One of the “benefits” of Russia’s resurgence as a global power is that there is no shortage of new Russia book releases. Here are seven books scheduled for publication this year that I can’t wait to peruse.
#1: Putin Country by Anne Garrels (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 15 2016)
This appears to be another entry into the category of American-Journalist-Seeking-Real-Russia, but set in the unique military-industrial city of Chelyabinsk. It will be interesting to see what portait Garrels will paint of Russia’s heartland and what conclusions she will draw about the state of Russia today. Whatever it turns out to be, the book’s sure to be better than the dreadful Midnight in Siberia, written by David Greene, a fellow NPR correspondent. Hopefully.
#2: The New Politics of Russia: Interpreting Change by Andrew Monaghan (Bloomsbury Academic, March 24 2016)
Whether it is the conflict in Syria, the Winter Olympics in Sochi or the crisis in Ukraine, the drama of Russia dominates the headlines, yet the political realities of contemporary Russia are poorly understood by Western observers and policy-makers. Monaghan’s book promises to offer a robust critique of the mainstream view of Russia and reflect on the evolution of Russian studies since the end of the Cold War. Those happen to be two areas of academic debate in which I am an active participant. I’m eager to hear Monaghan’s viewpoint and his explanation of why ‘getting Russia right’ really matters.
#3: Return to Cold War by Robert Levgold (Polity Press, May 16 2016)
The Ukraine crisis in 2014 signaled the beginning of a decline in U.S.-Russian relations, an alarming descent into deep mistrust, severed ties, and potential confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War period. Return to Cold War is billed as bringing “a fresh perspective to what is happening between the two countries, its broader significance beyond the immediate issues of the day, and how political leaders in both countries might adjust their approaches in order, as the author urges, to make this new cold war as short and shallow as possible”. A timely read for the uncertain present.
#4: Why Cold War Again? by Stephen F. Cohen (I.B. Tauris & Company, April 30 2016)
Stephen F. Cohen is viewed by some as the most vocal Putin apologist in America. However, it would be impossible to deny that Cohen possesses an immense scholarly knowledge of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia and deep concern for the future of U.S.-Russia relations. In this book, he traces the history of this East-West relationship in the ‘Inter Cold War’ period the years from the purported end of the preceding Cold War, in 1990-1991, to what he has long argued would be a new and even more dangerous Cold War. I may not agree with everything Cohen says (and I likely won’t while reading this), but Why Cold War Again is still well worth a look.
#5: The New Russia by Mikhail Gorbachev (Polity Press, May 31 2016)
In this new work, Gorbachev draws on his wealth of knowledge and experience to reveal the development of Putin’s regime and the intentions behind it. He argues that in order to further his own personal power, Putin has corrupted the achievements of perestroika and created a system which offers no future for Russia. Faced with this, Gorbachev advocates -of course- a radical reform of politics and new fostering of pluralism and social democracy, as he attempted to do during his tenure as Gen. Secretary of the USSR.
#6: Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia’s New Nationalism by Charles Clover (April 26 2016)
This up-and-coming book “pieces together the evidence for Eurasianism’s place at the heart of Kremlin thinking today”. I’m not sure whether Eurasianism is really a key element of Russia’s foreign policy today, but more recent books on Russian nationalism are few and far between. Let’s hope it’s a sober analysis.
#7: I’m Going to Ruin Their Lives by Marc Bennets (Oneworld Publications, April 12 2016)
Vladimir Putin is just the worst thing ever, ain’t he? According to the description on this book’s back cover, after demonstrators clashed with police on the night of his inauguration in 2011, he was rumored to have said “They ruined my big day, now I’m going to ruin their lives”. This book investigates Putin’s alleged war against the Russian liberal opposition and examines how Russia’s political opposition went from the heights of 2011’s protest movement to the disparate, broken-down force that it is today. I don’t expect to agree with some of the points Bennetts makes, but I am nonetheless curious about the non-systemic opposition and protest movement.