Trawling for books [PS and Amazon]

I apologize in advance for the slim pickings today. Partly, it’s because I’ve included many 2017 releases in previous booklists. It’s also because on Paperback Swap I found a disconcertingly large number of books about deterrence, containment, war with Russia, cyber and information warfare, Russian weaponry, and the country’s coming collapse. My, how times have changed. Not really.

Historians and Historical Societies in the Public Life of Imperial Russia by Vera Kaplan (Mar 17 2017)

What was the role of historians and historical societies in the public life of imperial Russia? Focusing on the Society of Zealots of Russian Historical Education (1895–1918), Vera Kaplan analyzes the network of voluntary associations that existed in imperial Russia, showing how they interacted with state, public, and private bodies. Unlike most Russian voluntary associations of the late imperial period, the Zealots were conservative in their view of the world. Yet, like other history associations, the group conceived their educational mission broadly, engaging academic and amateur historians, supporting free public libraries, and widely disseminating the historical narrative embraced by the Society through periodicals. The Zealots were champions of voluntary association and admitted members without regard to social status, occupation, or gender. Kaplan’s study affirms the existence of a more substantial civil society in late imperial Russia and one that could endorse a modernist program without an oppositional liberal agenda.

Putin’s Olympics: The Sochi Games and the Evolution of Twenty-First Century Russia by Robert W Orttung (BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies) (Feb 21 2017)

President Vladimir Putin’s Olympic venture put the workings of contemporary Russia on vivid display. The Sochi Olympics were designed to symbolize Russia’s return to great power status, but subsequent aggression against Ukraine, large-scale corruption, and the doping scandal have become the true legacies of the games. Putin’s style of governance through mega-projects has had deleterious consequences for the country’s development. Placing the Sochi games into the larger context of Olympic history, this book examines the political, security, business, ethnic, societal, and international consequences of Putin’s political system.

The Advent of Abstraction: Russia, 1914-1923 by Andrei Nakov (March 21 2017)

Russian avant-garde art—the exciting art movement that flourished in Russia in the years surrounding the 1917 revolution—resulted in remarkable works of art, architecture, literature, film, theater, dance, and graphic design. The first non-figurative art movement, it was enormously important in the development of modern art. This lavishly illustrated exhibition catalog looks at six major works by six renowned Russian artists: Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Ivan Kliun, Ilja Chashnik, El Lissitzky, and Lyubov Popova. Stunning reproductions are accompanied by original documents, objects, manuscripts, and photographs from the collection of art historian Andréi Nakov. Nakov also writes on how, in the late 1950s, Canadian diplomats posted to Moscow were instrumental in helping form the collection of George Costakis, who worked at the Canadian Embassy and whose collection of Constructivist and other Russian avant-garde works grew to become the largest and most representative collection anywhere.

Russia and China: A Political Marriage of Convenience – Stable and Successful by Michal Lubina (Jan 17 2017)

This book depicts the sophisticated relationship between Russia and China as a pragmatic one, a political marriage of convenience. Yet at the same time, the relationship is stable, and will likely remain so. After all, bilateral relations are usually based on pragmatic interests and the pursuit of these interests is the essence of foreign policy. And, as often happens in life, the most long-lasting marriages are those based on convenience.

Return to Moscow by Tony Kevin (Apr 19 2017)

Forty-eight years ago, a young and apprehensive Tony Kevin set off with his family on his first diplomatic posting, to Moscow at the height of the Cold War. In the Russian winter of 2016 he returns alone, a private citizen aged 73. What will he find? How has Russia changed since those grim Soviet days? Tony Kevin had a successful and challenging diplomatic career, ending with ambassadorships to Poland (1991-94) and Cambodia (1994-97). He now applies his attention to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, a government and nation routinely demonised and disdained in Western capitals. Why does President Putin arouse such a high level of Western antagonism? Is the West throwing away the lessons of recent history in recklessly drifting into a perilous and unnecessary new Cold War confrontation against Russia? Tony Kevin invites readers to see this great nation anew: to explore with him the complex roots of Russian national identity and values, drawing on its traumatic recent seventy-year Soviet Communist past and its momentous thousand-year history as a great Orthodox Christian nation that has both loved and feared ‘the West’, and which the West has loved and feared back in equal measure. Tony Kevin’s previous books include A Certain Maritime Incident: the sinking of SIEV X (2004) and Reluctant Rescuers (2012) on Australia’s well-resourced maritime border protection system. He published a travel memoir Walking the Camino (2007) about his long pilgrimage walk through Spain in 2006. In 2009, Crunch Time tackled issues, still unresolved, of framing an effective Australian policy against global warming.

Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs by Douglas Smith (Nov 7 2017)

On the centenary of the death of Rasputin comes a definitive biography that will dramatically change our understanding of this fascinating figure

A hundred years after his murder, Rasputin continues to excite the popular imagination as the personification of evil. Numerous biographies, novels, and films recount his mysterious rise to power as Nicholas and Alexandra’s confidant and the guardian of the sickly heir to the Russian throne. His debauchery and sinister political influence are the stuff of legend, and the downfall of the Romanov dynasty was laid at his feet.

But as the prizewinning historian Douglas Smith shows, the true story of Rasputin’s life and death has remained shrouded in myth. A major new work that combines probing scholarship and powerful storytelling, Rasputin separates fact from fiction to reveal the real life of one of history’s most alluring figures. Drawing on a wealth of forgotten documents from archives in seven countries, Smith presents Rasputin in all his complexity–man of God, voice of peace, loyal subject, adulterer, drunkard. Rasputin is not just a definitive biography of an extraordinary and legendary man but a fascinating portrait of the twilight of imperial Russia as it lurched toward catastrophe.

Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation by Serhii Plokhy (Oc1 10 2017)

Lyttenburgh trigger book

The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad by Alexis Peri (Jan 2 2017)

In September 1941, two and a half months after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, the German Wehrmacht encircled Leningrad. Cut off from the rest of Russia, the city remained blockaded for 872 days, at a cost of almost a million civilian lives, making it one of the longest and deadliest sieges in modern history.

The War Within chronicles the Leningrad blockade from the perspective of those who endured the unendurable. Drawing on 125 unpublished diaries written by individuals from all walks of Soviet life, Alexis Peri tells the tragic story of how citizens struggled to make sense of a world collapsing around them. Residents recorded in intimate detail the toll taken on minds and bodies by starvation, bombardment, and disease. For many, diary writing became instrumental to survival―a tangible reminder of their humanity. The journals also reveal that Leningraders began to reexamine Soviet life and ideology from new, often critical perspectives.

Leningrad’s party organization encouraged diary writing, hoping the texts would guide future histories of this epic battle. But in a bitter twist, the diarists became victims not only of Hitler but also of Stalin. The city’s isolation from Moscow made it politically suspect. When the blockade was lifted in 1944, Kremlin officials censored publications describing the ordeal and arrested hundreds of Leningrad’s wartime leaders. Many were executed. Diaries―now dangerous to their authors―were concealed in homes, shelved in archives, and forgotten. The War Within recovers these lost narratives, shedding light on one of World War II’s darkest episodes.

What Language Do I Dream In? A Memoir by Elena Lappin (Feb 14 2017)

Taking its title from a question often asked of polyglots, What Language Do I Dream In? is Elena Lappin’s stunning memoir about how language runs throughout memory and family history to form identity. Lappin’s life could be described as “five languages in search of an author”, and as a multiple émigré, her decision to write in English was the result of many wanderings. Russian, Czech, German, Hebrew, and finally, English: each language is a link to a different piece of Lappin’s rich family mosaic and the struggle to find a voice in a language not one’s own.

From Europe to North America—and back again, via some of the twentieth century’s most significant political upheavals—Lappin reconstructs the stories and secrets of her parents and grandparents with the tenderness of a novelist and the eye of a documentary filmmaker. The story of Lappin’s identity is unexpectedly complicated by the discovery, in middle age, that her biological father was an American living in Russia. This revelation makes her question the very bedrock of her knowledge of her birth, and adds a surprising twist: suddenly, English may be more than the accidental “home in exile”—it is a language she may have been close to from the very beginning.

“English is not my mother tongue,” writes Elena Lappin, “it is something more valuable: a language I was lucky enough to be able to choose.” What Language Do I Dream In? is a wonderful, honest story about love, family, memory, and how they intertwine to form who we are.

I was Anastasia (A Novel) by Ariel Lawhon (Oct 10 2017)

Proof that the Anastasia myth is still alive and well and “inspiring” people?

