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A History of Modern Russia: From Nicholas II to Vladimir Putin
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A History of Modern Russia: From Nicholas II to Vladimir Putin

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  449 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews

Russia had an extraordinary twentieth century, undergoing upheaval and transformation. Updating his acclaimed History of Twentieth-Century Russia through 2002, Robert Service provides a panoramic perspective on a country whose Soviet past encompassed revolution, civil war, mass terror, and two world wars. He shows how seven decades of communist rule, which penetrated ever

Paperback, 659 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Harvard University Press (first published 2003)
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Mikey B.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A splendid book on a remarkable country. What a history that country had in the twentieth century and what repercussions it had on the entire world! It is hard to think of another country – including the United States – that had more of an impact on world politics.

Robert Service covers it all superbly. He points out that Lenin was no moralist or humanitarian. It was Lenin who coined the term “dictatorship of the proletariat” which meant NO to democracy, NO to elections; and as the term implies a
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having previously read Robert Service's Lenin, and Comrades, I had already begun to consider Service as the most scholarly authority on modern Russia, and this expertly written volume cements my opinion of him.
The work is neither too long, but perhaps, at over 570 pages, it is perhaps too short as it leaves the reader wanting more.
Covering the entire 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st, Service leaves no stone unturned. All the major personalities and forces for change are included, an
Jason Wilson
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very good overview . Fair on strengths and weaknesses of systems And leaders .
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you wanted to read one book on Modern Russian History without getting bogged down with hundreds of pages of explanations on communism and ideological details, this is it. Robert Service, an Oxford prof specialising in Russian History and author of many biographies of Russian Tsars and Communist leaders, has written a comprehensive but fast paced (each chapter on an era or theme of max 20 pages) book which in 550 odd pages covers the ground from 1914 to 1990. I liked the objective way in which ...more
Lauren Albert
Oct 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-european
A good introduction to the subject. I did find myself confused at times because Service will be saying all the things that improved under someone and then suddenly say how bad things were. Now, while this is not necessarily contradictory, his tone seems to change. For a minute, it seems like he is doing a revisionist look and then he is back to the usual. I can't really put my finger on it.
Benjamin Eskola
(This is a review of the second edition, extended up to 2002.)

Service’s biggest problem boils down to his lack of self-awareness. He has a number of unexamined assumptions about what constitutes a correct way of managing an economy and a government, and thus applies these without justification. Of course, there are plenty of things to criticize the USSR for, but, for example, while the arbitrary nature of the legal system might be something most people would agree is bad, on the other hand one m
Chris Lira
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
My knowledge of imperial Russia is very good; my knowledge of revolutionary Russia good; after that though, it's a bit sparse. So I picked up this book to fill those gaps from Stalin on. It definitely did the job there, and I found the material on Kruschv and Brezhnev particularly interesting. There are a few "British-isms" in the writing that threw me for a loop, but some quick Internet searches explained what the author was trying to convey.
Deepak K
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative - dwelling into the merits and issues of the Communist government that was formed in Russia, starting from the falls of the Tsar to the fall of communism. A must-read for those who are interested in the modern Russian state.
Lorren Eldridge
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Extremely readable for non-fiction, and unlike many "popular" non-fiction titles it actually includes the footnotes with sources. Would benefit from a more structured bibliography, though.
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-and-war
Finally a historian who keeps things factual and doesn't pass moral judgement.
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A rather comprehensive retelling of 20th and 21st century Russian history. The book covers the period from Tsar Nicholas II's reign to Vladimir Putin's hegemony over Russian politics in the 21st century. Well written and concise, perhaps too concise at times, it was a breeze to read and provides the reader with fairly in-depth overview of the 20th century through the lens of Russian history. It is very accessible and a good introduction to Russian history for any scholar, enthusiast or amateur h ...more
Alan Ressler
I couldn't help but feel a heavy undercurrent in favor of western modes of "democratization" and economic policy throughout the entire work, but then again, the Soviet Order (at least in my opinion) was cumbersome and highly authoritarian throughout its existence, regardless of the perspective in which you choose to view its methodology. There's a definite difference between ideological orientation and actual implementation of policy. While I more or less sympathize with the "communist" cause, ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia
This is one of the best history books I have ever read. As a general review of Russian history in the 20th century, it faces no simple task: on the one hand, the sheer bulk of events is overwhelming; on the other hand, summaries often risk being too fast-paced and shallow. Service has found the perfect balance. He always sounds well-informed, but he never bores the reader with unnecessary details: he uses facts and data to build up his points, and from time to time he spices up the narrative wit ...more
Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
A very well presented exploration of the October Revolution and the legacy it wrought throughout the remainder of the 20th century. The book's strength lies in the Lenin and Stalin eras in describing the authoritarian methods employed to deprive citizens of their economic autonomy, the history of the Eastern Front of WWII, and in ultimately setting the stage for the Cold War. The book becomes slightly sparser in content afterwards and focused on the internal machinations of the communist party a ...more
Sep 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected something worse, cause at first I didn't know if the author is British or American (sorry for that - but sometimes Americans are total ignorants). After reading A History of Modern Russia I started thinking about Robert Service in similiar way as about Norman Davies, British historian specializing in history of Poland.

