Wednesday, November 4, 2020

NetGalley ARC | A Short History of Russia: How the World's Largest Country Invented Itself, From the Pagans to Putin


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐

So anyone who has been with me for a while knows I inherently dislike short histories of complex topics, people, and places. However, Kievan Rus calls loudly to me and I can never turn down a book that covers that period in Russia's history.

When the author says 'short history', this is no minimalistic exaggeration. This could easily be the shortest book ever written about such a massive and complex place that has no natural borders, holds two continents together, and has been invaded time and time again to the point where today we can truly say there is no one core identity of people.

I was truly surprised to see how well the author managed to pull everything together while remaining true to the title. He's managed to hit on the key ideas and events that have shaped Russia over the centuries, but also provides suggestions of resources for readers might turn next if they want more information about specific periods. This is done chapter by chapter and I feel it was an excellent approach, because this way readers are not becoming glossy-eyed over one massive bibliography at the end, trying to figure out where to go next.

All of this is done through the lens of how Russia became Russia - and continues to become - due to both the outside influence of long-ago invaders, as well as how the country frames those victories and defeats in the annals. As we know, those defeats are not taken lightly, and the propaganda machine is so good it practically erases those failures from Russia's history altogether.

You will not find in-depth analysis, but you will find a concise and well-written starting-off point if learning more about Russia is something that interests you. The timelines at the beginning of each chapter were also valuable in showing what big events contributed to a particular era. Russian history is so vast, the sheer volume of material available is overwhelming. If you already have a solid foundation in Russian history, you can skip this one.


  1. Oh! I definitely need to learn more about Russia and this seems like a good place to start, having a quick but well written introduction.

    1. I would highly recommend it for you then, if you are looking for a starting point.

  2. I think I would find this too lean for my tastes on history.

  3. it does sound like a good introduction to russia
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. It would definitely be perfect for someone who has no knowledge base!


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