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Russia under Western Eyes: From the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum First Edition. First Printing. Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674781207
ISBN-10: 0674781201
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Martin Malia, Professor Emeritus of Russian History at the University of California at Berkeley, hopes to rescue Russia from its status as menacing Other and restore it to its rightful place as a member of Europe. In Russia Under Western Eyes, Malia argues that there is no real polarity between Europe and Russia, but that "Russia has at different times been demonized or divinized by Western opinion less because of her real role in Europe than because of the fears and frustrations, or the hopes and aspirations, generated within European society by its own domestic problems." Following recent German historiography, Malia traces a continuum of development from West (most advanced) to East (somewhat laggard) and points out that there is as much difference between, say, Germany and France as between Russia and Europe. In the end, however, Russia remains a poor, weak sister--her growth stunted by bad choices, notably Communism.

Malia chronicles the West's varying assessments: Russia celebrated for its enlightened despotism; Russia despised for its Oriental despotism; Russia welcomed back as simply one distinct culture within Europe; and, after the 1917 Revolution, Russia (to quote Churchill) as a "riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." Nearly half the book focuses in on Soviet Russia, as both an "experiment" (1917 to 1945) and as an "empire" (1945 to 1991). Not one to sit on the fence, Malia is clear about his position: Soviet Communism is an experiment that failed because Communism itself is doomed to fail. Though many scholars agree, Malia's anti-Soviet ferocity (he has often been described as "an old-fashioned cold warrior") somewhat diminishes the scholarly value of this work. General readers, however, will appreciate the sweeping scope of this remarkable book.

From Publishers Weekly

Malia, an emeritus professor of history at UC-Berkeley, traces Western perceptions of Russia from Peter the Great to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, paying special attention to how the West's view of Russia has shifted not just as a reaction to changes in Russia but to changes within Europe as well. Europe has viewed Russia as either enlightened and progressive (during the reign of Catherine the Great and the early Soviet period) or as despotic and backward (under Nicholas I and Stalin). Malia persuasively argues how these changes in the West's perception of Russia have been due as much to shifts in European politics and thought, such as the revolutions of 1848 and the transformation from the Enlightenment to Romanticism, as to changes within Russia itself. Unfortunately, Malia can be long-winded (an analysis of Hegelian philosophy, for example, delves into much greater detail than necessary), and his writing, which is usually lively and evocative, occasionally lapses into literary pretentiousness. A prologue to the chapter on the Soviet period takes the form of a Greek drama with a cast of Soviet leaders and poets and ends with a twist on Alice in Wonderland: Russia is the Red Queen (or in Malia's words, "Red Khan"), which "really was a kitten, after all." Despite these weaknesses, Malia's comprehensive and accessible history of Russia will interest scholars and general readers alike.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First Edition. First Printing. edition (April 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674781201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674781207
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,533,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to explain this book in the space of a few sentences, because the scope of its topic is breathtaking, and its depth considerable. This is not a book about Russia per se; rather, it is about the symbiosis of Russia and Europe over the last 300 years. For as Malia clearly demonstrates, Russia - in all her iterations - cannot be considered without taking into account the philosophical (and hence ideological and political) influences of Europe. Russia is Europe, and very much the product of evolving European movements spawned by the Enlightenment - such rationalism, romanticism, and socialism.
In this reader's analysis, a central theme in Russia Under Western Eyes is how efforts to rationalize human society culminated in the dark experiment launched in the Red October of 1917. Malia demonstrates how Lenin perverted Marx by making the proletariat subservient to the Party, and how sheer folly was maintained through a jettisoning of principles and reliance on `the Method' through the successive stewardship of Stalin, Khruschev, Breshnev, and ending with Gorbachev.
My only complaint: while Malia is right in asserting that the planned economy of the USSR was decaying on its own from the end of World War II, Ronald Reagan's appearance on the world stage, and the effect his policy of confrontation had on bringing the Cold War to its omega point, deserves a more considered treatment. This is mitigated, however, by Malia's excellent treatment of the dissidents and their contribution to exposing the Soviet lie.
This is a tome of erudition, written by a scholar who has an amazing grasp of the `big picture.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very useful resource in studying Russian history
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I'm not quite finished but find the book stimulating and useful. I suspect the title and subtitle are there to garner readers who would not read yet another book about liberalism and marxism. But the book is really about European ideas and not about Russia. Russia is seen through the ideas of Europe. That is not a criticism of the book, only a criticism of its marketing and packaging.
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By A Customer on April 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Malia's book, following on similar work in Soviet Tragedy, aims at making history out of the so-called great thinkers that loved or hated Russia in tsarist and Soviet forms. As always, his main target is Karl Marx and the intellectuals who would impose similar ideas onto real life--the nasty results of which were made especially clear in the unqualified disaster of Oct 1917. 1917 plays the critical role of sabotaging one kind of European development in favor of a socialist path (which also can be seen as European). And unfortunately, the only non-Euro perception of Russia emerges from the dissidents who lay bare the bones of the Soviet skeleton. The book interestingly shows how Europeans over centuries wavered in their view of Russia, but the real target is socialism and the horrific spectacle that it finally manifested before 1991 (and which some have not yet recognized).
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