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Contact Me

You can contact me

by email: sarah [at] sarahjyoung.com

by phone: 020 7679 8734

by post: Dr Sarah J. Young
Lecturer in Russian
School of Slavonic and East European Studies
University College London
Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT

This website is built and maintained by John Levin

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  1. Hello Dr Young

    Please pardon my intrusion.
    I have just been passing an idle hour tracing links back to my site out of curiosity and came across your site and the kind comments you have made about my amateur Nevsky site.

    I am no academic yet like you I am an Anglo-Saxon trying to educate people about a world which was hidden behind a curtain until only a few years ago. I had wanted to create a web page for several years but was held back by not being able to find a subject matter which was ‘different’ and would not be compared to hundreds of similar pages/sites.
    I made my first visit to SPb in the year 2000, saw Nevsky Prospekt and almost instantly knew what I wanted to do, because at that time I could find very little info (in English) about the places I had just seen. It was to be just the one page, however, as you have discovered, it mushroomed out to include more than just my favourite street.

    For the record I am semi-retired, with plenty of spare time and I am resident in Camberley…….and I do not speak Russian!
    Now you know 🙂

    Best regards
    Neil Harvey

  2. Martin Swords

     /  September 29, 2010

    Hello Sarah Young

    I have encountered your site by chance while
    look for reading groups or even “fan clubs”
    for Grossman’s Life and Fate and other works, although I am not familiar with other Russian Authors – my most recent contact with Russia was teaching English as a Private Totor to a gentleman from Moscow.
    Anyway here’s a piece I wrote I.M. of Vasily Grossman – you might know how to send to other audience, Thanks
    Martin Swords
    Wicklow Ireland


    i.m. Vasily Grossman 1905 – 1964

    A lone soldier’s voice
    Lifts comrades’ chorus
    “My Lady Death, we beg you,
    Please wait outside.”
    ‘The Little Blue Shawl’
    Makes men cry for
    Wives and Motherland

    A soldier’s overcoat
    Is worth more
    Than a silk dress.
    A foot bandage
    More than silk stockings.
    A candle brighter than
    A diamond ring.
    All the wine and caviar
    For a pair of boots.
    A warm hat and a clear head
    Moves further than a
    Cartload of furniture.
    A night in hiding
    Better than being found.
    A soft kiss
    Better than rough love.

    “Not a single hen to cackle
    Not a single cock to sing.”
    This is the road to Moscow,
    This is sound of Stalingrad,
    So the Babushkas tell,
    The old ones, for those
    Who cannot speak.

    Martin Swords June 2007

    see Google

  3. Philip Hines

     /  December 17, 2010

    I wonder if you might consider including in your admirable map of ‘Russians in London’ some reference to the long residence of the anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin in Bromley.

    A blue plaque at 6 Crescent Road now marks the spot:


    An improbable domicile for a celebrated anarchist, but safer at the time than almost anywhere else in Europe.

  4. Indeed I will – I’ll be publishing a post on Kropotkin in a couple of weeks, and will be updating the map then.

  5. Philip Hines

     /  December 19, 2010

    Looking forward to reading your Kropotkin post. Expect you have seen this intriguing article about how his social thought relates to Darwinism, but just in case:
    I had better add that my interest in Russian literature comes from general reading rather than academic study. I have just been reading Gogol’s stories (in English), which indirectly led me to your website.
    And I used to live in Bromley!

  6. I have greatly enjoyed your website with its fascinating and helpful material on Russians in London – in fact was on the point of writing to congratulate you, only to be deeply dismayed by your comment on the Lenin in London entry about my book Conspirator: Lenin in Exile having ‘numerous inaccuracies and a rather relaxed approach to citing sources’. Sweeping statements such as this are a really dangerous thing to do – particularly about the work of another professional historian. Personally I just don’t believe in doing such things. I don’t mind criticism where justified but I do wish you had read the endnotes properly and taken stock of my massive research bibliography for Lenin in London – before dismissing some of my book’s content. I went to a huge amount of trouble trying to verify Lenin’s movements in London, a task which you I am sure know is fraught with difficulty, nor do I ever take a cavalier attitude to referencing. I did the very best I could to verify everything I used in existing sources. For example – the meeting with Kropotkin and Lenin is well documented in a properly cited source in the notes (n. 19 p. 340). I find it perfectly plausible that Kropotkin as a major Russian exile and political celebrity would have been invited to the congress. If you can prove otherwise fine, but until you can please don’t dismiss a perfectly valid cited source frrom somebody else. As for the gentleman who taught Lenin English – he was indeed called Rayment not Raymond as you say – see his obituary in The Times as Henry Rayment (paperback edition p. 300 note 31). The now expensively refurbished Tower House in Fieldgate Street was originally one of a group of Rowton Houses established by the philanthropist Lord Rowton – the fact that I refer to it as Rowton House is not therefore entirely inaccurate. I would ask you, most politely, as a fellow Russianist and historian to therefore be a little more fair in what you say about my book. Thank you.

