Nikolai Tolstoy presents his latest book 'Stalin’s Vengeance', about the forced return of Cossacks after World War Two. The book talk and discussion will be followed by wine and cocktail snacks. There will be the chance to buy signed copies of the book after the talk.
Following the publication of Count Nikolai Tolstoy’s last book on the subject in 1986, the British government closed ranks, and three years later an English court issued a GBP1,500,000 judgment against him for allegedly libeling the British chief of staff who issued the fatal orders. Since then, however, Count Tolstoy has gradually acquired a devastating body of heretofore unrevealed evidence filling the remaining gaps in this tragic history.
Born in England in 1935, Count Nikolai Tolstoy is of part Russian descent. The son of Count Dimitri Tolstoy and Mary Wicksteed, he is a member of the noble Tolstoy family and grew up as the stepson of author Patrick O’Brian, whom his mother married after his parents divorced.
On his upbringing he has written:
Like thousands of Russians in the present century, I was born and brought up in another country and was only able to enter the land of my ancestors as a visitor in later years. It was nevertheless a very Russian upbringing, one which impressed on me the unusual nature of my inheritance. I was baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church and I worshipped in it. I prayed at night the familiar words Oche nash, attended parties where little Russian boys and girls spoke a mixture of languages, and felt myself by manner and temperament to be different than my English friends. I think I was the most affected by those melancholy and evocative Russian homes where my elders, for the most part people of great charm and eccentricity, lived surrounded by the relics – ikons, Easter eggs, portraits of Tsar and Tsaritsa, family photographs, and émigré newspapers – of that mysterious, far-off land of wolves, boyars, and snow-forests of Ivan Bilibin’s famous illustrations to Russian fairy-tales. Somewhere there was a real Russian land to which we all belonged, but it was shut away over distant seas and space of years.
He has written a number of books about Celtic mythology. In The Quest for Merlin he has explored the character of Merlin, and his Arthurian novel The Coming of the King builds on his research into ancient British history. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1979.
He has also written about World War II and its immediate aftermath. In 1977 he wrote the book Victims of Yalta,which criticised Britain’s Operation Keelhaul, a forced handover of Soviet citizens to Joseph Stalin in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.In 1986 he wrote The Minister and the Massacres which criticised British repatriation of fugitives from Josip Broz Tito’s genocidal Communist regime, it received much critical praise, as well as criticism by Macmillan’s authorised biographer.
In May 1945, as World War II drew to a close in Europe, some 30,000 Russian Cossacks surrendered to British forces in Austria, believing they would be spared repatriation to the Soviet Union. The fate of those among them who were Soviet citizens had been sealed by the Yalta Agreement, signed by the Allied leaders a few months earlier. Ever since, mystery has surrounded Britain’s decision to include among those returned to Stalin a substantial number of White Russians, who had fled their country after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and found refuge in various European countries. They had never been Soviet citizens, and should not have been handed over. Some were prominent tsarist generals, on whose handover the Soviets were particularly insistent.
General Charles Keightley, the responsible British officer, concealed the presence of White Russians from his superiors, who had issued repeated orders stipulating that only Soviet nationals should be handed over, and even then only if they did not resist. Through a succession underhanded moves, Keightley secretly delivered up the leading Cossack commanders to the Soviets, while force of unparalleled brutality was employed to hand over thousands of Cossack men, women, and children to a ghastly fate. Particularly sinister was the role of the future British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, whose own machinations are scrutinized here.
Following the publication of Count Nikolai Tolstoy’s last book on the subject in 1986, the British government closed ranks, and three years later an English court issued a GBP1,500,000 judgment against him for allegedly libeling the British chief of staff who issued the fatal orders. Since then, however, Count Tolstoy has gradually acquired a devastating body of heretofore unrevealed evidence filling the remaining gaps in this tragic history. Much of this material derives from long-sealed Soviet archives, to which Tolstoy received access by a special decree from the late Russian President Boris Yeltsin. What really happened during these murky events is now revealed for the first time.