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Russia: A Short History

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  185 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
This concise and informative volume covers the entire sweep of Russian history, from the earliest settlers to the state of this complex country at the end of the 20th century. It pays particular atte ntion to the events of the last 300 years, beginning with the reign of Peter the Great, before continuing to chart the development of economic, social and political institutio ...more
Paperback, 265 pages
Published July 1st 2002 by ONEWorld Publications (first published June 1st 2002)
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Tracy Reilly
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how this book managed this: making thousands of years of Russian history interesting and understandable to me. This is in part because Russian history IS so very interesting and chaotic. The other part, as my Russian friends will probably want me to realize, is that it has been majorly condensed, important elements left out, is, after all, only 252 pages long.

All I know is I feel much more knowledgable than I did before I read it. I don't feel confused, or manipulated by i
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I rate this "It was OK".

I understand that covering over a thousand years of history in 250 pages is a real challenge. I think the author misses the mark for other reasons.

The chapters on the Tsars often twist in time. Five pages after a Tsar has died, well into a new reign, the book suddenly goes back to the prior Tsar, without any reason or linkage to the new subject.

There is a lack of footnotes (19 for the whole book) which, when the author challenges widely held assumptions, does not lend cre
Falynn - the TyGrammarSaurus Rex
A whistle stop of Russian history (not surprising when trying to fit 1000 years into 300 pages).
Mr Ascher does a good job of trying to keep everything straight, although as you can imagine there are a lot of different names some of which are very similar (3 tsar Alexanders in a row seems a touch excessive) which can get confusing.
A useful oversight and jumping off point to explore particular periods in more detail. I am turning to Orlando Figes' A people's century next for more on the revolutio
Meir Javedanfar
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Russia in particular it has been to the two countries which have always been important to me: Israel and Iran. I have often wondered why it was able to defeat Iran on so many occasions in the 19th century, and why it played such an important role in Israel's history, both before and after the founding of the state in 1948. This book, provides short, yet informative and concise account of Russia's history from the Mongol invasion until very recently. Its easy to read, yet full of useful informati ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was exactly what I was looking for. It gave me basics about the history and current politics of Russia. i feel that I know have a much better insight to this country and what topics about it I might wish to look into further. I would definitely recommend this for anyone who just wants more information about Russia and how it came to be, the things it has gone through, and perhaps how they may look at Western cultures today. It was an easy read and made comparisons through out to where ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent concise history of Russia. It turns out that I knew almost nothing about Russia; it wasn't really taught in school and I wouldn't have had the patience at the time. But the social movements, the boldness of leaders, the ever-present instability-- it's amazing.
Sachin Thopate
A good book to read for those who want to start dig into Russian history.
Russia - A short history represents a balanced, complete and yet compact history of Russia in English covering the period from the the rise of Kiev Rus to ~2008. If the Putin era (and to a lesser extent the Yeltsin years) is important to you, you have to look elsewhere. First because the years after 2008 is not included and 2nd because the period from 1996-2008 is the weakest part of Ascher's book.

When I give "Russia - a short History" 4 stars, it should be interpreted as the average of 3 stars
Sep 06, 2013 rated it liked it
I read this on the plane to Vilnius, Lithuania on the way to a Baltia/Russia tour.

It is a very short history, a whirlwind tour. The author is upfront and apologetic about this in the introduction, but we are talking about stuff like the Russian Revolution being covered in a couple pages, so you come away with sort of a vague idea of what happened and a rough idea of who some of the major characters are, but not much more.

That said, since I didn't have enough time to do the pre-trip research I us
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ascher provides an excellent overview of Russian history for the novice student, from the first emergence of a Kievan Rus state to the 2008 election of Dmitry Medvedev. He deftly examines each of the key cultural, political, and economic developments that have shaped Russia's history and organizes them in a coherent fashion. I would highly recommend this book to any student attempting for the first time to understand the complexities of Russian history. I used it as a companion guide to an intro ...more
Christopher Hall
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Short and concise. An easy introduction to Russian history, especially the very earliest parts of the various Ruses (not sure if that is the correct term). However as usual with this sort of popular history the author can't help but talk about the present, especially the current president. To be honest that is not history and just an excuse to put a controversial figure on the front page to sell some books. We should wait a few years before judging the current government of Russia, when it is hi ...more
Nick Lin
Jan 02, 2011 rated it liked it
After reading Jeffrey Toobin's "The Nine", I found it hard to enjoy this non-fiction book. It had all of the information, the eccentricities of Russian Czars, the names of the revolutionaries and every other Russian fact you could hope for, but it didn't present it in an interesting way. It felt like a glorified textbook--it even had diagrams similar to those you might find in a history class textbook. Absorbing information from a book is incredibly difficult if it doesn't want to be absorbed. E ...more
Paulo Jan
My bother found this book accidentally at a travel , and once he knew I was interessed in Russias history , gave me as a gift.
Its an absolut clearful lecture to comprehhend the Russian history. The sequence of Tzars and leaders was very well displayed, with good descriptions about each one of them , their accomplishments and failures. At all , I think it is very resumed and bring me some superficial impressions , for example at the chapter about Catherine the Great.
Alex Boon
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm reviewing the new updated edition.

