Cover image for Russia under western eyes : from the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum
Russia under western eyes : from the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum
Malia, Martin E. (Martin Edward)
Publication Information:
Cambridge, MA : The Belnap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 514 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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DK32 .M18 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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As the dust clears from the fall of Communism, will Western eyes see Russia, the unclaimed orphan of Western history or Russia as she truly is, a perplexing but undeniable member of the European family? A dazzling work of intellectual history by a world-renowned scholar, spanning the years from Peter the Great to the fall of the Soviet Union, this book gives us a clear and sweeping view of Russia not as an eternal barbarian menace but as an outermost, if laggard, member in the continuum of European nations. The Russian troika hurtles through these pages. The Spectre, modernity's belief in salvation by revolutionary ideology, haunts them. Alice's looking glass greets us at this turn and that. Throughout, Martin Malia's inspired use of these devices aptly conveys the surreality of the whole Soviet Russian phenomenon and the West's unbalanced perception of it. He shows us the usually distorted images and stereotypes that have dominated Western ideas about Russia since the eighteenth century. And once these emerge as projections of the West's own internal anxieties, he shifts his focus to the institutional structures and cultural forms Russia shares with her neighbors. Here modern Europe is depicted as an East-West cultural gradient in which the central and eastern portions respond to the Atlantic West's challenge in delayed and generally skewed fashion. Thus Russia, after two centuries of building then painfully liberalizing its Old Regime, in 1917 tried to leap to a socialism that would be more advanced and democratic than European capitalism. The result was a cruel caricature of European civilization, which mesmerized and polarized the West for most of this century. As the old East-West gradient reappears in genuinely modern guise, this brilliantly imaginative work shows us the reality that has for so long tantalized--and eluded--Western eyes.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Professor Malia, author of The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia (1994), gives an insightful overview of European and American reaction to Russia's internal and external policies over the past three centuries. As the subtitle alludes to, this study begins with Peter the Great opening his famous "window to Europe" and ends with the fall of Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. But this book is more than a short history of modern Russia, for to properly assess Western reaction to Russia, Malia reviews and discusses the concurrent political, economic, cultural, and intellectual changes in the West as well. Thus he explains, for instance, why Russia was hailed during the expansionist reigns of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and Alexander I, but the reactionary Nicholas I caused much anxiety among his Western neighbors. Malia also tracks what he calls the West-East cultural gradient, the liberalization of the West, and the eastward spread of Marxism and its decline, and what it has all meant in terms of ongoing European-Russian relations. --Frank Caso

Publisher's Weekly Review

Malia, an emeritus professor of history at UC-Berkeley, traces Western perceptions of Russia from Peter the Great to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, paying special attention to how the West's view of Russia has shifted not just as a reaction to changes in Russia but to changes within Europe as well. Europe has viewed Russia as either enlightened and progressive (during the reign of Catherine the Great and the early Soviet period) or as despotic and backward (under Nicholas I and Stalin). Malia persuasively argues how these changes in the West's perception of Russia have been due as much to shifts in European politics and thought, such as the revolutions of 1848 and the transformation from the Enlightenment to Romanticism, as to changes within Russia itself. Unfortunately, Malia can be long-winded (an analysis of Hegelian philosophy, for example, delves into much greater detail than necessary), and his writing, which is usually lively and evocative, occasionally lapses into literary pretentiousness. A prologue to the chapter on the Soviet period takes the form of a Greek drama with a cast of Soviet leaders and poets and ends with a twist on Alice in Wonderland: Russia is the Red Queen (or in Malia's words, "Red Khan"), which "really was a kitten, after all." Despite these weaknesses, Malia's comprehensive and accessible history of Russia will interest scholars and general readers alike. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Malia (history, emeritus, Univ. of California, Berkeley; The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991, LJ 4/1/94) uses an intellectual approach to explain the West's evolving perceptions of Russia. In his quest to summarize the length and breadth of his considerable historical knowledge, he uses historical buzzwords and foreign phrases liberally, but his stated purpose‘"to transcend the presumed polarity between Russia and Europe by proposing a definition of Russia's place within Europe"‘is never fully realized. Contrast his approach to that of Gregory Freeze in Russia: A History (LJ 5/1/98), and one finds Malia very difficult to navigate. Malia does have his salient moments, as when he describes socialism not as a "descriptive historical term or social-science category; it is a verbal standard raised to mobilize the disaffected and excluded of modern society." An interesting but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to pull European and Russia history together into an intellectual exercise.‘Harry V. Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. System, Iola (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In this provocative and controversial study, Malia (emeritus, Univ. of California, Berkeley) seeks to "transcend the presumed polarity between Russia and Europe by proposing a definition of Russia's place within Europe." He argues that Russia since Peter the Great "has generally moved toward convergence" and that the Soviet period represents not only its "maximal divergence from European norms" but also "the great aberration" in Russia's own development. Malia's unusual method consists of comparing the history of post-Petrine Russia with that of the readily acknowledged Europe while studying the views of Russia dominant in the elite culture of the West in the context of this comparative history. In three chapters he describes the "four classic images" of Russia (enlightened Despotism, Oriental Despotism, convergent Russia, antirational Russia) and demonstrates that each of these was largely projections of Western anxieties and fantasies. The final two chapters deal with the disaster of Revolution, which saw the great Marxist dream (soon to become a nightmare) imposed on Russian lands, and with the looking-glass wonderland world that fascinated, horrified, and confused the West for the next 70 years. Malia concludes that since 1991 Russian history has been set back on track after the great zigzag of communism. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above. E. A. Cole; Grand Valley State University

Table of Contents

Prologue: In Scythia
Introduction: The Russian Riddle
Russia as Enlightened Despotism: 1700-1815
The Birth of the Concert of Europe
Russia as Old Regime
The Ottoman Control
Russia as Philosophic Fable
Exegi Monumentum Aereum Perennum I
The Legend Redux
Enlightenment and the Police State
The Twilight of the Old Regime
Russia as Oriental Despotism: 1815-1855
Europe as the Two and the Three
Culture and the German Sonderweg
The Romantic Chiaroscuro
The New Historical Canon
A Fractured Image
The Russian Sonderweg
Russia Outcast
Russia as Europe Regained: 1855-1914
Obverse: The Curve of Convergence
Russia Reformed
Russia for Liberals
Russia for Socialists
Russia for Nationalists
Reverse: Fin de Siegrave;cle and Russian Soul
Art for Art's Sake
From Symbolism to Modernism
The Russian Prophets
Soul for Export
The Roots of Aesthetic Nihilism
War and Revolution: 1914-1917
The Hinge of Darkness
A Dawn amidst the Night?
The Socialist Riddle
Socialism as an Ideal Type, or, the DNA of a Unicorn
Marxist Theory
Leninist Practice
Through the Soviet-Russian Looking-Glass, and What the West Found There: 1917-1991
Prologue: In the Eye of the Beholder
Heads, the Experiment: 1917-1945
The Ride of the Troika
Exegi Monumentum II
The Fascist Counterpoint
Where the Twain Meet
The Ride of Rozinante
International Class Struggle
Tails, The Empire: 1945-1991
The Cold War
Kaleidoscopic Vision
Khrushshev's Thaw
The Road to De`tente
The Waltz of the Models
Voices Off
Over and Out: Gorbachev
Whither the Troika Now?
And Whither the Spectre?