You may download a PDF file of the most up-to-date Booklist here.
Reading Suggestions – Books
I. POLITICS and PUTIN
Hill, Fiona and Clifford Gaddy. Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. Brookings Institution Press. 2013.
Acclaimed, particularly as a guide for policy makers.
Lipman, Maria and *Nikolay Petrov. Russia 2025: Scenarios for the Russian Future. Palgrave Macmillan. 2013.
Two major Russian experts – Maria Lipman (Chief Editor of Pro et Contra journal of the Moscow Carnegie Center) and Nikolay Petrov (Professor of Higher School of Economics Research Institute), analyze the Russian economy and politics, while also offering development scenarios for the next decade. Experts are impressed by the depth of analysis and its comprehensive review of the reality of contemporary Russia. (From Russia Direct’s “Top 10 Books about Russia Published in 2013”)
Remington, Thomas. Politics in Russia, 7th Edition. Pearson Education, Inc. 2012.
Prof. Remington, of Emory University and the Davis Center at Harvard, has written the most widely used authoritative text on how the Russian Federation is governed. He is a member of the Camden Conference and a summer resident of Northport.
Politkovskaya, Anna. Putin’s Russia. Henry Holt Company, LLC. 2007.
Politkovskaya, murdered in Moscow in 2006, was a fiercely independent and critical investigative journalist, writing about the war in Chechnya, corruption, and the character of Vladimir Putin.
Gessen, Masha. The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Riverhead Books. 2013.
Gessen, a journalist, has her own critical interpretation of Putin and his rise to power.
Treisman, Daniel. The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev. Simon and Schuster. 2011.
Treisman argues that, as in other countries, the policies followed by Russia’s leaders are shaped by economic circumstances and public opinion.
Akunin, Boris. Part of Europe. History of the Russian state. From its origins to the Mongol Invasion. AST. 2013.
Akunin (Grigory Chkartishvili), is a leading Russian intellectual, author of the Erast Fandorin historical detective novels and a film-maker, essayist, and translator from the Japanese. This volume presents his historical interpretation of Russia.
Remnick, David. Lenin’s Tomb. Vintage Books. 1994.
Perhaps the best account of how and why the Soviet Union collapsed. Remnick was NYTimes Moscow correspondent; he is now editor of The New Yorker.
Thompson, John M. Russia and the Soviet Union: A Historical Introduction from the Kieven State to the Present. Westview Press. 2012
Comprehensive, balanced, up to date, engaging, and deftly written, Russia and the Soviet Union may be the best brief history of Russia available today.—Donald J. Raleigh, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Figes, Orlando. Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991. Metropolitan Books. 2014.
Figes, a British historian, provides an excellent survey of the Russian revolution and the Soviet Union. His book covers diplomacy and international affairs as well as internal developments. In his view, Communist ideology and the revolution shaped Russia throughout the Soviet era.
Service, Robert. A History of Twentieth Century Russia. Penguin Books. 1999.
Always well-informed and balanced in his judgments, clear and concise in his analysis … Service is extremely good on Soviet politics – Orlando Figes, Sunday Telegraph
A fine book … it is a dizzying tale and Service tells it well; he has none of the ideological baggage that has so often bedeviled Western histories of Russia – Brian Moynahan, Sunday Times
Hosking, Geoffrey. The First Socialist Society: A History of the Soviet Union from Within, Second Enlarged Edition. Harvard University Press. 1997.
Hosking explores the impact of Soviet socialism on people’s lives, an emphasis often overlooked in books about Soviet high politics and diplomacy.
Satter, David. It Was a Long Time Ago and it Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past. Yale University Press. 2011.
Satter argues that Russia has failed to come to terms with its communist history, and this explains much of what we see in Russian behavior today.
III. ECONOMY AND ENERGY
Aslund, Anders. Russia’s Capitalist Revolution: Why Market Reform Succeeded and Democracy Failed. Peterson Institute. 2007.
