Books by W. Bruce Lincoln

Released: March 1, 1998

A Russian historian explores 1,000 years of Russian art within the context of ongoing political repression and brutality and a search for Russian identity. Lincoln (The Conquest of a Continent, 1993, etc.), whose writings are usually focused on political history, here presents a grand synthesis of Russia's artistic life in an effort to illuminate the ongoing struggles that paved the road to that country's enduring masterpieces. Lincoln's densely footnoted history will be welcomed by those seeking a comprehensive overview of Russian arts. But those seeking deeper insight or a new interpretation of Russian artistic life will be disappointed. As its title suggests, this volume leans heavily on exaggerated and dramatic frameworks. Conflicts and debates that have determined Russian political and artistic development for centuries dominate the narrative but do not lend it direction or depth. Thus, themes such as the ``eternal Russian dilemma'' of being caught between East and West, the chasm between Russia's elites and her masses, and the ongoing struggle against censorship and brutal political repression appear more as self-fulfilling prophesies than as real explanations for artistic endeavors. The chronically overwritten style detracts from Lincoln's narrative (Russian folk motifs were ``elevated into the artistic stratosphere'' by works of art; Crime and Punishment ``catapulted him [Dostoyevsky] to the pinnacle of greatness''), which is also marred by an overly passionate veneration of Russian national culture, revering the achievements of 19th-century Russia as the result of their uniquely Russian character. Flawed in its conception and narrative style, Lincoln's sweeping consideration of artistic life in Russia nevertheless offers a stimulating read because of the sheer power of its subject matter. (16 pages color and 16 pages b&w illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1994

A sweeping, stark, and cautionary popular history of Russia's ruthless, centuries-old exploitation of its vast Eurasian hinterland. Lincoln (Russian History/Northern Illinois University; Red Victory, 1990, etc.) applies a broad narrative brush to tell a grand, terrible, and almost unrelievedly brutal tale that covers nearly a thousand years of history. On the heels of the retreat of the rampaging Golden Horde of the Mongols in the late Middle Ages came Russia's drive toward the Pacific—a drive led by successive generations of explorers and merchants ravenous for the raw materials that would enrich both them and the cash-poor tsarist kingdom as it strove to break out of its inconsequential Muscovy heartland to join the ranks of the great powers. Just as, in the 18th century, Siberian ``black gold''—priceless sables and other furs—formed the mainstay of the Russian economy during the nation's first great imperial expansion, so did oil and natural gas from the vast Siberian fields later fuel the Soviet push toward industrialization. And, of course, the forgotten reaches of the Siberian wilderness have provided generations of Russian rulers with a continent-sized dungeon for dissidents and defeated rivals, first in their thousands under the tsars and later in their millions in Stalin's slave economy. Lincoln stresses the terrible price that the ruthless Russian exploitation of Siberia's riches continues to exact—a price both human (from the dispersal and suppression of Siberia's aboriginal inhabitants to the mass deportations and death camps of the Stalinist era) and environmental (the near-extinction of Siberia's once-teeming fur supply through overhunting being merely a prologue to vast ecological catastrophes inflicted by reckless Soviet industrialization). Throughout, Lincoln's harrowing subject matter and epic scale recall Robert Hughes's The Fatal Shore, though Lincoln lacks Hughes's ability to express his human sympathy through vivid individual characterization. Still, overall, a grimly compelling, richly rewarding trek. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs, three maps-not seen) Read full book review >