Russia and the Russians: A History

Article excerpt

Geoffrey Hosking. Russia and The Russians: A History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. xiii, 718 pp. Chronology. Notes. Index. Maps. $19.95, paper.

Geoffrey Hosking is unquestionably one of the leading Western historians of Russia, and in the English language few have equalled much less surpassed the quantity or quality of his works. He is that rare individual who can do both large overviews and specific in-depth studies. In my opinion, Hosking is at his best in the former, and the present volume is a prime example. It is a masterful narrative of Russia's history from its beginnings to almost the present. Moreover, as a British-trained specialist without strong ties to either the "political" or the "social-revisionist" camps of American historiography, he is able to avoid their tiresome internecine debates.

The present volume is divided into six sections: 1) Kievan and Muscovite Russia; 2) the seventeenth century, including Peter the Great; 3) the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth; 4) the reigns of Alexander II and Alexander III; 5) from the reign of Nicholas II to the end of World War II; and 6) from the beginnings of the Cold War to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The market for narrative undergraduate text books in Russian history has experienced a flood of late, in part at least to close the book on the Soviet experiment and to provide reasons for its "untimely" collapse. In addition to the widely used comprehensive classic of Nicholas Riasanovsky, we now have excellent volumes by Walter Moss and Catherine Evtuhov et al. for the entire period, as well as shorter works focusing on the Soviet era by Peter Kenez, Richard Sakwa, and M.K. Dziewanowski, among many others. …