The central paradox about contemporary Russia is why capitalism has taken root, but democracy has not. Anders Aslund provides a crisp, comprehensive, and compelling answer. Russia s Capitalist Revolution will become a classic overnight, the standard by which all future books on the last two decades of Soviet and Russian history will be judged. – Michael McFaul, director, Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law, Stanford University
Goldman, Marshall. Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia. Oxford University Press. 2010.
This may be Goldman’s best book, and that’s saying a lot. Goldman explains why and how Russia has again emerged as a global power. The answer is oil. At inflated prices, it leads directly to inflated national aspirations and further down the road to dangers of a totally unpredictable nature. Marvin Kalb, former Moscow bureau chief for CBS News
Gustafson, Thane. Wheel of Fortune: The Battle for Oil and Power in Russia. Belknap Press. 2012.
Thane Gustafson is the master expert on Russia’s vast oil and gas industry. He tells the story of the past two decades as the hydrocarbon-rich Eurasian giant has sought, in fits and starts, to shuck its Soviet past and become a normal, modern nation, integrated into the global economy. (Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution)
IV. FOREIGN POLICY
Stent, Angela. The Limits of Partnership: US-Russian Relations in the 21st Century. Princeton University Press. 2014.
Stent was adviser to Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush and is Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown.
Trenin, Dmitri. Post Imperium: A Eurasian Story. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2011.
Trenin, a Russian at the Carnegie Endowment, argues that Russia seeks influence but not the re-creation of empire. He analyzes Russian relations with Europe, China and Central Asia. Trenin was a speaker at an earlier Camden Conference.
Cimbala, Stephen. Arms for Uncertainty: Nuclear Weapons in US and Russian Security Policy. Ashgate Publishing Co. 2013.
Lest we forget, Russia remains the only country that can destroy the US in thirty minutes. Russia is also a central partner in curbing proliferation.
Gvosdev Nikolas K. and Christopher Marsh. Russian Foreign Policy: Interests, Vectors, and Sectors. Cq Pr. 2014.
Gvosdev, at the Naval War College, and Marsh, at the Army School of Advanced Military Studies, analyze Russian foreign policy, with historical background, by looking in the various directions from Moscow.
Tsygankov, Andrei P. Russia’s Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity, 3rd Edition. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2013.
Tsygankov traces three views of Russian foreign policy, West, Eurasia, and Euro-East, competing for influence since the demise of the Soviet Union.
Laruelle, Marlene. Russia’s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North. M.E. Sharpe. 2013.
Timely and important. As the ice melts, Russia has been making a major effort to promote the Northeast Passage as a trade route between Asia and Europe and to secure claims to undersea resources. The Arctic has been neglected in US policy, and is now finally receiving some attention.
V. SOCIETY and CULTURE
Feifer, Gregory. Russians: The People Behind the Power. Twelve. 2014.
Feifer is one of the best young journalists; he knows Russia from the inside out.
Figes, Orlando. Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia. Picadore. 2003.
Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg and culminating with the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself. Skillfully interweaving the great works–by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall–with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, Figes explores the spirit of “Russianness” which outlasts rulers and regimes. (Adapted from Publisher’s remarks)
Akunin, Boris. The Winter Queen. Random House Trade Paperbacks. 2004. (and other Erast Fandorin detective novels)
Akunin’s Erast Fandorin’s historical detective novels set in late Tsarist times have made him a celebrity in Russia. Winter Queen stars the naive but eager Fandorin as a young investigator with the Moscow police. Why would a university student shoot himself in the middle of the Alexander Gardens? Fandorin sets out to find the answer and soon lands in the middle of a far-reaching international conspiracy. Akunin contrasts the comical innocence of his hero with the decadence of Moscow–aristocrats idling in gambling clubs while the winds of revolution freshen. (Adapted from Booklist)
Barker, Adele and Bruce Grant, eds. The Russia Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press Books. 2010.
This big collection of short pieces, mostly by Russians, includes essays, documents, reflections on daily life throughout Russian history, and some important bits of the Russian literary canon.
