Russia has a colourful, rich and unique history – definitely worth exploring. From before the world war to the cold war, with many personas that stood out, this is a history of power, humanity and culture. Today, we’re looking at 5 best Russian history books. We’ve kept in mind that the texts are introductory and span varying time periods and historical contexts. Apart from this, these are also vibrant books which are both informative and entertaining.
5 Best Russian History Books
Stalin by Stephen Kotkin
This is a definitive biography of Stalin, delving into his myth-like life and times with unprecedented vigour and passion. Born as a cobbler’s son, Stalin proves himself extraordinary by realizing the revolutionary power within him and others like him. After the revolution, he gains the seat of supreme power and works to transform Russia to its very roots. From the agriculture to the industry, everything undergoes tremendous transformation under Stalin. And under him, Russia becomes what we know her to be today. This is a book Kotkin writes with intensity and dedication, with ample of research and love. All of this is visible.
A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes
This is a thorough and brilliant account of the October Revolution, with first time primary and archival research as well as a knack for storytelling. Figes weaves the overarching political narrative of the revolution with the social and cultural fabric of the country, which was all pervasive. And so, he tells of the revolution, one of the most important events of the 20th century from a historical, social, anthropological and personal perspective. The last is due to his inclusion of personal stories, that would have otherwise got lost within the larger picture. This micro and macro perspective gives a complete, holistic understanding of several dimensions of the revolution.
The Last of the Tsars by Robert Service
This book by Service tackles a deeply tumultuous period in Russian history – the wake of revolution after three hundred years of monarchical rule by the Tsars. It thus traces the reign of the very last Tsar – Nicholas II, who while being bestowed with power and glory, was at the epicentre of the seed of revolution. The book also talks of the sociopolitical circumstances surrounding the February Revolution, and its deep and lasting impact on Russia.
The Cold War by Odd Arne Westad
A lot has been written about the tense period immediately after the world war when the world was steeped in terse conflict. The formation of two superpowers with equal military, political and economic power but with different ideologies led the world to the threat of a third war which never happened. In this book, the scholar Westad gives the event a timeless and global perspective. He talks about its roots in the Industrial Revolution and its repercussions even today. In the process, he covers geopolitical conflicts that ravage several parts of the world today. Plus, he views them as a product of decisions taken then. A truly expansive and enchanting work, this is a must read.
Enemy at the Gates by William Craig
This book chronicles perhaps one of the goriest battles in the history of humanity. This was perhaps what became the climax of the second world war. Winston Churchill summarized the way as the point where the hinges of the second world war had changed. Craig pours his heart and soul into re-imagining the events of the battle in exquisite detail for us. Tapping into unexplored archival resources and interviewing hitherto forgotten soldiers and personas, he crafts a novel humongous in scope and trench deep in detail.