I really enjoyed this book. It was my first foray into history recently and it wasn't too heavy or overly detailed. It provided a free-flowing account and really helped me to understand Russia better. It also whet my appetite for learning more European and Asian history. I think my only criticism is the free use of terms that the general reader may not know, so I had to keep Google handy, but overall it was very interesting.
Graham Houle
I am looking to read this summer a good amount of Russian literature, so I figured I would start with a little history. This book ended up providing me with a broad, yet shallow idea of Russia's history from about the 9th century through present day. Very dry at times I think it may actually be a good book as a supplemental reading for a Russian Histroy class. Not one I would recommend to people who are not interested in Russian history.
Kevin Warman
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Russia and Russian history continue to be fascinating to me. I think the author's decision to quote Winston Churchill on his perception of the country is indeed accurate. To the merit of the author, he manages to cover so much of Russia's past in so few pages. However, at times I was left wanting more details, and at others, wanting less. Despite a hard balance, I would recommend this book to others wishing to learn more on Russia. I am only further encouraged to read more on this subject.
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
The content is pretty good, but it's written in the poorest way possible. I was astonished when I discovered that this is not the first edition. The book is poorly written and poorly edited. The information is quite interesting, but a high school student could have put it together in a better way. If you have high standards when it comes to your readings, this one might not be for you.
Joshua Duffy
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book on Russian history I have read, and in approx. 300pgs, Ascher did a good job of covering the basics. A daunting challenge to write Russian history in so few pages, he gives you enough to decide if you want to probe deeper into the fascinating subject of Russian history.
Nov 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant account of the turbulent history of Russian - from the time of Kievan Rus to Putin's Russian Federation, it's a detailed account of the most important events that have shaped a powerful nation.
James Tomkinson
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
both an easy and interesting read, the span of history paints a good background of how the people of Russia have tolerated ruthless rulers over the complete span of their history. I suggest pairing this book with a history on Joseph Stalin.
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
If all history was written this well, history books would fly off the shelves. It was clear and the information was presented in a way that was very easy to absorb. Ascher gets all the facts across without once dropping the thread of engaging narrative.
Edo Kon
Nov 26, 2012 rated it liked it
This book succeeds in condesing some Millenia years of history into a short 200 some page book. No doubt the an impossible challenge to accomplish, for general knowledge it is recommended yet in my opinion too breviated for extra interest. All in all it was OK.
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia
This book is an excellent outline of Russian history - very detailed and statistic-oriented. My only complaint is that the section about Putin's presidency seems to be a bit one-sided. That aside, this book is definitely a must-read for anyone who has a genuine interest in Russia's past.
Edwin Martin
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
pretty good and easy read for a history book. And it has a good bit about Putin. Only neg. is that it could have a few more maps. Any friends want to read it I'll be glad to loan it. Will ask E'prise Public library if they would like it.
Matthew Trevithick
Exactly what it says it is, useful primer.
Sterling Gray
Dec 06, 2013 rated it liked it
It was a nice overview of history. Spoiler Alert! Communism fails at the end.
This was a nice refresher course. :D
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was initially concerned a book like this might be very dry. I was pleasantly surprised with how engaging it was, especially covering roughly a millennium in only 250 pages.
Feb 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Used as a textbook when I was in college. I should really read this front to back.
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great fast paced history book. I had only ever read about the tsars but this gave a much more in depth look into the people and their struggle for survival.
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Abraham Ascher is Distinguished emeritus Professor of History at the Graduate School of the city University of New York. A highly respected scholar, he is the recipient of numerous awards, and the author of seven books and over thirty articles.
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“Gargantuan figure. Almost seven feet tall, he had great physical strength and remarkable manual dexterity, and his interests were astonishingly broad. He claimed to have mastered fourteen trades as well as surgery and dentistry. When courtiers and servants took sick they tried to conceal it from Peter, for if he thought that medical attention was needed he would gather his instruments and offer his services. Among his personal belongings Peter left a sackful of teeth, testimony to his thriving dental practice. Peter was also a man with a strong sadistic streak. He delighted, for example, in forcing all his guests, including the ladies, to drink vodka straight – the way he liked it – and in large quantities. Johann Korb, the secretary of the Austrian embassy in Moscow from 1698 to 1699, described a particularly gruesome incident at one of these festive occasions: ‘Boyar Golowin has, from his cradle, a natural horror of salad and vinegar; so the Czar directing Colonel Chambers to hold him tight, forced salad and vinegar into his mouth and nostrils, until the blood flowing from his nose succeeded his violent coughing.” 1 likes
“Although the Mongols dominated Russia for close to two and a half centuries, from 1240 to roughly 1480, there is still no consensus among scholars about the extent to which they influenced the course of Russian” 0 likes
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