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A History of Russia - A Book Review

How much do you know about the history of Russia? Most of us know only what we have seen in documentaries or movies. How much that is true can be debatable. There is one book that you need to read if you are seriously considering: A History of Russia by Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg.

Many history books can be a dry read. This does not make history interesting. Riasanovsky and Steinberg do a very good job in keeping this book from being as dry as many are. You have to keep in mind that this book is covering all the history of Russia from ancient times through the early years of the twenty-first century. This is not a brief overview. This is detailed in over 700 pages of text.

There are various pictures and maps throughout the book illustrating the reigns of individual Russians as well as the life during those times. Having the maps makes the reading much more understandable for those that are visual. What is described in a section can be summarized in a few maps and makes it all so much clearer.

One difficulty a reader might find is the various names they encounter. Not many of us are familiar with Russian names and trying to pronounce them is hard. Also, remembering the various people and their roles in history might have you reading sections multiple times to get the names straight.

This book comes with a 40 page bibliography for further study which is wonderful if you are needing this book for academic research. I found it came in quite handy for my History of Russia class. The bibliography is divided into sections such as “Pre-Petrine Russia (to 1682)” and “Soviet Russia, 1717-1991”. Even these sections are subdivided into “General Studies” and specialized studies. This is one of the best organized bibliographies I have ever found.

The index is 39 pages and is decent. There is so much information that the index is not exhaustive and will not always direct you where you want to go. Keep that in mind if you use the index of a book often.

This is a thick book but is well worth it. It is also not cheap starting at $60. A History of Russia is a history lover’s perfect book. You won’t find tons of colorful pictures, but you will find sufficient black and white photos to supplement the reading. Want to know more about Russia and are not satisfied with a cursory glimpse into it? Then this is a book for you.

Note: This book was part of a history class the author took.


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