A HISTORY OF RUSSIA by Jesse D. Clarkson


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At a time when we wonder if Russia will move more toward the East of Mao's China, or the West of Democratic Socialism, this massive and impressive work looks at the history of that sprawling political entity in a Western framework. The book---as history, as writing---has many virtues. One is its dealing with early Russian history. Here the vague, obscure, and barbaric origins of the Slavic people (fur-wearing, nomadic, often brutal) are put in close meaningful juxtaposition with the Byzantine world which offered them language, religion, and politics. The Kievan Period (11th to 13th Century) makes particularly interesting reading, as does the Mongul Conquest (given less importance than by other historians), the rise of the City-States after the fall of Constantinople (1941), and the emergence of the powerful Czars---Ivan, the Romanovs, Peter. The complex, intellectual, tension-ridden 19th Century, filled with its Generals, Czars, and great literary figures, makes exceptionally good reading too. It is when the book enters what is roughly its second half---the 20th Century and the Revolution---that it may encounter some rough opposition. True, it deals with the past 60 years of Russian history exhaustively, and with hoped for objectivity. But because of the nearness of the events described---and because of the highly partisan nature of contemporary Russian study---its views of Lenis and Stalin may anger some. Supplied with a huge bibliography and notes at the end, it is an admirable, well-written, and tremendously informative try at describing the great bear that is Russia. A must!

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1961
Publisher: Random House