History Russia: A History

ISBN 13: 9780198662525

Russia: A History

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9780198662525: Russia: A History

Since the coming of perestroika in 1985, scholars have had unprecedented access to Russian archives. In Russia: A History, editor Gregory Freeze and twelve other American and European historians have mined these newly opened archives and browsed through the best contemporary scholarship to provide a major reinterpretation of the history of one of the world's great powers.
Here is the first major history of Russia to appear since the fall of the Soviet Union, beginning in the 8th century and ranging across a thousand years to the recently established Commonwealth of Independent States. What emerges is a nation of extremes--of imperial opulence and abject poverty, tyrannical power and subversive resistance, artistic achievement and economic crisis, glittering cities and frozen steppes. The contributors capture a powerful sense of Russia's national destiny of repeated themes and unchanging conditions. We see, for instance, that time and again, all-powerful autocrats like Ivan the Terrible and Stalin employed brutality to eliminate any challenge to their authority. Yet their hold on power was always under attack, threatened by bureaucratic incompetence, pervasive corruption, and resistance from below. Russian rulers have also had to contend with the same immense physical challenges: a huge and widely dispersed population, a perennial dearth of means and men to govern, a primitive infrastructure which, as the authors show, periodically dissolved into times of trouble, as in 1598, 1917, and 1991.
Handsomely illustrated with nearly 170 illustrations, including 12 color plates, this landmark history cuts through the myths that have surrounded Russia to tell the absorbing story of one of the world's most powerful nations.

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Review:

In this heavily illustrated volume, English, American, and German (but, strangely, no Russian) scholars gather to discuss the development of Russia from its medieval founding in the face of Mongol invasions to the election of Boris Yeltsin. The authors are not reluctant to discuss unpleasant truths, such as the officially tolerated famine of the 1930s and the rise of totalitarianism. They also offer controversial theories, such as the view that Lenin, had he lived, would not have supported the cult of personality that surrounded him after his death. The authors take a generally positive view of Russia's democratic future, noting that the present specter of decline and stagnation ignores the fact that much of Russia's economy is kept in the shadows, presumably to avoid taxation, and that with more state intervention, not less, the economy will grow as the Russian state rebuilds itself.

About the Author:


Gregory L. Freeze is a Fellow at Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian Studies as well as the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of History at Brandeis. He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.

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Published by Oxford University Press (2000)
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