Sometimes typing a random Russia-related word into the search bar on Goodreads brings up new books that have somehow flown under the radar unnoticed. Below are some of the books I found.
Jonathan Daly’s Crime and Punishment in Russia is the first book-length study of this important topic. Drawing together much existing scholarship, it provides an overview of evolution of the system of criminal justice during the course of roughly three centuries of Russian history up to the present day. Useful features such as maps, figures and a glossary are included, and particular attention is given throughout to comparative analysis with Western countries.
The book approaches Russia both on its own terms and in light of developments in Europe and the wider West, to which Russia’s rulers and educated elites continuously looked for legal models and inspiration. It examines the weak development of the rule of the law over the period and analyzes the contrasts and seeming contradictions of a society which abolished capital punishment in the mid-1700s only to officially sanction the widespread application of corporal punishment until the early 1900s. Daly also provides concise political, social and economic contextual detail as part of the survey to show how the story of crime and punishment fits into the broader narrative of modern Russian history.
This is an important and useful book for all students of modern Russian history as well as the history of crime and punishment in modern Europe.
Vladimir Putin has almost by stealth transformed himself into an historic Russian figure. His undeniable political dominance was reflected in his return to presidential control after the March 2012 elections, having placed an obedient President Dmitry Medvedev in a stop-gap presidency. Since 1999 Putin’s growing power transposed itself in foreign affairs and nowhere did Russia’s re-emergence on the world stage have more impact than in the Middle East.
Russia’s new role and identity had its roots in the late Yeltsin era but Putin has subtly deflated the balloon of US power by cleverly manipulating developments in the Middle East including Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Syrian revolution and other regional issues. Yet twenty years earlier Russia was a very different place, and as it took its first fragile steps in a world full of dangers, the Middle East was not a top priority. This book charts the remarkable conversion in Russian Middle East policy that developed after the turning point in 2005-6, which mirrored Putin’s turn to unbridled authoritarianism. It remains to be seen whether Putin’s increasingly pugnacious Middle East policies can be reconciled with Russia’s long-term interests economically and strategically.
In The Long Hangover, Shaun Walker provides a deeply reported, bottom-up explanation of Russia’s resurgence under Putin. By cleverly exploiting the memory of the USSR’s great victory over fascism in World War II, Putin’s regime has made ordinary Russians feel that their country is great again.
In 2005, Vladimir Putin famously said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a great historical tragedy — the “geopolitical disaster of the century.” Although he was broadly criticized in the West, Putin’s comments captured how most of the Russian people viewed the traumatic post-Soviet era. His remarks coincided with a notable increase in Russian bellicosity on the world stage, which reached its peak with the 2014 Crimea annexation and war in East Ukraine. What are the social forces fueling support for both Putin and Russia’s increasingly combative approach to foreign affairs?
In The Long Hangover, Shaun Walker provides new insight into contemporary Russia and its search for a new identity, telling the story through the country’s troubled relationship with its Soviet past. Walker not only explains Vladimir Putin’s goals and the government’s official manipulations of history, but also focuses on ordinary Russians and their motivations. He charts how Putin raised victory in World War II to the status of a national founding myth in the search for a unifying force to heal a divided country, and shows how dangerous the ramifications of this have been. The book explores why Russia, unlike Germany, has failed to come to terms with the darkest pages of its past: Stalin’s purges, the Gulag, and the war deportations. The narrative roams from the corridors of the Kremlin to the wilds of the Gulags and the trenches of east Ukraine. It puts the annexation of Crimea and the newly assertive Russia in the context of the delayed fallout of the Soviet collapse.
The Long Hangover is a book about a lost generation: the millions of Russians who lost their country and the subsequent attempts to restore to them a sense of purpose. Packed with analysis but told mainly through vibrant reportage, it is a thoughtful exploration of the legacy of the Soviet collapse and how it has affected life in Russia and Putin’s policies. It shows that the legacy of the collapse is one with which Russia and Russians are still grappling.
The West has woken up to the uncomfortable fact that Russia has long believed it is at war with them, the most egregious example of which is Vladimir Putin’s hacking of the US elections. For Western governments, used to believing in the post-Cold War peace dividend, it came as a shock to find the liberal international order is under threat from an aggressive Russia. The ‘End of History – loudly proclaimed in 1991 – has been replaced by the ‘Return of History.’ Putin’s War Against Ukraine came three years earlier when he launched an unprovoked war in the Donbas and annexed the Crimea. Putin’s war against Ukraine has killed over 30, 000 civilians, Ukrainian and Russian soldiers and Russian proxies, forced a third of the population of the Donbas to flee, illegally nationalised Ukrainian state and private entities in the Crimea and the Donbas, destroyed huge areas of the infrastructure and economy of the Donbas, and created a black hole of crime and soft security threats to Europe. Putin’s War Against Ukraine is the first book to focus on national identity as the root of the crisis through Russia’s long-term refusal to view Ukrainians as a separate people and an unwillingness to recognise the sovereignty and borders of independent Ukraine. Written by Taras Kuzio, a leading authority on contemporary Ukraine, the book is a product of extensive fieldwork in Russian speaking eastern and southern Ukraine and the front lines of the Donbas combat zone. Putin’s War Against Ukraine debunks myths surrounding the conflict and provides an incisive analysis for scholars, policy makers, and journalists as to why Vladimir Putin is at war with the West and Ukraine.
This book is a satiric one. It is written as a journalist’s remarks on actions or statements of the representatives of branches of the Russian government. These remarks are short but they are capacious, exact and sharp, they are full of irony and sarcasm. They expose the main aim of the government: to stay in power as long as possible in order to get preference to plunder Russia. People’s deputies fight with their own people. Government fights with economics. The president fights with people, economics, opposition and constitution. Every law passed lately has a Labrador ears behind it. It seems, that Cony (Labrador) in the Senate it is not just an Ancient Rome but modern Russia, too. After thirty years of Putin’s “stability” the country is on the brink of economic disaster. Its destiny depends on some hundred USD! And it is after we have almost been breathless with petro-dollar flow. Russia is rising! Let’s give panem et circenses to plebs! We will manage with the help of Stabfunds till 2024 but after that VVP (GDP) should not grow! This is a funny book written in co-authorship with many “famous” representatives of the Russian political, cultural and “ecclesiastical” elite. As George Orwell said: “A normal human being does not want power so abnormal human beings always have it”
I also discovered a new academic journal, the Journal of Russian-American Studies.