Who Lost Russia? How the World Entered a New Cold War by Peter Conradi (Apr 11 2017)

When the Soviet Union collapsed on December 26, 1991, it looked like the start of a remarkable new era of peace and co-operation. Some even dared to declare the end of history, assuming all countries would converge on enlightenment values and liberal democracy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Russia emerged from the 1990s battered and humiliated; the parallels with Weimar Germany are striking. Goaded on by a triumphalist West, a new Russia has emerged, with a large arsenal of upgraded weapons, conventional and nuclear, determined to reassert its national interests in the ‘near abroad’ — Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine — as well as fighting a proxy war in the Middle East. Meanwhile, NATO is executing large-scale maneuvers and stockpiling weaponry close to Russia’s border.

In this provocative new work, Peter Conradi argues that we have consistently failed to understand Russia and its motives and, in doing so, have made a powerful enemy.

Modern Russia: The Basics by Charlotte Alston (May 14 2017)

Modern Russia: The Basics is an accessible introduction to the key events and transformations which have taken place in Russia from the late 19th century to the present day. Exploring the subject in seven clearly defined chronological periods, this text examines the politics, economics, culture of Russia, and studies its evolving relationship with neighbouring states. Subjects covered include:

  • The Russian Empire and Revolutionary Russia
  • The development of Soviet society under Stalin’s system
  • The Great Patriotic War and emergence of Russia as a global superpower
  • Cold War politics and tensions from the Soviet perspective
  • The collapse of the Soviet Union and its impact on society
  • Russia in the 21st Century and beyond

Alive with current scholarship and debates, maps and further reading throughout, Modern Russia: The Basics is a valuable resource for all those taking courses in Russian history and society.

 

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16 comments

  1. “On the centenary of the death of Rasputin comes a definitive biography that will dramatically change our understanding of this fascinating figure”

    “A hundred years after his murder, Rasputin continues to excite the popular imagination as the personification of evil.”

    In the West only. Successful propaganda is successful. Here no one really cares about Rasputin.

    “Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation by Serhii Plokhy (Oc1 10 2017)

    Lyttenburgh trigger book”

    No, J.T. First of all, I don;t subscribe to the “triggered” rhetoric even in rhetorical sense. We have a perfect Russian counterpart word – “бомбить с чего-то” – which I, as vatnik, sovok and anti-Western unhandshakable bydlo will and do use.

    Examples of this expression used on context:

    “Меня до сих пор бомбит от просмотра нашего так называемого “первого супергеройского кино” фильма Защитники

    No, the book that will make me pissed off and cry for blood of the author and his/her kin would be the next one:

    “The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad by Alexis Peri (Jan 2 2017)”

    …The journals also reveal that Leningraders began to reexamine Soviet life and ideology from new, often critical perspectives.

    ….The city’s isolation from Moscow made it politically suspect. When the blockade was lifted in 1944, Kremlin officials censored publications describing the ordeal and arrested hundreds of Leningrad’s wartime leaders. Many were executed.

    That kind of lurid, lying, distorted shit. Lying piece of crap, probably (I don’t know – I didn’t read the book neither am I planning to do that) conflates the “Leningrad Doctors affair” (which happened many years later) with the actual siege of Leningrad, trying to retcon it somehow, that it was a “purge” against a city. A city, apparently, inhabited ONLY by Jewish doctors with cosmopolite Zionist sympathies. Or, what, those who were, indeed, arrested after the Blockade, for war profiteering, murder, looting and cannibalism – those are now “innocent victims of Bloody Stalinist Regime”? After all, as another book in this list says, those were “grim Soviet days”(c) (in Soviet Яussia all days are grim, tovaristch – Ayn Rand confirms!), after all the whole country was suffering from “traumatic recent seventy-year Soviet Communist past” (It was traumatic! All who disagrees will be most democratically lustrated into the Prison Camps of FreeDoom!).

    Books like that shows that for the Western Russophobes (and our so-called Russian Liberals) there really nothing is sacred, every low trick is permissible, when their aim is to ideologiacally crash Russia and the collective memory of the War, to brainwash the population into submissive cattle, always on their knees before the Racially Culturally and Morally Superior West, begging for forgiveness, repenting and paying – paying and repenting.

    Like

    • In the West only. Successful propaganda is successful. Here no one really cares about Rasputin.

      Well, it’s a shame no one cares. Because if you did care, you would know that Rasputin was instrumental in the 1917 revolution! He was the one who led the angry mob to storm the Winter Palace! It’s true!

