25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Overview of Russian History,
This review is from: Russian History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Russia is a vast and complex country with a long and interesting history. For several centuries it has been an inescapable and important factor in the World affairs. It has probably reached the apex of its global importance during the Cold War, but even today it exerts significant influence on the geopolitics. In addition to that, Russian culture is very interesting in its own right, and anyone who wants to get a better grasp of its historical roots would benefit from reading this short book.
This short introduction aims to give a very representative overview of the Russian history, from its inception over a millennium ago, to its present post-Soviet form. It covers all the major developments and transition that have happened over that timeframe. It is quite remarkable for any political entity to have survived for such a long time, and Russia has managed to do so despite some very formidable obstacles and threats to its existence.
A lot of Russian history can be understood from its peculiar geography: a vast country that straddles two continents, and yet it's without year-round access to a warm, navigable, sea. Russia has also always been surrounded by many powerful, and oftentimes hostile, neighbors. Many of those near and far neighbors have on many occasions constituted an existential threat to Russia's very existence. Yet, Russia has managed to survive and overcome such formidable attacks as the Mongols, Napoleon, and Hitler. Nonetheless, these threats and attacks have left a permanent mark on Russia's collective psyche and its sense of vulnerability, and have contributed to the rise of various autocratic rulers who had aimed to solidify their domestic power and enlarge the Russian territory in an attempt to create a more defensible and governable homeland. As is all too well known, this autocratic impulse has lead to some of the history's worst tragedies. Geoffrey Hosking
manages to cover some of these tragedies without demonizing either Russia or the Russian history outright.
One of the main things that I like about this book is that it is written in a good, traditional, historic style. Unfortunately too much of what passes for history books today has been turned into some kind of unrecognizable ideological prose, and there are way too many authors that try to look at the events from many centuries ago through the prism of contemporary sensibilities. You will find none of that nonsense in this book. It is history at its best, and all history buffs will enjoy reading it.