife Golde in pre-revolutionary Russia. Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant,

War and Peace (1956) - With great attention to detail and historical accuracy, personal stories, love affairs and philosophies are woven throughout this massive, intricate tapestry of Russia during Napoleon's invasion at the turn of the 19th century. A decade of preparation and two years of filming went into the making of this engaging version of Leo Tolstoy's 20th-century masterpiece, an epic drama starring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda. (This is one of my favorite movies!) Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant


The Romanov Bride by Robert Alexander (2008) - A story told from 2 different perspectives, one based on the true story of Ella and the other the fictional Pavel.  Born as a member of a minor German princely family, Ella was one of the numerous granddaughters of Queen Victoria, and would loose her mother at a young age. She was also considered to be the loveliest, and had been courted for a time by her cousin, Wilhelm II. But her choice of a husband confused many -- the aloof, rather chilly, Grand Duke Serge of Russia.  The other main character is Pavel, a very angry young man who decides to become a revolutionary. We watch as he gets involved with every single big uprising from the Bloody Sunday massacre in St. Petersburg, to Serge's assassination, to where he and Ella's lives intertwine. Amazon, B&N

Russka: The Novel of Russia by Edward RutherfurdSpanning 1800 years of Russia's history, people, poltics, and culture, Edward Rurtherford, tells a grand saga that is as multifaceted as Russia itself. Here is a story of a great civilization made human, played out through the lives of four families who are divided by ethnicity but united in shaping the destiny of their land. Phoenix Digital library ebook, Amazon, B&N

Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov - Mikhail Bulgakov's sparkling fantasy of Satan's visit to Moscow under the guise of a magician named Professor Woland, must rank as one of the greatest acts of literary heroism of the past century. Bulgakov wrote the novel in the late 1930s, under what was arguably the most repressive government ever on earth--the Soviet Union at the height of Stalin's power.  The Master, a despondent writer sent to an asylum after his novel about Pontius Pilate is rejected by the Soviet writers' union, and Margarita, the beautiful woman who loves him and will literally go to Hell for his sake. Through their dealings with Woland, Bulgakov exalts the power of the imagination, the need for the spiritual dimension in life and the courage to live by one's own convictions--virtues that Stalinist Russia strove, mostly successfully, to undermine. Phoenix Digital Library ebook, Amazon, B&N



Russia: Land of the Tsars (2003) - Trace the history of Russian imperialism (which ended with the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and Czar Nicholas II's murder) via footage from historic sites and museums and insightful commentary from some of the foremost scholars on Russian history. Hours of fascinating material are included and will tell you all there is to know about Russia's long history under the autocratic rule of the Tsars.  Netflix DVD

Russia's War: Blood Upon The Snow (1997) - This powerful documentary produced by PBS explores the three decades in which Joseph Stalin ruled Russia. Eyewitness testimony, vintage film and photographs, and the commentary of historians reveal the horrifying extent of Stalin's dictatorship. The eight-hour program illustrates what life was like for average Soviet citizens from[masked], an era in which more than 65 million of their fellow countrymen were slaughtered. Netflix DVD

Russia's Toughest Prisons (2011) - For the first time, three prisons across Russia unlock their doors to an international film crew, allowing viewers access to top-security facilities where cannibals, terrorists and killers live out the rest of their days. Netflix Instant

The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934) - A quick-witted and compelling dramatization of the troubled marriage of Catherine II to Peter III and her subsequent ascension to the throne as Empress of Russia. Hulu Plus

Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1997) - Once a peasant, shady monk Rasputin worked his way into the confidence of Emperor Nicholas II, eventually becoming a dominant player during Russia's final imperial years. But why did the royals tolerate his corrupt and scandalous behavior? Through the analysis of leading historians, period accounts and rare photos, this biography delves into Rasputin's power over the Czar, his role in the Revolution and his death at the hands of aristocrats. Netflix Instant


