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Evgenia Ginzburg's 'Into the Whirlwind', with Sir Rodric Braithwaite and Professor Catherine Merridale


Into the Whirlwind describes the plight of an educated, well-to-do woman - the wife of the mayor of Kazan - who finds herself exiled to the icy prison camps of Kolyma. The work documents outer hardships, an inner struggle and incredible survival. With a number of distinguished guests, including Sir Rodric Braithwaite and Professor Catherine Merridale, the event is a celebration of Ginzburg's work - itself a monument to the memory of the thousands who perished.

Sir Rodric Braithwaite studied French and Russian at Cambridge, and joined the Diplomatic Service in 1955. He was British ambassador in Moscow (1988-1992), and Foreign Policy Adviser to Prime Minister Major and Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (1992-3). Since leaving government service, Rodric Braithwaite has been a Governor of the English National Opera, Chairman of the Royal Academy of Music, Senior Adviser to Deutsche Bank.

He is a member (formerly Chairman) of the International Advisory Council of the Moscow School of Political Studies. He is a member (former Chairman) of the Programme Committee of the Ditchley Foundation and an Honorary Fellow of Christ’s College Cambridge, and an Honorary Doctor and Professor of Birmingham University.

He has written two books on Russian affairs: "Across the Moscow River" (2002) and "Moscow 1941: A City and its People at War” (2006), which has appeared in eighteen languages. His latest book is “Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-1989” (Profile Books, 2011). He has contributed to The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Evening Standard, The New Statesman, Prospect Magazine, and Survival.

Catherine Merridale is an award-winning writer and historian. She is the author of four other books on Russian history, includingNight of Stone, which won the 2001 Heinemann Prize for Literature and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, and Ivan’s War, a history of the experience of Red Army soldiers in the Second World War. Her books, which have won international acclaim, have been translated into 15 languages. Merridale also writes and broadcasts about Russian politics, culture and current affairs, and she is a regular visitor to Moscow and St Petersburg. She is Professor of Contemporary History at Queen Mary University of London.

(Merridale is also the winner of this year’s Pushkin House Russian Book Prize for her book)

Eugenia Ginzburg (1904-77) was born in Moscow but grew up in Kazan. Her family was Jewish and her father was a pharmacist. After teacher training she took a degree in history; soon she was assistant professor and a full member of the Communist Party. She married when she was 20 and had a son; then, after her divorce, in 1930 she married a Party official, Pavel Aksyonov and had another son. In 1937, during the Great Purge, she was expelled from the Party and sent to the Gulag in the Russian Far East. Released in 1949, she remained in exile in Kolyma where she married Anton Walter and adopted a daughter, Tonya; her second son Vasily joined them (her first son had died in the siege of Leningrad). She was ‘rehabilitated’ in 1955, lived in Lvov and then Moscow, and wrote two volumes of memoirs: Into the Whirlwind, about the years 1934-39, came out in Italy (in Russian) and in English in 1967; and a sequel, Within the Whirlwind,  was published in Italy in 1979 and in the UK in 1981.