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Russia


Many Russians complain that the U.S. does not view Russia as a great power. I have the solid (pp. cviii, 728) proof that this is not true: the volume Russia, a country study in the splendid "area handbook series" prepared under the auspices of the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress and sponsored by the Department of the Army. Most of the volumes in this series are revisions of earlier editions, but the volume on Russia is new, since it replaces the earlier volume on the Soviet Union. There is already a volume on Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, another on Belarus and Moldova, and a third on Kazakstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. That leaves the Ukraine, about which a volume is presumably in preparation. Actually, since the Ukraine was originally Kievski Rus, i.e. the original Russia, it is hard to separate the two.

Following the pattern common in this series, the book has an editor (Glenn E. Curtis for this volume), while the chapters are written by specialists, each with its own bibliography. The five long chapters are devoted respectively to: Historical Setting: Early History to 1917; Historical Setting: 1917 to 1991; Physical Environment and Population; Ethnic, Religious, and Cultural Setting; The Society and Its Environment; The Economy; Government and Politics; Foreign Relations; The Armed Forces; Internal Security.

Table A: Chronology of Important Events goes down to September 1997. The historical account ends in 1991, i.e. the beginning of the Gorbachev era. Recent years are covered in the chapter "Government and Politics" (down to July 1996) and in the Introduction (down t.o August 1997). The text is illustrated with many clear maps. The size of the book is impressive in view of the compressed writing; words are not wasted. There is no attempt to hide negative considerations, but the language is sober and scholarly. The cover is illustrated with a picture of "The Bronze Horseman," i.e. Peter the Great opening a window to the West. This book opens a large window to the East. Every library should have the complete set of the "area handbook series."

Ronald Hilton - 05/29/98

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