Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Five notable books on Putin and Russian history

Edward Lucas is international editor for The Economist. He has written two books about Russia, The New Cold War and Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West.

With Toby Ash at The Browser, he discussed five top books on Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin and Russian history, including:
Internal Colonization
by Alexander Etkind

Can you tell us more about the thesis of this book?

Etkind’s thesis is that Russia has had a unique model of development, which is that it colonised itself. Lots of European countries had empires, but they colonised other countries and territories across the world – sometimes with conspicuous brutality and other times with a civilising mission, and sometimes a mixture of the two. But in Russia’s case the colonisation started from the very earliest stage of the Russian state. It was initially based on fur and timber and other types of resources and then later moved on to gas and oil. It’s meant that you’ve never had a proper relationship between the rulers and the ruled. It encouraged the impetuous and exploitative acts of behaviour, first by the barons of the feudal overlords, then the aristocracy of the Tsarist era and then the communist aristocracy. It’s always based on contempt and brutality and it hasn’t really changed.

This is a short book and very digestible. I read it relatively recently and was very impressed by it. We know all about Russian colonisation of other countries, and the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe, but the idea that Russia itself had been colonised is quite a new one.
Read about another book Lucas discussed at The Browser.

--Marshal Zeringue