The book is really good and well-written. Most of the stuff is explained and usage of foreign (for British) words isn't overwhelming and irritating. For everyone wh
Sep 15, 2013 rated it liked it
i was eager to read this after slogging through orlando figes' pompous and overdramatic history of the revolution. unfortunately, this was a slog-through for the opposite reason. While coherent and informative, the book is SO dry and SO boring it's difficult to keep your attention. While Figes is someone who can't balance the many topics he takes on and do justice to any of them, Service covers everything in depth while making his own analysis barely perceptible, which is disappointing in its ow ...more
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia-ussr
Robert Service gives a general overview in this book of the years 1900-2000 in Russia. It is obvious that he is very well-studied on Russian history, and he does a great job explaining what was going on in the country through all the different time periods and regime changes the people endured.

Overall it was a great book, but the style he writes in can be very hard to understand sometimes. He also writes in a very scholarly tone that can be a bit hard to follow at times. However, I would recomm
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book by Robert Service that I have read; "Trotsky" being the other book. I enjoy his straight forward approach to the historical record of Russia. The book can be a bit dry at times, but I blame history for that. What can a historian do with twenty years of Brezhnev? I've filled the pages with ink and plan on delving deeper into the history. I highly recommend this book and any Russian literary works from Robert Service.
Jan 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I've been trying to fill in the gaps of my understanding about this compelling and rather mysterious country over the past couple of years. Thanks to a couple of good ratings by friends I took the time to work my way through this history. I feel a little more educated and still in awe of the complicated and difficult past of the people of this region.
Oct 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Estupendo. Historia muy muy completa sobre Rusia desde la revolución hasta hoy en día. En inglés a veces resulta un poco complicada, pero realmente da toda la información necesaria y dibuja un lienzo muy completo sobre la historia de este país en una época interesantísima de la Historia.
Realmente, con este libro basta para conocer todo lo que se necesita sobre Rusia.
Nick Harriss
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting history of the last 100 years of Russia. For anybody interested in Russian history, this provides a good balance between detail and brevity. It's focus is on the Soviet period, quite reasonably based on timespan alone, and it does so without taking an ideological position. Well recommended.
Dec 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Not for an advanced Russian history person (no discussion of historiography, lack of nuance in some areas, Western bias) but still quite good. Russian history can be intimidating, this is a very readable account of the Soviet period for someone who is just beginning to learn about Russia, or someone who wants to update their knowledge.
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Phew! I'm proud of myself for sticking with this sometimes dry but very informative history of Russia. Since I've been reading it over the course of the better part of a year, I don't know how fair of a review I can give it, other than I clearly needed breaks from it and read other books in between.
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written. Gives a great insight into the background for the move to communism. Also explains why reform was slow and hit hurdles. Great insight t into a country that I really love visiting and gives me far greater understanding of the culture and challenges
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
A big bastard of a book about a big bastard of a country. Amazing the amount of agony a people can tolerate. Could mebbe do with less info on agricultural yields and more about the human experience, but I guess without agricultural yields there are no humans to have experiences.
Sep 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian
i wish i would have known that a third edition was up for release before purchasing the second edition. i am very curious about twenty-first century economic and political events, especially the re-emergence of russia as a world power.
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was using this book to give me another view of the arc of Russian History in the Twentieth Century before I started the more complicated books. I found this book was extremely accessible but needed to be read slowly to ensure that everything was understood.
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is perhaps the best comprehensive Western history of modern Russia. Service avoids much of the ideological grandstanding that pervades far too many histories of Russia, the latter being the inevitably consequence of the Cold War. It's also a great read.
Paolo Zanelli
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maybe
I only wish the author had written in a more enjoyable English, because the quality of his analysis and historiography is really top notch
Robert Hammerslag
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A remarkably fair-minded approach to the Russian Revolution. An update to the Putin era would be welcome.
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Robert Service is a British academic and historian of modern Russia and the Soviet Union. He is a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford and a Fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford.

He is the author of the highly acclaimed Lenin: A Biography, A History of Twentieth - Century Russia, Russia: Experiment with a People and Stalin: A Biography, as well as many other books on Russia's
More about Robert Service

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