Reissued by Little, Brown

Publication date: 2 June 2016

“Not only essential for all prospective visitors to Moscow . . . but also entertaining and instructive reading for the armchair traveller.” The Observer

“Vividly tells the story of that exotic city.” The Spectator on ‘Istanbul’

Further information



110169Diplomacy and Murder in Tehran:¬†Alexander Griboyedov and Imperial Russia’s Mission to the Shah of Persia

When a Tehran mob broke into the Russian embassy and murdered all the diplomats there, the dead included one of the most brilliant and promising writers of 19th-century Russia. In this first biography of Griboyedov in English, Laurence Kelly paints a vivid picture of his remarkable literary and diplomatic gifts which were nevertheless overshadowed by ill-fortune. He narrowly escaped punishment for involvement with the 1825 Decembrist plot to overthrow the Tsarist state. After this he was despatched to Georgia and Iran, to further Russia’s expansionist agenda in the Caucasus and beyond. But while in Tehran Griboyedov fell foul of the zealous mobs. This book makes an invaluable contribution to the diplomatic history of Russia, the Caucasus and Iran at the same time illuminating the life and works of a writer who was among 19th-century Russia’s most respected and prominent writers.

Selected by Sir Raymond Carr as his Book of the Year in The Spectator in 2008, and the following year by Philip Henscher. Also chosen by Elizabeth, Countess of Longford as her book choice on BBC Radio Four’s Desert Island Discs.

Tauris Parke Paperbacks
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd

ISBN: 9781845111960
Publication Date: 25 Aug 2006


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Lermontov: Tragedy in the Caucasus

Poet, cavalry officer, celebrity – Mikhail Lermontov moved in an atmosphere of political intrigue and personal recklessness, producing poetry considered second only to Pushkin’s in Russian literature and a career which has often been compared to Byron’s. Between the salons and palaces of St Petersburg and the savage splendour of the Caucasus – his “country of marvels” – Lermontov lived his brief life without compromise. Born in 1814, he is best known as the author of “A Hero of our Time” and “The Demon”. He managed to be both and neither. At odds wih authority, yet at ease on his own terms, he wrote as he fought, in protest and fierce independence and died in a duel at the age of 26.

This popular study of the poet was awarded Festival Prize by Anthony Powell at the Cheltenham Literary Festival in 1978.

Tauris Parke Paperbacks
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd

ISBN: 9781860648878
Published 2003


A Traveller’s Companion to Moscow

Inhabited since Neolithic times but not founded until 1147, Moscow was for much of its early history in thrall to other nations-to the Khans, to the Tartars and the Poles. The city was devastated by fire time and again, but with each rebuilding, miraculously, it grew ever more magnificent. For every church that was destroyed, it seemed that two more were built, compounding the resonance of Holy Russia, with its icons, its chanted liturgy, its packed and fervent congregations, pre-eminently resurgent.

Through the voices of visitors and residents, the turbulent growth of this great city is recorded in this evocative and informative anthology: Peter the Great’s bloody reprisals after the revolt of the streltsy in 1698; Napoleon’s ignominious retreat from the burning city in 1812; the flowering of literary greatness in the nineteenth century and of the Moscow Art Theater in the twentieth; the dazzling profusion of jewels in the Treasury of the Kremlin. In this highly admired travel companion, these and other milestones in seven centuries of history are all vividly brought to life.

“Not only essential for all prospective visitors to Moscow . . . but also entertaining and instructive reading for the armchair traveller.” — The Observer

“Could scarcely be bettered”. Colin Thubron, Sunday Telegraph

“Indispensable.” The Guardian

2005 (Constable and Robinson)

ISBN: 9781566565769


A Traveller’s Companion to Istanbul

Istanbul, ancient heart of modern Turkey, has its mythological origins in the 7th century BC. Founded as Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire by Constantine the Great, during the 1000-year Byzantine empire that followed it was a city of fabled riches. After its fall to the Turks in 1453, the strength of the Ottoman empire kept it glorious. This book includes: coronation of a Byzantine emperor; triumphal entry of Mehmet the Conqueror; harems in the 16th century; death of Ataturk in 1938; Turkish baths and coffee-houses – and much more, vividly told in the words of those who were actually there.

“Vividly tells the story of that exotic city.” The Spectator

“[Laurence Kelly] provides as rich and satisfying a patchwork as the metropolis it describes.” The Times

2004 (Constable & Robinson)

ISBN: 9781841199450


A Traveller’s Companion to St Petersburg

Featuring a vivid selection from biographies, novels, letters, poems, diaries and memoirs, this volume traces the story of St Petersburg from earliest times. Through these pieces, readers can observe the city’s foundation by Peter the Great, on the marshy shores of the Gulf of Finland. nFirst hand accounts tell of the 1825 Decembrists standing in the snow in Senate Square, refusing to accept Nicholas I as Tsar, being shot down where they stood; of the imprisonment of Dostoevsky and the duel that killed Pushkin; of the last moments of the mad Emperor Paul; and of the storming of the Winter Palace by the crowd in 1917.

“Nothing less than a masterpiece… the perfect companion for the intending traveller, bringing the city’s every aspect vividly alive.” Fitzroy Maclean, Sunday Times

“Enthralling reading… a well-balanced selection that affords marvellous glimpses of its grandeur and its grimness, its magnificence and its horrors.” Elisabeth de Stroumillo, Daily Telegraph

“A magic lantern on place and people: Russians and foreigners; major events in Russian history in eye-witness immediacy; so vivid a book that you need not hasten to travel there yourself; and certainly should not hasten when you arrive.” Gay Firth, Financial Times

Selected as BBC Radio Four’s ‘Book of the Week’ in 2003 to celebrate the tercentenary of the founding of the imperial city of St Petersburg.

2003 (Constable and Robinson)

ISBN: 9781841197074



Laurence Kelly is also Series Editor of the ‘Traveller’s Companion’ series. Other titles in the series:

Dublin – Thomas and Valerie Pakenham

Edinburgh – David Daiches

Florence – Harold Acton and Edward Chaney

London – Peter Ackroyd

Madrid – Hugh Thomas

Venice – John Julius Norwich