Books by Geoffrey Hosking

Released: April 1, 2001

"Exhaustive and thought-provoking, but also a surprisingly good introduction for the lay reader. (34 halftones, 14 maps, 1 table, not seen)"
An ambitious attempt to explain the essence of the Russian people and their empire. Read full book review >
RUSSIA by Geoffrey Hosking
Released: May 1, 1997

A valuable reinterpretation of Russian history in the light of the dissolution of the Soviet empire, by Hosking (History/University of London). His theme is that the building of the empire obstructed the flowering of the nation and is more fundamental in explaining what happened than either autocracy or the backwardness of the country. The tsarist regime, for example, believed it more important to conquer Siberia than to exploit it. Hosking even interprets the response of the peasantry at the time of Napoleon's invasion of Russia less in terms of their nationalism than as a response to Napoleon's brutal methods and a reflection of their belief that, if they served, they would be freed. Hosking illustrates how, time and again, the needs of empire took precedence over actions that would have ameliorated growing divisions between the classes: The efforts of Peter the Great to develop an administrative elite by cultivating Western manners and adopting the French language separated that elite further from the Russian peasantry; the emancipation of the serfs left the peasants with abiding grievances and in some respects reinforced their segregation. Even the opportunity to link the monarchy more firmly with the people in resisting the Germans during the First World War was thrown away by the refusal of the tsar to appoint a government of public confidence. The final success of the Bolsheviks owed little to their ideology and everything to their readiness to grant, however temporarily, what the peasantry actually wanted. This theme has, as Hosking notes, profound contemporary implications: If Russia can find a new identity for itself, then autocracy and backwardness may well fade. Often more thematic than descriptive—the details of the 1917 Revolution itself are given only cursory attention—and better perhaps at the start of the period than at the end, Hosking nonetheless gives a thoughtful, often penetrating review of a complex and important perspective. (3 maps) Read full book review >