Vladimir Alexandrov, "To Break Russia's Chains: Boris Savinkov and His Wars Against the Tsar and the Bolsheviks" (Pegasus, 2021)


The latest book by Vladimir Alexandrov is a brilliant examination of the enigmatic Russian revolutionary, Boris Savinkov.

Although now largely forgotten outside Russia, Boris Savinkov was famous, and notorious, both at home and abroad during his lifetime, which spans the end of the Russian Empire and the establishment of the Soviet Union. A complex and conflicted individual, he was a paradoxically moral revolutionary terrorist, a scandalous novelist, a friend of epoch-defining artists like Modigliani and Diego Rivera, a government minister, a tireless fighter against Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and an advisor to Churchill. At the end of his life, Savinkov conspired to be captured by the Soviet secret police, and as the country’s most prized political prisoner made headlines around the world when he claimed that he accepted the Bolshevik state. Alexandrov argues that this was Savinkov’s final play as a gambler, staking his life on a secret plan to strike one last blow against the tyrannical regime.

To Break Russia's Chains: Boris Savinkov and His Wars Against the Tsar and the Bolsheviks (Pegasus, 2021) reads like a spellbinding thriller. Professor Alexandrov’s biography of Boris Savinkov not only sheds light on one of the most fascinating figures in Russian history, but also prompts speculation about how the history of Russia may have played out differently if the former terrorist turned government minister had achieved his goals.

Interview conducted by Lynne Hartnett, Associate Professor of History at Villanova University. Professor Hartnett is the author of The Defiant Life of Vera Figner: Surviving the Russian Revolution and is currently writing a book about Russian political exiles in Britain at the turn of the twentieth century. She is also the author and narrator of two courses for The Great Courses: Understanding Russia: A Cultural History and The Great Revolutions of Modern History

Your Host

Lynne Hartnett

Lynne Hartnett is Associate Professor of History at Villanova University.

View Profile