Dominic Lieven receiving his award at Pushkin House

Dominic Lieven receiving his award at Pushkin House

Dominic Lieven, senior research fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge University has won the fourth annual Pushkin House Russian book prize for his work Towards the Flame: Empire, War and the end of Tsarist Russia (Penguin). His book, published by Penguin, was selected by a panel a five distinguished judges from a shortlist of sixWorth £5,000 to the winner, the Prize was created to encourage public understanding and intelligent debate about the Russian-speaking world. 

The decision to go to war in 1914 had catastrophic consequences for Russia. The result was revolution, civil war and famine in 1917-20, followed by decades of communist rule. Dominic Lieven's powerful and original book, based on exhaustive and unprecedented study in Russian and many other foreign archives, explains why this suicidal decision was made and explores the world of the men who made it, thereby consigning their entire class to death or exile and making their country the victim of a uniquely terrible political experiment under Lenin and Stalin.

Juror Geoffrey Hosking said: “'Prof Lieven has written a uniquely perceptive account of the opinions and mentalities of leading Russian statesmen on the eve of world war and revolution, placed in the context of their own life experience. He gives a sympathetic but not uncritical exposition of their calculations, their hopes and fears, set against the geopolitical opportunities and dangers which Russia faced at the time.  We have much to learn from this book today when trying to understand Russian behaviour.”

Exceptionally, the judges also awarded a second prize, for the best Russian book in translation, to Oleg Khlevniuk from Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, and his translator Nora Favorov, for his work Stalin: new biography of a dictator (Yale). Juror Serhii Plokhy said: “Oleg Khlevniuk’s book is the result of his decade long study of the history of Stalin and StalinismHe set the record straight on the contentious issues of Stalinism and provided solid foundations for future research in the field.”

Translator Nora Favorov

Translator Nora Favorov

The prize for the best Russian book in translation is for £2,000, and reflects the mission of Pushkin House to actively encourage and support the exchange of ideas between Russian and English.

The panel of judges for the 2016 Pushkin House Russian Book Prize is: Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg; Baroness Elizabeth Smith of Gilmorehill, founding trustee of the John Smith Trust; Geoffrey Hosking, emeritus professor of Russian history, School of Slavonic & East European Studies, University College London; Anne McElvoy, senior editor at the Economist; and Serhii Plokhy, professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University.

The award, supported by Waterstones and Douglas Smith & Stephanie Ellis-Smith, supports the best non-fiction writing on the Russian-speaking world published for the first time in English in the previous year.

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, the founding sponsor of the prize, said: "We are delighted that the judges have rewarded such a strong winner and have showcased the very best in Russian scholarship in translation."

Douglas Smith and Stephanie Ellis-Smith, said: “Dominic Lieven has produced an important, fascinating book. And to have Oleg Khlevniuk’s magisterial new biography available to the English-speaking world in this fabulous translation is hugely important.”

Andrew Jack, co-chair of Pushkin House, said: “These two books perfectly encapsulate our mission: to showcase and encourage the best in scholarship from and about Russia. They are exemplary winners.”

About Pushkin House

Founded in the 1950s, Pushkin House is the leading centre for showcasing Russian culture in London. With a focus on Anglo-Russian exchange, it provides a centre for events and networking for individuals and institutions interested and involved in Russian culture and its place within British society.

As a politically independent Russian cultural centre, Pushkin House provides diverse cultural programmes, and a home for Russian individuals and organisations from all backgrounds. It holds varied events centred on Russian literature, art, film, music, history, society and current affairs. Events hosted by the House include lectures, seminars, exhibitions, film showings, concerts and readings.   It welcomes and encourages collaborations with others dedicated to Russian culture.

For further information about the Book Prize and/or Pushkin House, please contact Pushkin House Executive Diretor, Clem Cecil, at or trustee Andrew Jack at