The Story of Russia

Metropolitan. Sept. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781250796899. $29.99. HIST
The divisive Ukraine War and Vladimir Putin’s intentions are clarified by Russia’s past. Grand Prince Vladimir (“Volodymyr” to Ukrainians) ruled the first iteration of the Russian state, Kievan Rus, founded in 988, which united the modern nations of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. When Putin refers to military actions towards Belarus and Ukraine, his motives are to reunite the lands of Russia lost in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It’s also a reinforcement of a long-held reciprocal aristocratic system, where Putin’s oligarchs are dependent upon him for their wealth, and he in turn receives their political support. Sadly, these historical justifications for war cannot be verified. Very little contemporary history is recorded and is often skewed to the country of origin. Russia’s history is ill-defined, a narrative bent towards the needs of the sitting ruler. Figes (history, Birkbeck Coll., London Univ.; The Europeans) remains an authoritative interpreter of Russian history, distilling complex and disputed facts into an engrossing narrative. Even veteran and informed historians will be edified by this scholarly tome.
VERDICT A necessary addition to Russian history collections and required reading for those wanting to understand the dispute over Ukraine.
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