Russian History

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Russian History

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1morwen04
Mar 18, 2012, 12:38pm

I'll admit I haven't done any intense searching, but I figured if anyone could help it would be you all. I was wondering if anyone knew any good history or social commentary books that cover Khrushchev to Gorbachev? I can find a great deal of Soviet history (of course) and Imperial Russia and even some about the period around the Mongol Invasion and pre-slavic Russia and post-Soviet Russia, but I can't find much on the period between Stalin's death and the fall of communism.

Any help you have would be appreciated. Thanks :)

2languagehat
Ago 20, 2015, 12:29pm

A little late with this, but for history I highly recommend The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Empire: Forty Years That Shook the World, from Stalin to Yeltsin by Fred Coleman and Lenin's Tomb by David Remnick. And for social commentary you can't do better than Zhivago's Children by Vladislav Zubok; I wrote about it here: http://languagehat.com/zhivagos-children/

3kaggsy
Ago 28, 2015, 4:57am

Thanks for the hint about Zhivago's Children - I'd been wondering about that. And I second the recommendation for Lenin's Tomb.

4morwen04
Set 4, 2015, 1:19pm

Someone replied!! I had completely forgotten I'd ever asked this question. Still hadn't found much (other than biographies that need to be taken with a large grain of salt) covering this time period.

Thank you for the recommendations I have an interlibrary loan request in for Zhivago's Children but will definitely check out those other two in the future.

5languagehat
Set 5, 2015, 11:40am

I'm glad I brought the thread back to life!

6morwen04
Nov 18, 2015, 11:55am

I finished Zhivago's Children, it always takes me much longer to read non-fiction than fiction (which is probably why I don't read it very often). The intelligensia is an important part of Russian culture and so I got a lot out of this book but I am looking forward to reading a book on the broader aspects of Russian life under the declining Soviet Union. (Plus I don't like Pasternak which seems to make me odd man out). Turns out I have a copy of Pushkin's Children hidden on my shelf which I think (based solely on the titles) will be interesting to read directly (well as the next non-fiction book about Russia) after Zhivago's Children to see if there is an relationship between the two. I know Pushkin's Children is not directly related to my original topic except that Tolstaya lived through it and the collection seems to mostly cover Soviet specific culture/history.

7languagehat
Editado: Nov 24, 2015, 9:29am

You could follow that with Stalin's Children! Also, you might find Late Soviet Culture and Common places : mythologies of everyday life in Russia of interest. I haven't read Sinyavsky's Soviet Civilization yet myself, but it looks like it might be up your alley. Oh, and Among the Russians, if you like Thubron's travel writing.

8KatrinkaV
Nov 25, 2015, 4:52pm

Loved Among the Russians– and Thubron's In Siberia was pretty great, too– both in spite of the fact that I usually don't dig travel writing that much.

9morwen04
Dez 23, 2015, 4:58pm

I finished Pushkin's Children (why did that touchstone come up originally as The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler?). I have read that before but it barely, and I do mean barely stuck with me, which I suppose is my review of that collection. I got sidetracked for a long time with Eastern Approaches which I still haven't finished but I had to give it back (it was an ILL and I was lazy about reading it) and then picked up The End of Tsarist Russia so you can see I jumped to the beginning from the end. Still my sister may be reading my posts on here because for Christmas (we did it a bit early) she got me The Big Green Tent by Ulitskaya.

I did end up picking up Stalin's Children but who knows when I will be able to get around to it. Hopefully I'll also be getting to everyone's recommendation at some point. Thank you everyone for those. They look great.

