26.04.2011


7 Books on Russian and Soviet History and Politics

The following are a handful of books that have recently come to our attention.

Building States and Markets After Communism: The Perils of Polarized Democracy
Does democracy promote the creation of market economies and robust state institutions? Do state-building and market-building go hand in hand? Or do they work at cross-purposes? This book examines the relationship between state-building and market-building in 25 post-communist countries from 1990 to 2004. Based on cross-national statistical analyses, surveys of business managers, and case studies from Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, and Uzbekistan, Timothy Frye demonstrates that democracy is associated with more economic reform, stronger state institutions, and higher social transfers when political polarization is low. But he also finds that increases in political polarization dampen the positive impact of democracy by making policy less predictable. He traces the roots of political polarization to high levels of income inequality and the institutional legacy of communist rule. By identifying when and how democracy fosters markets and states, this work contributes to long-standing debates in comparative politics, public policy, and post-communist studies. - Amazon.com

 

 

Rock and Roll in the Rocket City
How did rock music and other products of Western culture come to pervade youth culture in Brezhnev-era Dniepropetrovsk, a Ukrainian city essentially closed to outsiders and heavily policed by the KGB? In Rock and Roll in the Rocket City, Sergei I. Zhuk assesses the impact of Westernization on the city's youth, examining the degree to which the consumption of Western music, movies, and literature ultimately challenged the ideological control maintained by state officials. One among many of his stories is how the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar led Dniepropetrovsk's young people to embrace not just one, but two Soviet taboos: rock music and Christianity. - Amazon.com

Lonely Power
Adapted from the Russian edition, this book analyzes the dominant stereotypes and myths that formed during the Putin presidency and that continue to hamper our understanding of Russia's current situation. Author Lilia Shevtsova explains the origins of political cliches and argues that an anti-mythology campaign is needed to deepen the understanding of Russia both within the Russian Federation and in the West, as well as to help nations build better policies toward Russia. - Amazon.com

The Return: Russia's Journey From Gorbachev to Medvedev
UCLA professor Treisman explores the path of postcommunist Russia in this engrossing study. While Gorbachev transformed his country through nuclear disarmament, glasnost, and perestroika and allowed the Berlin Wall to come down, and Yeltsin introduced Russians to competitive elections, a democratic constitution, and (putative) freedom of the press, it is the autocratic Putin--a former KGB agent who rolled back some of his predecessors' reforms--who remains popular even in his current role as prime minister to President Dmitri Medvedev. Drawing on two decades of research, Treisman analyzes the paradoxes in Russian politics and society, illuminating why the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. wasn't more violent, the repercussions of the Chechen wars, the "sacred place" vodka holds in the Russian imagination (and its pernicious effect on Russia's demographics), and how, 20 years after the fall of communism, relations between Russia and the U.S. remain so frosty. Yet as Treisman convincingly argues, most of the world's international problems--nuclear proliferation, Islamic terrorism, global warming--will be difficult to solve without Russia's help. - Publishers Weekly

The Crisis of Russian Democracy: The Dual State, Factionalism and the Medvedev Succession
The view that Russia has taken a decisive shift towards authoritarianism may be premature, but there is no doubt that its democracy is in crisis. In this original and dynamic analysis of the fundamental processes shaping contemporary Russian politics, Richard Sakwa applies a new model based on the concept of Russia as a dual state. Russia's constitutional state is challenged by an administrative regime that subverts the rule of law and genuine electoral competitiveness. This has created a situation of permanent stalemate: the country is unable to move towards genuine pluralist democracy but, equally, its shift towards full-scale authoritarianism is inhibited. Sakwa argues that the dual state could be transcended either by strengthening the democratic state or by the consolidation of the arbitrary power of the administrative system. The future of the country remains open. - Amazon.com

State Building in Putin's Russia: Policing and Coercion after Communism
Building a strong Russian state was the central goal of Vladimir Putin's presidency. This book argues that Putin's strategy for rebuilding the state was fundamentally flawed. Taylor demonstrates that a disregard for the way state officials behave toward citizens - state quality - had a negative impact on what the state could do - state capacity. Focusing on those organizations that control state coercion, what Russians call the "power ministries," Taylor shows that many of the weaknesses of the Russian state that existed under Boris Yeltsin persisted under Putin. Drawing on extensive field research and interviews, as well as a wide range of comparative data, the book reveals the practices and norms that guide the behavior of Russian power ministry officials (the so-called siloviki), especially law enforcement personnel. By examining siloviki behavior from the Kremlin down to the street level, State Building in Putin's Russia uncovers the who, where, and how of Russian state building after communism. - Amazon.com

The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia's Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB
In The New Nobility, two courageous Russian investigative journalists open up the closed and murky world of the Russian Federal Security Service. While Vladimir Putin has been president and prime minister of Russia, the Kremlin has deployed the security services to intimidate the political opposition, reassert the power of the state, and carry out assassinations overseas. At the same time, its agents and spies were put beyond public accountability and blessed with the prestige, benefits, and legitimacy lost since the Soviet collapse. The security services have played a central— and often mysterious—role at key turning points in Russia during these tumultuous years: from the Moscow apartment house bombings and theater siege, to the war in Chechnya and the Beslan massacre. The security services are not all-powerful; they have made clumsy and sometimes catastrophic blunders. But what is clear is that after the chaotic 1990s, when they were sidelined, they have made a remarkable return to power, abetted by their most famous alumnus, Putin. - Amazon.com

 


 

Study Abroad
in Russia

Moscow State University is  Russia's largest.

SRAS Travel
Services
 
SRAS Travel Services -  Russia Your Way

The Library:
All About Russia
Click for more  information about Religion in Russia

Find Out More!

History of Russian Holidays
Internships in Russia
Health and Safety in Russia
The SRAS Newsletter
The SRAS Library on Russia
Journal for Students
More Free Resources! 

 

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor.



« back to SRAS News archive