Cover image for Russia and the Russians : a history
Russia and the Russians : a history
Hosking, Geoffrey A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, MA : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xiii, 718 pages, 32 leaves of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DK40 .H66 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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From the Carpathians in the west to the Greater Khingan range in the east, a huge, flat expanse dominates the Eurasian continent. Here, over more than a thousand years, the history and destiny of Russia have unfolded. In a sweeping narrative, one of the English-speaking world's leading historians of Russia follows this story from the first emergence of the Slavs in the historical record in the sixth century C.E. to the Russians' persistent appearances in today's headlines. Hosking's is a monumental story of competing legacies, of an enormous power uneasily balanced between the ideas and realities of Asian empire, European culture, and Byzantine religion; of a constantly shifting identity, from Kievan Rus to Muscovy to Russian Empire to Soviet Union to Russian Federation, and of Tsars and leaders struggling to articulate that identity over the centuries. With particular attention to non-Russian regions and ethnic groups and to Russia's relations with neighboring polities, Hosking lays out the links between political, economic, social, and cultural phenomena that have made Russia what it is - a world at once familiar and mysterious to Western observers. In a clear and engaging style,

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

For the thousand years of its recorded existence, Russia's history has been as dramatic, tragic, and inspiring as that of any nation, exerting a perennial attraction that cries for the one-volume introduction Hosking is well equipped to provide. His book is especially welcome because he links the Communist era, now that it is over, to the enduring themes of the Russian experience. Two factors have influenced the Russian past: climate and geography. The former shaped the character of its peoples; the latter, the nature of its state. Without natural barriers to reinforce them, Russia's borders have always been fluid, contracting during invasions and internal crises, expanding in times of conquest. These realities have promoted in every age, from the forced conversion to Christianity to Peter the Great's reforms to the recentralizing impetus of post-Soviet governments, a powerful state with autocratic impulses. Hosking relates that tendency to the imperial character of Russian expansion and the conflicting notions of Russian identity engendered by imperialism. This is a high-quality overview, suitable for all libraries. Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

To demonstrate that Russia's recent political and socioeconomic problems do not mean that she "need no longer be taken seriously... as threat or as potential ally," Hosking ambitiously and diligently explores the nation's cycles of reform, censorship and expansion from A.D. 626 through the 2000 election of Prime Minister Putin. Hosking (The Awakening of the Soviet Union), professor of Russian history at the University of London, contends that resources stretched thin over a vast, disparate empire have prevented Russia from developing into a cohesive nation. A helpful introduction to Russia's topography and ecology, followed by chronological chapters such as "Kievan Rus, the Mongols, and the Rise of Muscovy" and "Soviet Society Takes Shape," with special attention to popular culture, academic trends and influential nonconformist thinkers, afford both survey and specifics. Some readers will find points of contention, as when Hosking reduces the profound impact of agricultural collectivization. For instance, he attributes the great Ukrainian famines of the 1930s, which many historians believe were purposefully exacerbated by the Soviet government, to "a dry summer" that yielded "an exceptionally poor grain harvest," without due analysis of other causes. Additionally, Hosking attributes the sharp increase of orphans during the 1930s primarily to civil war, collectivization and urbanization, noting, "clearly it was also linked to the legislative weakening of the family" (i.e., the legalization of abortion, civil marriage, divorce and equal property rights between men and women), without providing concrete evidence for this causality. But Hosking's immense knowledge and clear, concise analyses provide ample grist for university students and amateur historians. Illus., maps and tables not seen by PW. (Apr. 20) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Hosking (Russian history, Univ. of London) offers a comprehensive survey from the beginnings of Kievan Rus through Russia's recent independence, emphasizing the impact of relations between Russians and non-Russians. When Russia was "the largest empire on earth" in the mid-17th century, the imperial Rossiiskii and the ethnic Russkii held unresolved and conflicting ideals. No less fundamental were conflicts between Russia's peasant society and its industrialization, the "sacralizing of the monarchy," and the power of the Russian Orthodox Church. This cogent pre-Revolutionary interpretation nicely complements recent archival revelations from the Soviet era (e.g., census data showing that between 1939 and 1946 Russia's "global losses" amounted to some 47 million persons). Hosking claims that Gorbachev's "fundamental dilemma'' was his dependence on implementing reforms of the very "patron-client network" he was hoping to replace. Although the author's earlier work, The First Socialist Society, is more focused, this book's strength lies in its revealing Russia's enduring continuities. The result compares favorably with some of the best Russian histories of recent decades while also consolidating new scholarship. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Hosking (Univ. of London), author of several previous histories of Russia and the former Soviet Union, undertakes here quite another task: discussing the links between the political, economic, social, and cultural phenomena that have made Russia and the Russians what they are. This is no easy task, and it could lead a lesser scholar into ethnic and national stereotypes. But Hosking's narrative is so compellingly and gracefully written and so meticulously researched that the reader will find an abundance of treasure. While more valuable to the general reader than the specialist, the latter will still derive insight from the book. This quality is never better illustrated than in the introduction, where Hosking sets forth "the four salient characteristics" that have "imparted to Russia a paradoxical combination of colossal strength and almost crippling weakness." His treatment of the Nikonian reforms, social transformation and terror during Stalin's collectivization, and Gorbachev's perestroika are similarly stimulating. While none of this vast story is new, the copious illustrations, the detailed chronology, and the author's insight and expertise provide a learning experience for all levels of reader. G. E. Snow Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Introduction: Geopolitics, Ecology, and National Character
I Pre-Imperial Rus and the Beginnings of Empire
1 Kievan Rus, the Mongols, and the Rise of Muscovy
2 Ivan IV and the Expansion of Muscovy
II The Troubled Building of Empire
3 The Turbulent Seventeenth Century
4 Peter the Great and Europeanization
III Russia as European Empire
5 State and Society in the Eighteenth Century
6 The Reigns of PaulAlexander I and Nicholas I
IV Imperial Crisis
7 Alexander II's Uncertain Reforms
9 The Rise of Nationalism
V Revolution and Utopia
9 Social Change and Revolution
10 War and Revolution
11 Social Transformation and Terror
12 Soviet Society Takes Shape
VI The Decline and Fall of Utopia
13 Recovery and Cold War
14 Soviet Society under "Developed Socialism"
15 From Perestroika to Russian Federation