The Russian Tragedy: The Burden of History

The Russian Tragedy: The Burden of History

The Russian Tragedy: The Burden of History

The Russian Tragedy: The Burden of History

Synopsis

This work provides an interpretive history of Russia from earliest times to today, recounting the story of Russia's past. It discusses Russia's strengths and weaknesses as a civilization, and the challenges posed by the contemporary effort to remake Russia.

Excerpt

Not many scholars have had the temerity to recount the thousand‐ year history of Russia on the modest scale of this volume. Just that has been done by Hugh Ragsdale in the pages that follow. He has, moreover, included an overview of the entire Soviet period of Russia's history, from the revolutions of 1917 to the abolition of the Soviet Union as a state formation in 1991, along with a short epilogue on Russia under Boris Yeltsin in the post-Soviet years down to 1995.

His book is notable for its pithy account of key events in Russia's history and vivid portrayals of outstanding Russian rulers such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great in the eighteenth century as well as Tsar Alexander I in the early nineteenth and Tsar-Reformer Alexander II, under whom Russia's peasants were emancipated from serfdom by royal decree in 1861. At the same time, the narrative of events is placed within the framework of an interpretive approach that is set forth at the very outset, where we read: "The story of Russia is above all the story of the state."

In stressing the role of the state authority as the driving force of Russian history, Professor Ragsdale draws on the authority of the "political-juridical" school of Russian historiography, which developed initially in the nineteenth century. How and why it was that the state played so crucial a part in that country's history, both under the tsars and again under Soviet rulers in our century, will become plain to the reader. At the same time, the reader will note the paradoxical fact that, more than once in its history, the seemingly all-powerful Russian state structure has crumbled and collapsed. This first happened following the end of a ruling dynasty in 1598, and the ensuing fifteen years of semi-stateless chaos went down in Russian history as the "Time of Troubles." In reading the epilogue to this book, which refers to the "contemporary political chaos" in the post-Soviet Russian 1990s, the reader will understand why many Russians of our day speak of the present period as a new Time of Troubles.

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