Dancing Under the Red Star: The Extraordinary Story of Margaret Werner, the Only American Woman to Survive Stalin's Gulag by Karl Tobien (2010) - Between 1930 and 1932, Henry Ford sent 450 of his Detroit employees plus their families to live in Gorky, Russia, to operate a new manufacturing facility. This is the true story of one of those families–Carl and Elisabeth Werner and their young daughter Margaret–and their terrifying life in Russia under brutal dictator Joseph Stalin. Amazon, B&N

The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew (1999) - As chief archivist of the KGB's foreign branch, Vasili Mitrokhin had virtually unfettered access to its most closely held secrets. But his government's relentless repression of dissidents at home and abroad and its bungled Afghan war policy disillusioned him. Determined to preserve the truth, Mitrokhin secretly compiled a detailed record of the feared agency's operations abroad.Written with historian Christopher Andrew and backed with meticulous supporting research, what emerges is a chilling chronicle of murder and treachery, slander and corruption, paranoia and purges. Phoenix Digital Library audiobook, Phoenix Digital Library ebookAmazon, B&N

Audio Book:
Russia and the Former Soviet Union by Ralph Racio (2006) - Recent events have made it clear that the Soviet Union is not a monolith; it's a collection of nationalities, many with serious objection to union. The demise of communism holds great promise and great danger not only for the Soviets, but for the world. This presentation examines how the region's long history led to modern reality. Phoenix Digital Library, Audible, B&N

Russian Created:


Andrei Rublev (1966) - This mesmerizing account of 15th century Russian monk Andrei Rublev follows the icon painter as he faces violence, political persecution and, eventually, a crisis of faith after leaving the monastery to paint Vladimir Cathedral's interior. The Soviets suppressed this sweeping epic -- widely recognized as a cinematic masterpiece -- and did not allow it to be seen as director Andrei Tarkovsky intended until more than 20 years after completion. Netflix DVD, Hulu Plus

Brother (1997) - Discharged from the army, Danila (Sergei Bodrov Jr.) decides to taste the city life in St. Petersburg, where his older brother has made a profitable life for himself as a mob contract killer. Danila decides to follow in his idol's footsteps and soon finds himself embroiled in a vicious chain of violence. An international smash hit in the shocking style of Quentin Tarantino and Lars von Trier, this brutal cult favorite will leave you reeling. Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant

Bed and Sofa (1927) - Bed and Sofa chronicles a woman's confusion over two men with whom she shares a one-room basement apartment; when she discovers she's pregnant and doesn't know which of the men is the father, she faces some difficult decisions. Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky- A poverty stricken young man hatches a plan to murder a rich money-lender whom he loathes. The young man, a university drop out who views himself as a superior intellectual, goes through with the plan but is horrified by the results. Amazon, B&N

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - The story of a proper, upper-middle-class woman who grows dissatisfied with her comfortable life after meeting and falling in love with a dashing Count. She eventually abandons her husband and child to be with her lover, a move that proves to be disastrous. Amazon, Phoenix Digital Library audiobook, Phoenix Digital Library ebook, Hulu Plus, B&N

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America, haunted by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid of her mother. In spite of his diabolical wit, reality proves to be more slippery than Humbert's feverish fantasies, and Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover. Amazon, B&N

Join or login to comment.

  • Lily

    Just for fun - Rasputin vs Stalin. Epic Rap Battles of History

    December 19, 2013

  • Lily

    Here is the link to the Phoenix Digital Library:

    August 13, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great dynamic!

    August 12, 2013

  • Lily

    Really enjoyed the Russian candy, thank you Kami for bring those! Wonderful and interesting conversation!

    August 12, 2013

  • Lily

    We are in the back side room

    August 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I apologize, but am not feeling well. I read "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, which I give 5 stars and watched "Gorky Park", which I give 3 1/2 stars. Have fun.

    August 12, 2013

  • Vince

    Something's come up. I'm not going to able to make it.

    August 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    This sounds so fun! But I will be out of town :(

    July 15, 2013

6 went

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