Russia: The Once and Future Empire From Pre-History to Putin [NOOK Book]


Through the centuries, Russia has swung sharply between successful expansionism, catastrophic collapse, and spectacular recovery.  This illuminating history traces these dramatic cycles of boom and bust from the late Neolithic age to Ivan the Terrible, and from the height of Communism to the truncated Russia of today.

            Philip Longworth explores the dynamics of Russia’s past through time and space, from the nameless adventurers who first ...

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Russia: The Once and Future Empire From Pre-History to Putin

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Through the centuries, Russia has swung sharply between successful expansionism, catastrophic collapse, and spectacular recovery.  This illuminating history traces these dramatic cycles of boom and bust from the late Neolithic age to Ivan the Terrible, and from the height of Communism to the truncated Russia of today.

            Philip Longworth explores the dynamics of Russia’s past through time and space, from the nameless adventurers who first penetrated this vast, inhospitable terrain to a cast of dynamic characters that includes Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, and Stalin.  His narrative takes in the magnificent, historic cities of Kiev, Moscow, and St. Petersburg; it stretches to Alaska in the east, to the Black Sea and the Ottoman Empire to the south, to the Baltic in the west and to Archangel and the Artic Ocean to the north.

            Who are the Russians and what is the source of their imperialistic culture?  Why was Russia so driven to colonize and conquer?  From Kievan Rus’---the first-ever Russian state, which collapsed with the invasion of the Mongols in the thirteenth century---to ruthless Muscovy, the Russian Empire of the eighteenth century and finally the Soviet period, this groundbreaking study analyses the growth and dissolution of each vast empire as it gives way to the next.

            Refreshing in its insight and drawing on a vast range of scholarship, this book also explicitly addresses the question of what the future holds for Russia and her neighbors, and asks whether her sphere of influence is growing. 

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Russia is down; losing an empire will do that to a country. But, counsels historian Longworth, it would be a mistake to count it out. Most empires, Longworth argues, rise and fall, never to rise again. But Russia has seen four major empires in the past nine centuries, each rising from the ashes of the other. Even in pre-history, the nation saw uncommonly large populations in civilized centers, such as the 6,000-year-old Talyanky site, which was home to more than 10,000 people. The first true empire was the great mercantile power of Kievan Rus, which fell in the 1200s after forging trade bonds with far-flung nations throughout Asia and Europe; as Longworth writes, it might have endured longer but for a flawed system of succession by which families splintered into competing factions, all of which might have been solved, ironically, by a stronger centralized government. The second empire followed with the rise of Muscovy, which, "rather than striving for an imperial role...stumbled into one" following the collapse of Ottoman power in Europe. This second empire, like its successor, the Romanov dynasty, expanded in all directions, conquering and creating client states in Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and points east. By Longworth's account, that eastward expansion, which created an immense colonial empire, was almost accidental; Russia's rulers came to command it "innocently, without realizing the world significance of the fact." That may be arguable, given the vast natural wealth of Siberia and Russia's southern steppes, and certainly the command of the last empire, the Soviet, over the region was meant to be absolute; when communism was pressed on the native Chukchi people of the farnorth, they resisted, reasonably, saying that it would not increase the number of walruses. Empire is a distant memory among younger Russians. But, as Longworth observes at the close of this useful survey, "nothing is immutable," and if history is a guide, Russia's empire will rise again.
From the Publisher
“A gripping and supremely readable book by the doyen of our historians of Russia, who truly knows how to bring this story of tsars and commissars to life. It combines shrewd analysis of Russia’s unique appetite for empire with a wonderful narrative pace and fine scholarship.”—-Simon Sebag-Montefiore

“Longworth has a light, informed touch. . . . This attractive account comes from an expert on important topics in more than one century.”—-Robert Service, Sunday Times

“A vivid, highly readable style. . . . Russia is a brilliantly ambitious survey of the whole of Russia’s imperial past. It is a battleground that has long been fought upon by historians. . . . Longworth’s gifts of synthesis and selection are especially well displayed. . . . [He has] an eye for essentials and a deep underlying knowledge.”—-Lawrence Kelly, Literary Review

“Absorbing. . . . Longworth develops the idea in fascinating detail.”—-Michael Kerrigan, Scotsman

“This is not a history of the Soviet Empire or of the Romanov Empire but a history of the expansion and contraction of four Russian empires. . . . This approach . . . tackle[s] a weakness in English-speakers whose countries . . . have expanded but . . . have remained static for some time. Russia is an exception to the rule and one needs to understand this in order to make sense of the current state of Russia today. . . . Where this excellent book excels is in its perspective because . . . what we now have is the end of one peculiarly Russian cycle, not the end of Russian history.”—-Contemporary Review

“Fascinating and pregnant issues. . . . Longworth thinks and writes briskly . . . [and] his authority is commanding. . . . Above all, it is insight into the quintessence of being Russian that makes this such rewarding reading. . . . As too few other contemporary historians do, Longworth understands the predictive powers of history.”—-The Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429916868
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 666,453
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Philip Longworth is the author of seven books including The Cossacks and The Making of Eastern Europe. He was educated by the army and at the University of Oxford and was professor of history at McGill University in Canada for nearly twenty years. He lives in north London. 

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Table of Contents

Illustrations     vii
Acknowledgements     ix
Maps     x
Introduction     1
The Russians: Who are They?     4
The First Russian State     27
Reincarnation     48
The Foundation of an Empire     68
Ivan IV and the First Imperial Expansion     87
The Crash     108
Recovery     128
Peter the Great and the Breakthrough to the West     150
Glorious Expansion     168
The Romantic Age of Empire     190
Descent to Destruction     212
The Construction of a Juggernaut     238
The High Tide of Soviet Imperialism     261
Autopsy on a Deceased Empire     282
Reinventing Russia     301
Conclusion     319
Chronology     327
Notes     333
Bibliography     363
Index     378
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