Catherine Merridale photographed by Mary Bernard

Photo credit: Mary Bernard

Welcome to the website of Catherine Merridale, the award-winning writer and historian.  Catherine is known for her acclaimed and pioneering books on Russian history.  Her latest book, Lenin on the Train, is out now.  She is also the author of Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia’s History, which won the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize and the Wolfson History Prize in 2014.  Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages, and previous books have been shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and have also won the Royal Society of Literature’s Heinemann Prize.  She is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Lenin on the Train is published by Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Books.

More about Catherine.

Lenin on the Train

By 1917 the European war seemed to be endless. Both sides in the fighting looked to new weapons, tactics and ideas to break the stalemate. In the German government a small group of men had a brilliant idea: why not sow further confusion in an increasingly chaotic Russia by arranging for Vladmir Ilyich Lenin, the most notorious of revolutionary extremists, currently safely bottled up in neutral Switzerland, to go home?

Catherine Merridale’s Lenin on the Train recreates Lenin’s extraordinary journey from harmless exile in Zurich, across a Germany falling to pieces from the war’s deprivations, and northwards to the edge of Lapland to his eventual ecstatic reception by revolutionary crowds at Petrograd’s Finland Station.

With great insight and imagination Merridale weaves the story of the train and its uniquely strange group of passengers with a gripping account of the now half-forgotten February liberal Russian revolution and shows how these events intersected. She brilliantly uses a huge range of contemporary eyewitnesses, observing Lenin as he travelled back to a country he had not seen for many years. Many thought he was a mere ‘useful idiot,’ others thought he would rapidly be imprisoned or killed, others that Lenin had in practice a few followers and even less influence. They would all prove to be quite wrong.

Lenin on the Train is published by Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Books.

More about Lenin on the Train.

Lenin on the Train
Lenin's arrival at the Finland Station April 1917 by the Soviet artist M.G. Sokolov

On 9th April 1917, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin boarded a train in Zurich. He was heading for the Russian capital, St Petersburg, which meant he had to cross a continent at war.

On 9th April 2015, Catherine Merridale set out to retrace his tracks. Find out more about her journey here.

Lenin on the Train Red Fortress Ivan's War Night of Stone