  7. Having had chance to have another look at your book, I realize that some of my criticisms were unfair, and that my wording seemed more critical than I intended it to be. I would like to apologise for that. But I do stand by some of the things I wrote in my post. My intention is to write another post in the next few days to address the issues you raise – in part so that my apology is visible, rather than just being hidden away in a comment.

  8. dave harvey-smith

     /  March 15, 2011

    i know this is unlikely but my great-grandfather,
    henri riola came from taganrog around 1870,
    wrote “how to learn russian`foreword by ralston,
    taught russian at sandhurst,died 1894.he was
    naturalised in 1876,witnesses being mostly
    musicians.i have always been fascinated why he
    came to england.this is undoubtedly a cheek,
    but if you can point me in the right direction to
    find out more,i promise to go away.

  9. Interesting! My first question would be: was he Jewish? Riola is not exactly a standard Russian name…
    I assume you don’t speak Russian yourself (?) – but in case you do, the best source is probably:
    Petr Efimov, Emigratsiia i emigranty: Vzgliad iznutri. Istoriko-demograficheskii ocherk [Emigration and Emigrants: A View from Within. A Historical-Demographic Sketch] (Odessa: Optimum, 2007).
    The other work I’ve come across that may provide some answers is:
    Vasilii Zakharov, No Snow on Their Boots: About the First Russian Emigration to Britain (London: Basileus Press, 2004).

  10. dave harvey-smith

     /  March 16, 2011

    thank you very much for the references. no i don`t speak russian.in his books he always
    insists he is russian and as taganrog was full
    of italian ,greek merchants of several generations
    it is possible he was jewish.riola is a placename
    in both spain and italy.by the way,your blogs
    are very interesting and even if i never find out
    more about riola,by looking,i have been introduced to writers like herzen.thank you.

  11. Sounds like a good project, Sarah.
    I’ll be glad to help.
    I assume, you know that Harvard library catalog has a lot of links to Russian texts scanned by Google.

  12. mark burman

     /  July 10, 2011

    Dear Martin,
    I enjoyed your tribute to Grossman. Can I ask you and indeed anyone else who reads this what that reference to “My Lady Death, we beg you, Please wait outside.”
    is actually from? He links it to Beethoven but I can’t find those lines among Beethoven’s many leider nor can anyone else. Is it Pushkin?

    Anyone out there, where are these lines from?

    Radio 4, right now, is a bit of a Grossman ‘fan club’ as we are in the thick of various Life & Fate related projects culminating in the dramatization of the novel through the week of September 18th. Before that there will be 3 readings from his war writings, a documentary about his life presented by the wonderful Russianist Jim Riordan and a celebration of his work at St Peters Oxford on Sept 9th which then segues into a Grossman conference over the weekend.

  13. Martin Barlow

     /  July 10, 2011

    I have just discovered your fascinating web site and while I haven’t yet had time to explore it fully, having read Grossman’s ‘Life And Fate’ not long ago I found the interview with Robert Chandler particularly illuminating. In fact I came to it via browsing for opinion/guidance on the relative merits of the different translations into English of the classic Russian novels of the 19th century, as realistically one is only ever likely to read one translation of any individual work. I found an interesting feature ‘The Great Translation Chart’ on the Russia! Web site: http://www.readrussia.com/magazine/winter-2008/00045/ but it omits key works and in some cases doesn’t refer to translations I already have of works which are otherwise in the list they discuss. Are there any guides to or discussion groups on translations, or does one just have to take pot luck? I also saw your comments on Sergei Aksakov’s ‘A Family Chronicle’ and totally endorse them. In fact it is this work that has revived my interest in Russian literature and even stimulated me to write a review on Amazon for the first time ever. I loved all three volumes of the trilogy, (and particularly the middle one, ‘Years of Childhood’), but hadn’t even heard of it until I found it referred to extensively in a Time-Life book on What Life Was Like ‘In The Time Of War And Peace’ picked up in a remainders shop in Llandudno for £2!

  14. Mark,
    I don’t know off hand where the quotation comes from, but will look into that.
    I’m very much looking forward to dramatization of Life and Fate and the Grossman events in Oxford in September – I’m speaking at the academic conference on 10th, and will undoubtedly be writing a post or two on the whole thing…

  15. Martin,
    the url you give doesn’t seem to be working, but I’ll certainly check out that website when I get a moment. I can’t think of any reliable guides/discussion groups re translation right now, but will go through my bookmarks and see what I’ve got…

