Cover image for The fragile empire : a history of Imperial Russia
The fragile empire : a history of Imperial Russia
Chubarov, Alexander.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Continuum, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 244 pages : map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DK127 .C5 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



With the fall of communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the tsarist past has caught up with Russia's present with a vengeance. The process of rethinking the past is not without its pitfalls: the negative evaluations of tsarist Russia, obligatory in the former Soviet Union, have given way to uncritical romanticizing. There has never been a greater need for a fair, balanced interpretation of the tsarist record. This book re-examines Russia's imperial past from the reign of Peter the Great to the collapse of tsarism in 1917. It presents pre-revolutionary Russia as an empire of great internal contradictions. A colossus that extended over one-sixth the earth's landmass, it was ever vulnerable to foreign invasion. It possessed one of the world's largest populations, the majority of whom lived in poverty and discontent. It commanded the world's richest natural resources, yet its productive forces were constricted by the remnants of feudalism. It strove to cement its multiethnic population by systematic Russification, which only stimulated nationalist movements. It gloried in being a people's autocracy' at a time when the regime was increasingly detached from its people.>

Author Notes

Alexander Chubarov is Senior Lecturer in Russian Studies at the School of International Studies and Law, Coventry University. Born in Russia, he received his Ph.D. in Philology from Moscow State University and his M.Soc.Sci. in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Birmingham. Dr. Chubarov has had extensive teaching experience in both Russia and the United Kingdom.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

With the fall of Communism, the era of the Soviet Union is increasingly viewed as an aberrant phase in the centuries of Russian history; conversely, there has been a resurgence of interest in the pre-Soviet, Czarist past. Chubarov is senior lecturer in Russian studies at the School of International Studies at Coventry University. He has written a relatively brief but thorough and balanced account of Russia from the reign of Peter the Great to the Bolshevik Revolution. He offers some interesting perspectives on the geographic and demographic factors that influenced Russian development. While he does not delve deeply into the personalities of key Russian rulers, Chubarov does an outstanding job of surveying the critical accomplishments and failures of Peter the Great, Alexander II, and, especially, of the Populist movement of the nineteenth century. This is a sound, scholarly general work that effectively covers three centuries of Russian history. --Jay Freeman

Library Journal Review

In this conventional history, Chubarov (Russian studies, Coventry Univ.) ranges from the reign of Peter the Great (1689-1725) to the 1917 revolution, providing summaries of five tsars and of the major social trends that affected their reigns. He contrasts the communal lives of the peasants with the strongman leadership tradition of the aristocracy and eventually of the revolutionary groups. The reforms that did occur during these times, he argues, were bureaucratic only and had little effect on the peasants. Throughout the entire period, Russia was attempting to play catch-up with Western EuropeÄto the Enlightenment, to industrialization, and to social reform. But these ideas were distorted and only partially adopted, making no change in the essential relationship between serf and landlord and leaving the countryside behind. Intended for the general reader, this dry but competent summary provides a good introduction to Russia's Imperial period. Recommended for all public libraries.ÄMarcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
Introduction: Pre-Petrine Russiap. 1
Geopolitical Evolution of the Russian Statep. 1
Key Factors of Russian Historical Developmentp. 4
1. Peter the Greatp. 17
Peter's Uncertain Legacyp. 17
Peter's Motivationp. 18
The "Royal Revolutionary"p. 21
Establishment of Absolutismp. 23
Patterns of Petrine Modernizationp. 27
Barbarian or Transformer?p. 31
2. Catherine the Greatp. 36
Enlightened Absolutism or Enlightened Despotism?p. 36
Catherine as Enlightened Lawmakerp. 38
The Golden Age of Nobilityp. 40
Russia's "Peculiar Institution"p. 41
Absolute Monarchy or Arbitrary Autocracy?p. 43
3. Alexander Ip. 47
Civic Awakeningp. 47
Speransky's Plan of Government Reformp. 49
The Decembristsp. 53
4. Nicholas Ip. 58
The Triumph of Reactionp. 58
The "Great Debate"p. 60
Alexander Herzen and Peasant Socialismp. 64
Village Communep. 66
5. Alexander IIp. 70
Competition with the Westp. 70
Peasant Emancipationp. 73
Post-1861 Liberal Reformsp. 78
Results of the "Great Reforms"p. 81
6. The Revolutionary Movementp. 84
Origins of the Intelligentsia and Its Raznochintsy Elementp. 84
Intellectual and Psychological Makeup of the Intelligentsiap. 86
Nicholas Chernyshevskyp. 90
Trends within Revolutionary Narodnichestvop. 92
The Turn to Terrorp. 96
7. Appearance of Marxismp. 100
Main Tenets of Classical Marxismp. 100
First Russian Followers of Marxp. 103
The Fate of Narodnichestvop. 105
8. The Last Romanovsp. 109
Government Reactionp. 109
Nicholas IIp. 111
Tsarist Industrializationp. 114
Characteristics of Russian Capitalismp. 117
9. The Birth of Bolshevismp. 122
Lenin's Brand of Marxismp. 122
Bolshevism and Menshevismp. 130
Marxism and Leninism or Marxism-Leninism?p. 132
10. The Revolution of 1905-7p. 135
Anti-autocratic Opposition on the Eve of Revolutionp. 135
The Revolutionary Massesp. 139
The Course of the Revolutionp. 142
Results of the Revolutionp. 149
11. Russia between Revolutionsp. 153
Constitutional Experimentp. 153
Prewar Economic Development; Stolypin's Land Reformp. 157
Prospects of Democratic Capitalist Developmentp. 162
Russia in the First World Warp. 166
12. February and October Revolutionsp. 171
Collapse of Tsarismp. 171
"Dual Power"p. 175
Bolshevik Takeoverp. 178
Interpretations of the Revolutionp. 190
Conclusion: Paradoxes of the "Fragile Empire"p. 201
The Beggarly Empirep. 201
Polyethnic Monolithp. 205
Unlimited Power Limitedp. 209
Leaps in Circlesp. 213
Tables and Statisticsp. 219
Notesp. 225
Chronologyp. 233
Indexp. 237