Welcome to Russia Reviewed, formerly known as peРУСЬ (transliteration: Perus’, pronounced puh-ROOS). The shadow title of this blog comes from the union of the English word peruse (meaning ‘to read through with thoroughness or care’) and the old Russian word русь (a reference to Kievan Rus’, the loose federation of 9th – 13th century East Slavic tribes which Russia claims as its cultural ancestor). So, one can deduce that this blog will focus on reviewing Russia-related books.
Against a backdrop of growing tensions between East and West, there has been renewed interest in Russia among politicians, journalists, academics and laymen alike. A plethora of books on Russia are available for inquisitive and concerned minds, and new releases are slated for release in most months. Some books try to analyze in depth Russia’s political system, economy, foreign policy and other areas. Others try to scare and shock the public, propagating the idea of Russia as a declining country on the verge of collapse, the greatest threat to international peace, or BOTH. Russia Reviewed‘s purpose is to provide original reviews of recent releases and relevant older books and evaluate each book’s potential to leave the reader with an informed opinion on this fascinating country. I hope through this blog and my reviews I will be able to help curious readers find nuanced books that will help expand their knowledge on contemporary Russia.
Addendum: I will also be sharing others’ articles and analyses on Russia as well.
I review literature on Russia written from 2000 to the present day. Topics include politics, history, international relations, society, and contemporary culture. Occasionally I will review travelogues written by Western visitors to Russia, and perhaps some fiction by contemporary Russian authors as well. I use a standard 1-5 star rating system.
In a nonfiction review, I might explore several questions:
- Does the book avoid popular misconceptions about Russia or does it perpetuate them?
- Is it sensational or levelheaded? Strongly biased or fair?
- Does it take a nuanced approach to Russia that will help its readers form a well-informed opinion on the country?
- What is the book’s position in the context of the current US-Russia standoff?
- Who wrote the book? A journalist? Russian Opposition member? Politician? Scholar? Is it possible (s)he has an ax to grind?
Book reviews are constrained by both book availability and time. Expect at least 2 reviews per month, possibly more if I have vacations or breaks.
Biases and Limitations; Position
- I am a student of Russian affairs, working from an incomplete knowledge base.
- I am not culturally or ethnically Russian, nor have I been to Russia, grounding me firmly in the Western outsider’s perspective (albeit an unconventional one). I am open to enlightenment by native Russians. I do read Russian at a fairly high level, so direction to Russian-language material is welcomed.
- I’m not affiliated with any political party or movement.
- I’m biased for books, academic papers, and empirical research and against news articles.
- I’m biased in favor of logic-based arguments and against emotional appeals.
- I have no time for the idea that Russia somehow defies logic.
- I do not believe that the mass media can be counted on to provide balanced coverage of Russia. That goes for both Western and Russian mass media, but especially Western.
- While I do not hold a positive view of the Putin administration, I’m in no rush to demonize it.
- My ratings do not depend on how agreeable I find a book’s argument.
- I am of the belief that my country’s interests are not well served by confrontation with Russia, and that it is good when nation-states have stable, non-bellicose relations with one another.
Russia Reviewed is but one voice in a sea of many. Read widely, read deeply!