10morwen04
Mar 30, 2016, 5:05pm

Lenin's Tomb was very very good thanks to everyone who recommended it. I just started (literally) Decline and Fall of the Soviet Empire I got to chapter 2 under Khrushchev and had to check the copyright date as the author kept going on and on about the freedom of press and his hope for the freedom of expression and life in Russia and how never will another man rule like Stalin did and I'm sitting here ten years into the future of Putin's reign desperately wanting to talk to Frank Coleman about all this

11morwen04
Abr 12, 2016, 1:40pm

... so I finished Decline and Fall of the Soviet Empire. I should have probably read the introduction so I knew what I was getting into but I highly agree with an Amazon reviewer in that it got frustrating and ridiculous as the author repeated blames the "West" (but he clearly means just the USA) for not fixing/parenting/being responsible for atrocities and corruption by Soviet leaders. The entire final chapter is literally him giving advice on different areas to the USA about how they can make sure they corral Russia into his ideal... I found it a bit patronizing.

I appreciated the information provided in the book but he tends to repeat himself. I don't know if it isn't a text that is supposed to be read straight through because the Khruschev section has some on Brezhnev, which had some on Gorbachev and so forth. (He skips a lot of Chernenko and Andropov because well they weren't exactly in office long enough to do anything too major).

I'm on the more culture based recommendations in >7 languagehat: and >8 KatrinkaV: and really looking forward to the break in historical tomes.

12morwen04
Jun 9, 2016, 2:45pm

Ok well I had a nice long message typed out and then a coworker jumped on the computer really quick and just x'd out and I lost it soo this is gonna fun to recreate.

Since my last message I read Late Soviet Culture which was interesting. With anything with multiple authors involved it could be a little hit or miss but more hit then miss. A good look into how Soviets saw history and events.

I also read Gender, State, and Society in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia which was a little depressing at times. Again multiple different researchers, some using eh methods and/or small sample sizes, so hit or miss. Most came up with roughly the same overall views on gender in Russia. The book was published in 2000 so it would be interesting if anyone knows of a more current type of book so see how the trends are moving or not moving. I had read a similar account of Russian womanhood in one of the Tolstaya books I've read, possibly in Pushkin's Children. But this is also fairly aged in terms of gender ideas (at least in the West, I mean just think about the changes in general cultural attitudes in the last 15 years) so it would be interesting to see if/how things have changed or stayed the same.

I read Stalin's Children. I found the story of his parents (grandparents? it's been a long time since I read this one) interesting, him not so much.

And I just recently finished In Siberia which thank you >8 KatrinkaV: that was great and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The author did a good job of writing his experiences without mystifying Siberia or passing judgment. Just here are the facts sort of writing which I enjoyed quite a lot and I plan to look up Among the Russians soon.

I finished Soviet Civilization which I haven't read anything else by Sinyavsky and don't know much about him but the book was an interesting self-reflective work.

Up next for me is Common Places which I am very much looking forward to reading.

13KatrinkaV
Jun 14, 2016, 8:29am

So glad you liked In Siberia! Among the Russians is also wonderful.

14morwen04
Jul 7, 2016, 12:49pm

Finished Common Places. This was not quite what I was expecting but was very interesting nonetheless. I think the first section (120 pages) on the nature of kitsch (this is the theme that ties the book together though so it is important that she defines it) could have been pared down. My eyes started going cross and, to me, it lost its point somewhere in there. Then again I started the book expecting history and got theory instead and I do read those two things slightly differently.

I've ordered Among the Russians and I hope it lives up to In Siberia.

15languagehat
Jul 8, 2016, 8:33am

As the guy who recommended Common Places, I apologize for the excessive amount of theory -- I'm so used to plowing through that stuff I forget how deadly it can be!

16morwen04
Jul 14, 2016, 11:36am

Ha no worries I don't mind theory at all and once I figured out it was theory I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book. I did not mean my short review as an indictment of any kind

17languagehat
Jul 15, 2016, 9:19am

Whew!

18morwen04
Jul 30, 2016, 4:12pm

OK finished Among the Russians. Didn't like it quite as much as In Siberia. I think that the author being more familiar with Russian society when he went through Siberia helped the narrative/writing of that one. I was also a little annoyed that he titled it Among the Russians when he spent so much time not in Russia. Armenia, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, and Ukraine (others if there are more and I've forgotten them) aren't Russia. But I enjoyed how the narrative progressed and how the author's viewpoint of Soviet peoples changed the more he traveled around.

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