Epic in scope, intimate in detail, heartbreaking in its human drama, this is the first book to recount the history of the nobility caught up the maelstrom of the Bolshevik Revolution and the creation of Stalin’s Russia. It is a book filled with chilling tales of looted palaces, burning estates, of desperate flights from marauding thugs and Red Army soldiers, of imprisonment, exile, and execution. It is the story of how a centuries’-old elite famous for its glittering wealth, its service to the Tsar and Empire, was dispossessed and destroyed along with the rest of old Russia.
Drawing on the private archives of two great families – the Sheremetovs and the Golitsyns – Former People is also a story of survival, of how many of the tsarist ruling class, so-called “former people” and “class enemies,” abandoned, displaced, and repressed, overcame the loss of their world and struggled to find a place for themselves and their families in the new, hostile world of the Soviet Union. It reveals how even at the darkest depths of the terror, daily life went on—men and women fell in love, children were born and educated, friends gathered, simple pleasures were cherished. Ultimately, Former People is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.