qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Book Review: Russia - Experiment with a People, by Robert Service
Once I'd bought Imperium, I wanted to read that first, although this one has been sitting on my shelves for a number of years. Service begins with a potted history of various aspects of the Russian Empire and the USSR, highlighting that there are several areas where the concept of "Russia" as a stand-alone entity are poorly understood. This provides the background to the emergence of the Russian Federation after the abolition of the USSR. One might have expected an unremittingly negative assessment, but Service is surprisingly almost up-beat, even after criticism of various policies and actions. The handling of privatisation is dealt with swiftly and scathingly. His assessment of the disastrous campaigns in Chechnya is put into context and is probably fair. Yeltsin had high hopes and ambitions but for various reasons failed to deliver on many of them; nevertheless he established a break with the Soviet era. In turn, Putin has rehabilitated the Soviet era to some extent (and probably more so since this book was written in 2002). The economics and political environment are very different, but in some of the more psychological aspects it is interesting to consider the parallels between the USSR/Russia and UK/England.
Tags: books, history
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