Jonathan Miles

St. Petersburg - Three Centuries of Murderous Desire
recreates the drama of this absurd and brilliant city, beginning with the homicidal megalomania of its founder
and the sadism of its early rulers.
It follows tyrants, subjects, subversives, artists, lovers and entrepreneurs as St Petersburg first turns itself into a vast work of art and then into the crucible for revolution.
The story continues to the present day, when, once more, the city's fate hangs in the balance.


‘a brilliant history. This political and cultural study of a city built on dreams and a swamp, expertly distils its blend of high culture and toxic corruption. So fluent, so textured is Jonathan Miles's ease with prose and argument that his vivid dissection of 300 years of St Petersburg’s history should be devoured in captive sittings... Miles skilfully forges and exposes the tangled character of what he calls this “absurd” city in which “dreams are big and information and truth are in short supply”. … This is a storyteller entranced with his subject, who makes its brilliant portrayal look deliriously easy.’
Susan Sheahan - The Observer

'Of all cities St Petersburg is most like a novel … Miles tells the tale magnificently'
Peter Pomerantsev author of 'Nothing is True and Everything is Possible'

‘This extraordinary book brings to life an astonishing place. Beautiful prose renders it brutaly vivid’ … ‘delightful style and an acute sense of absurdity’
Gerard DeGroot The Times - BOOK OF THE WEEK

'Recently there has been a plethora of new books on Russian history in all its guises … so why more? Jonathan Miles’ narrative is a lot of more, … His history has a substantial foundation, but what makes it special is the sheer inescapable momentum of Miles’s prose, powered by the captivating intensity of his attachment to his subject. This is a story told by a writer enthralled … His overwhelming concatenation of fact, observation and opinion is a dazzling history of a dazzling city’
Marina Vaizey - The Arts Desk

‘Jonathan Miles’s cinematic telling of the 300-year history of Russia’s northern capital …. shows how the drama, the absurdity, the splendour and the squalor of the imperial capital all found their way into Russia’s finest novels, operas and paintings. ... In this compelling account of St Petersburg’s turbulent history, Miles peels back the layers of myth in which the city is swaddled, while never losing sight of its haunting grace.’
Daniel Beer - The Guardian

‘lively and entertaining biography … full of sparkling storytelling and well drawn characters … a delight’
Victor Sebestyen- The Sunday Times