460 pages and 15 days. For this.

Fifteen days ago, I began reading Robert Nalbandov’s Not by Bread Alone: Russian Foreign Policy Under Putin. I was struck early on by the book’s attempts to tie Putin’s Russia to a resurgent USSR pursuing its own ethnocentric version of the Pax Romana, and from the comments on that blog post, others were surprised/amused as well. As requested, I have finished reading the book, and will now report its conclusion before sending it back to the library.

This is how the book ends:

Russia will not give up Crimea or any other land it considers part of its identity or velikoderzhavnost’. People will feel individual deprivation, materialized in increased prices for commodities and lower consumer baskets. However, their political culture will tell them not to bend to such external pressure, due to the unique outputs they receive from their government, outputs they have been craving since the dissolution of the Soviet Union: feelings of being feared, that is, respected, by their neighbors.

[…] Russian citizens’ absence of responsibility for their own lives was discussed in chapter 2…Common citizens prefer to accept the lies their government has been telling them because they want to avoid long-term responsibility for their lives. It is always easier to blame someone else if, at the end of the day, something does not work the way you had hoped. However, the same forces that work in the case of Russia’s domestic social contract have disastrous effects on its foreign policy. Until the Russian population accepts full responsibility for the foreign policy of its government – just as it should on the domestic level – until they hold their leaders fully accountable for the choices and actions their government and the military are taking – until that time comes, no change can be expected in Russian foreign policy. (p. 460)

Not with a bang, but with a whimper.


There won’t be a review for Not by Bread Alone.

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5 comments

  1. There seems to be a glut in the market for this kind of propaganda-in-lieu-of-analysis. There must be an endless supply of money to pay all these people to all sound the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The fact that this was written by an assistant professor at a fairly good university (Utah State) is also of great concern (to me, at least).
      By the way, great post on Russian elite opinion, Natylie.

      Like

  2. Thanks, J.T.

    Apparently, having academic credentials doesn’t always matter. Timothy Snyder’s latest piece in the NYRB had me swearing at my computer. 🙂

    Like

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