Dry, but useful for the foreign-policy crowd.

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PUTIN AND THE RISE OF RUSSIA

Russia, writes German academic Stuermer (History/Univ. of Erlangen-Nurnberg), is weak—but nowhere near as weak as it looks.

Many things keep Russia from regaining its superpower status. One, by the author’s account, is that the government of Vladimir Putin and his successor, Dmitri Medvedev, peg much of the planned part of its economy—including the government’s budget—on the projected price of oil. Though Russia is a major producer, when plans are made based on a price per barrel of $71 and that price goes down to $40 on the world market, trouble is bound to ensue. In the flush days, Putin kept something of the old Soviet bargain: “The people accepted an increasingly autocratic regime while the Kremlin delivered rising living standards—as never before.” Now that oil prices have fallen so precipitously, the rise is reversed, and the Russian GDP is projected to shrink by six percent or more. For good or ill, depending on where you’re sitting, the Russians don’t seem to know that they’re weak, however, which complicates the geopolitical scene. There is a certain surrealism in an economy that is at once closed and open, just as modern Russia seems to abound in strange ironies—not least a billboard of famed dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn welcoming visitors outside the Moscow airport. Stuermer’s searching view of Putin’s government, which stretches into the Medvedev administration, has some points of immediate interest. Foremost among them is his view that the West should not rule out all hopes for democracy in Russia, despite Putin’s autocratic ways. Even if the near term holds the likelihood of “an enlightened authoritarianism, free of contradictions and in control of its own destiny,” Medvedev has ambitions to “go down in history as a great reformer.” The best move for the West is therefore to continue to seek shared interests—and keep the peace.

Dry, but useful for the foreign-policy crowd.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-60598-062-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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

NIGHT

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

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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