      (According to a crappy children’s movie (Golden Films Anastasia) that was actually written, greenlighted, and released on DVD so that families and depressed Russia-watchers at the end of their rope could enjoy it)

      No, J.T. First of all, I don;t subscribe to the “triggered” rhetoric even in rhetorical sense. We have a perfect Russian counterpart word – “бомбить с чего-то” – which I, as vatnik, sovok and anti-Western unhandshakable bydlo will and do use.

      This post was written and scheduled – Feb. 24, before I read your discussion with Sergey Armeyskov – and I forgot to cut that bit. I apologize.
      But thanks for the new vocab.

      Like

      • J.T., no offense taken and no need to apologize. And I won’t call my exchange of opinions with Sergey Armeiskov a “discussion”.

        The thing is, the term “being triggered” presuppose a passive reaction, amounting to whining and “plox, not in my face!” pleading. While our own “бомбить от/с чего-то” assumes furious, frenzy-like immediate response and general mobilization of every resource of your mind and soul in order to pwn the source of “бомбаж” – be it publishing an annihilating review on yet another Russian говно-фильм (produced on our, Russian citizens money – thanks to the Ministry of Culture and the Union of Cinematographers!) or when a gopnik applies raw kinetic power to your face, upon hearing your heretical thoughts on the life and artistic legacy of Mikhail Krug.

        The unofficial anthem to all people, who experience “бомбаж” from smth is the following song (listen, and you will, probably, know why):

        Re-action gaining its own momentum is not a bad thing – it’s a good motivator. Say, my most recent “бомбаж” also resulted in me writing short (yes, I said short!) essay, which in most polite and acceptable by the refined society terms postulates, that :

        1) Ray Kurzweil is a kh-lo, la-la-la-la!
        2) Fans of transhumanism, AIs, and virtual reality are welcome to suck… my spirituality
        3) There is no such thing as the Scientific/Technological Revolution

        Again – all in the most refined, polite, snark-free manner. With quotes from G.K. Chesterton to boot. Now, lets someone else experience their own Bomboleio!

        P.S. I have a strange feeling that I, probably, did watch this cartoon as a kid. The myth of “Evul Sorcerer Rasputin forces meek worker-peasant masses to revolt against INCREADIBLY BELOVED by the population Romanovs” predates Ron Bluth’s “Anastasia”.

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        • “I have a strange feeling that I, probably, did watch this cartoon as a kid. The myth of “Evul Sorcerer Rasputin forces meek worker-peasant masses to revolt against INCREADIBLY BELOVED by the population Romanovs” predates Ron Bluth’s “Anastasia”.

          Well, do you remember another kid-friendly Anastasia film where the Romanovs were transformed into talking musical instruments after they died?

          Also a real movie – The Secret of Anastasia.
          (Seriously…who made these?!)

          Like

          • ” film where the Romanovs were transformed into talking musical instruments after they died”

            […]

            Not this one! Arrrgh! What, there are dozens of them?!

            What’s wrong with you, America? You define yourself as the Republic, yet you have this cult-like worship of [Disney-like] Princesses?! What, you need several centuries of the feudalism and serfdom on your soil to drive home some points? Then vote Libertarian next time!

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            • OH YES.

              Because this and the other film were cheap cash-ins, never the subject of public scrutiny, it gave the writers even more free rein over the historical “details”. Aaaaand they chose to leave most of the facts out.
              P.S. I discovered both of these animated abominations via an anonymous lead.
              I think it’s time to stop accepting anonymous leads.

              Like

        • “Were the owners truly owners or did they simply believe they were?”

          If a ceratain category of people can plunder and loot (not always) their country without impunity, to buy legislature deouties both locally and at the highest level to pass the laws benefitting them, who conduct themselves as if they were above the law – and who openly flaut it when it suited their needs – can you say, that these people did own a country?

          See: Semibankirschina. This was the Mafia state – not “Putin’s Russia”, as suddenly outraged pundits try to make everyone believe.

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        • Well… thank you, SR! It’s rare to find such honest kindness on the net these days let alone the willingness to tolerate somehow clumsly, typos-ridden attemtps to convey one’s thoughts.

          I’ll alsao like to use this opportunity to congratulate both the owner and propertitor of this amazing blog, and her numerous commenters with the International Women’s Day – a state holiday and a day-off in Russia!

          Liked by 2 people

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