A slim, accessible account of the megacountry.

A fine introduction to a nation that “has responded to its lack of clear frontiers by a steady process of expansion, bringing new ethnic, cultural and religious identities into the mix.”

“Russia is a country with no natural borders, no single tribe or people, no true central identity,” writes Galeotti, an expert on Russian history and culture. The country’s written history only begins in the ninth century, when the Vikings took notice. Readers aware that Norse raiders sailed west as far as America may be surprised to learn that they also traveled eastward as far as the Black Sea to trade and plunder. Called Rus’ by the Slavs, by 900 they had settled in Kiev, adopted Christianity, and established a nation that neighboring Byzantium took seriously. The Mongols conquered Russia around 1240. While conventional histories describe “two centuries of Asiatic despotism,” Mongol rule was fairly benign. By 1500, Moscow was the leading city, and four centuries of spectacular conquests began. Peter the Great (reign: 1682-1725) introduced European culture and technology. Under Catherine the Great (1762-1796), Russia became a European power. Although American and French revolutionary ideals penetrated Russia, Napoleon’s traumatic 1812 invasion convinced the czars that democracy was “a product of dangerous, foreign-inspired freethinking.” As a result, in the 19th century, the country sunk into despotism. As a visiting French aristocrat noted, “this empire, vast as it is, is only a prison to which the emperor holds the key.” Galeotti reaches the 20th century only 50 pages before the end but delivers a fine, abbreviated chronicle. Lenin’s Bolsheviks won Russia’s revolution after a brutal struggle, but his early death meant that the Soviet Union was largely the creation of his heir, Stalin, whose epic cruelty disguises the fact that economic decline and misgovernment, not despotism, doomed his empire. The author blames the Soviet collapse on corrupt, unresponsive leaders, but, as Russia under Putin demonstrates, a corrupt kleptocracy remains popular as long as it provides stability, national pride, and jobs.

A slim, accessible account of the megacountry.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-14570-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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