Brown, Clarence, ed. The Portable 20th Century Russia Reader. Penguin Books. 2003.
Much of the best or early 20th century and Soviet writing: Blok, Mayakovsky, Bulgakov, Pasternak, Mandelstam, Akhmatova, Shalamov, Solzhenitsyn and others. Start with Tolstoy’s enigmatic story Alyosha the Pot.
von Bremzen, Anya. Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing. Crown. 2013.
Funny, delightful journey through the various episodes of the workers’ paradise, told from the kitchen of a Russian-Jewish family. From dinner table conversations and Soviet cookbooks, von Bremzen explains what rodina – the Soviet Motherland – was really all about.
VI. RUSSIA AND THE NEIGHBORS
Kubichek, Paul. The History of Ukraine. Greenwood. 2008.
[T]his book offers a current, concise, and analytical history of the Ukraine. . . . Kubicek, a professor of political science at Oakland University, takes an interesting, informative look at how Ukrainian politics has evolved and its development as a nation. (From Publisher’s remarks)
Rose, Gideon, ed. Crisis in Ukraine. Council on Foreign Relations. 2014.
Crisis in Ukraine sets the intellectual stage for understanding the turmoil in Eastern Europe, what is really at stake, and what will come next. The arguments presented span the ideological spectrum, and the authors include a range of leading experts from several disciplines and countries, including Yuliya Tymoshenko, Alexander Motyl, Orlando Figes, Kathryn Stoner, Daniel Treisman, Brian Taylor, Kathleen McNamara, and more. (From Publisher’s remarks)
de Waal, Thomas. The Caucasus: An Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2010.
This is the definitive text for anyone interested in this complex region. De Waal describes the deep roots of current conflicts and his analysis of the present situation is right on target. It should be required reading for anyone involved in Caucasian affairs. –Richard Miles, former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan and Georgia
de Waal, Thomas. Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. NYU Press. 2004.
Never have all the twists and turns, sad carnage, and bullheadedness on all sides been better described-or, indeed, better explained . . . Offers a deeper and more compelling account of the conflict than anyone before. -Foreign Affairs
Jones, Stephen F. Georgia: A Political History Since Independence. I. B. Taurus. 2012.
This impressive book represents a substantial achievement. It presents a rare but desperately needed and fresh analysis of contemporary Georgia. The author has unusually perceptive eyes that see through the stock categories and clichés that shape so much commentary and analysis about Georgia. I don’t know of any other treatment of Georgia (or its neighbors) that is as thorough. -Dr Michael Reynolds, Associate Professor, Princeton University
Schaefer, Robert W. The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Ghazavat to Jihad. Praeger. 2011.
A remarkable book … Col Schaefer’s book does a fine job in summarizing the breadth and depth of the conflict, and making the latest military thinking about insurgencies accessible, while steering clear of polemic or bias. This book tells you a lot about the Caucasus. And also about the brainpower assets of the American military. — The Economist
Cooley, Alexander. Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia. Oxford University Press. 2012.
Cooley’s book offers the most lucid and well-written account to date of America’s ten-year involvement in Central Asia. -Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books
Malashenko, Alexey. The Fight for Influence: Russia in Central Asia. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2013.
Central Asia is a key region for Russian security, and also significant for Russia in both the economic and cultural sense. Malashenko mentions the reduction of Russia’s influence in Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and considers the interaction between Russia and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. (From Russia Direct’s “Top 10 Books about Russia Published in 2013”)
Eurasia Daily Monitor www.jamestown.org/programs/edm
Excellent analysis, focus on Russia and the neighbors.
Johnson’s Russia List https://russialist.org/
Comprehensive; all the news and opinion about Russia, from Russia and the West.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty www.rferl.org
US funded since 1949; broadcasts in 21 languages to Russia, Eurasia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Russia Profile www.russiaprofile.org/
News source from RIA Novosti, Moscow.
Russia Today www.russiatoday.com
Officially influenced Russian international website and television network.
The Moscow Times www.themoscowtimes.com
Moscow English language daily; independent commentary.