  16. …enjoying your web-site and would like to enquire about HERZEN’s artistic ability (as you mentioned he did some sketches). We have just had confirmation through a russian archive web-site that HERZEN stayed at our abode between 8/9/1855 and 30/9/1855 with Malwida MEYENBUG and HERZEN’s daughter Olga…(a letter written in french showing St.Augustine Villa, Ventnor (as venue address) stated that it was their original intention to go to Jersey but because Olga sufferered sea sickness they came to Isle of Wight instead)…
    I am in touch with a dutch historical researcher (retired) who found some sketches of our house done in 1855 found amongst HERZEN’s possessions in the basement of a museum near Amsterdam. (the only reason why the venue of the sketches was recognised was through her as she had coincidentally worked in Ventnor as an au pair girl during 1950’s.)
    to cut a long story short we do not know if HERZEN did these sketches or MEYENBUG (whom we have established was trained by a famous Italian artist) … I would therefore appreciate if you could supply me with particulars of HERZEN’ sketch (which you mentioned) so we can make an assessment. I will forward a photocopy of the ‘sketches’ at this end to you accordingly to see what you think…the dutch researcher is coming over to see me in the next few weeks along with copies of some of MEYENBUG’s well known pictures….we have a friend with a russian wife on the island who are being extremely helpful…I will give you the russian archive site details perhaps you could help translate them for us? sorry running out of space ….thanks
    Bob Williamson

  17. Lu Shi

     /  May 24, 2012


    do you think Rogozhin (Dostoevsky, The Idiot) and Luzhin (Crime and Punishment) serve any other purpose than to make the heroes in the novels look so much more heroic than they could possibly be? (i mean, Dunja in Sonja especially…and Nastasja Filipowna is another thing.. though she is at least beautified by Rogozhin’s bottomless desire)..

    i would like to know, because there will never be redemption for them in his novels, although even murderers can hope for salvation.

  18. Hi – and thanks for this. It’s a difficult question – or rather two questions. But I think there are two types of secondary characters in Dostoevsky. The likes of Luzhin are essentially pantomime villains, with no redeeming features and no possibility of redemption, even though in terms of actual crimes they may not even have broken the law (their pettiness is even part of the point). I think these characters are there mainly for plot reasons and as contrasts to the main characters. But in the case of characters like Rogozhin and Svidrigailov, who are apparently greater criminals, there is hope of redemption (Svidrigailov clearly decides there isn’t, but until his suicide I think it remains a possibility within the world of the novel – it’s not only Raskolnikov who faces a choice) and the situation is generally more complex. On the one hand, they are used to either contrast or highlight aspects of the main characters, but on the other hand they go beyond this to gain a life and significance of their own. In The Idiot, I see Myshkin, Rogozhin and Nastasia Filippovna as a triangle, and although the narrator’s text may focus almost exclusively on Myshkin, that’s not how they perceive it, as the attention of both men is on Nastasia (as indeed is the attention of almost everyone else in the novel), while hers is torn between both men, so there is a tension between what we are being told and what is ‘actually’ going on – this is, I think, why the novel ends up looking so strange and disconnected once the action moves to Pavlovsk in part 2. So I don’t think the question of the characters can be entirely separated from the form of the narrative. Sorry I’ve not got time to write more now!

  19. can you give me any info on the translator nicolas witter. i am doing a family search and my great grand parents were frank and margaret witter who lived in kearny new jersey but werte from lithuania russia originally
    thank you
    joe duduk-farren

  20. I’m afraid I can’t help you.

  21. Steven Platt

     /  December 24, 2012


    I have just by chance found your website, so please forgive me if you have already debated this question elsewhere; how profound do you think Dostoevsky’s doubts were regarding the existence of God, and to what extent do you think his belief in God was motivated by a desire to make sense of the suffering that he witnessed?


  22. Mikhail

     /  March 28, 2013

    Добрый день.
    Недавно я нашел вот такую книгу http://samara-clad.ru/forum/48-7909-2
    Думаю она имеет непосредственное к Вам отношение. Если она вас заинтересовала, прошу отвечать на указанный адрес. Если не трудно прошу сообщить тираж данного экземпляра, так как в книге нет такой информации.
    С уважением Михаил Кочеров.

  23. Martin Swords

     /  September 2, 2013

    Greetings Sarah Young

    I stumbled across your answer to me re my poem ‘Steppe’, quite by accident – your answer was directed to Mark Burman so that may explain. The ref to ‘My Lady Death…’ is a quote taken from Life and Fate – from a folksong sung by soldiers at Stalingrad – being realistic about the constant nearness of death and addressing it thus – treating it with disdain. Hope this helps – belatedly.
    Keep in touch
    Martin Swords

  24. Jason

     /  January 12, 2017

    Hello Sarah!

    I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the “best” translation for someone (ie me) who wants to read War & Peace for the first time. I have looked around on that internets and the Maude translation is mentioned, especially this new revised edition. Any thoughts?

    War and Peace n/e (Oxford World’s Classics) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0199232768/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_c_api_Sa8Dyb1600E60


  25. The Maude translation as recently revised for OUP is indeed recommended.

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