Russia: Myths and Realities

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Russia: Myths and Realities

Russia: Myths and Realities

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A scholarly yet highly readable gallop through the last 1000 years of Russian history ... To understand this tormented nation, you can do no better than read this illuminating portrait' Jonathan Dimbleby Figes states that much of the burgeoning punditry on Russia is based on too narrow a perspective, including: “a focus on Putin as the embodiment of the ‘kleptocracy’ or ‘mafia state’ — descriptions of a system that is too complex to be explained by the corrupt pursuit of personal wealth or the machinations of one man and his oligarchic entourage.” The prevailing view, he writes, is that of the liberal Russia of Moscow and St Petersburg, which does not reflect the true situation. Neither book sufficiently avoids the conflation of “Kremlin rule” with “Russian rule” in the Soviet context. In his definitive work All the Kremlin’s Men, Mikhail Zygar points out that the “Ukrainian clans” within the Communist Party can be said to have ruled the Soviet Union for decades. The Soviet experience has not always been a case of Russians dominating Ukrainians but also of Ukrainians being dominated by their fellow countrymen.

Neither book lays major emphasis on the non-Russians who ruled from the Kremlin in the Soviet era. Figes refers to a “bitter legacy of hatred towards Russia” among Ukrainian descendants of those who died in the appalling Holodomor famine of the 1930s. But the famine was instigated and seen to its conclusion by a Georgian. That Georgian, Stalin, is described in Braithwaite’s book as one of Russia’s three great tyrants with Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, without emphasising he was not Russian. The Russians are fascinating, ingenious, creative, sentimental, warm-hearted, generous, obstinately courageous, endlessly tough, often devious, brutal and ruthless. Ordinary Russians firmly believe that they are warmer-hearted than others, more loyal to their friends, more willing to sacrifice themselves for the common good, more devoted to the fundamental truths of life. They give the credit to the Russian soul, as broad and all-embracing as the Russian land itself. Their passionate sense of Russia’s greatness is paradoxically undermined by an underlying and corrosive pessimism. And it is tempered by resentment that their country is insufficiently understood and respected by foreigners.You may also opt to downgrade to Standard Digital, a robust journalistic offering that fulfils many user’s needs. Compare Standard and Premium Digital here. In fact vranyo is a sort of game in which an outrageous lie is told in the clear knowledge that people won’t believe it but may pretend they do. Lies deliberately intended to deceive come under the Russian concept of lozh. In any event, Braithwaite might have omitted the Irish reference and made a more accurate comparison by citing the behaviour of his compatriot Boris Johnson. If that's not the explanation, what is the reason Russia has never made the transition to even a semblance of being a prosperous democracy? There are a lot of possible explanations, but these are not really explored in this book other than in the form of some almost offhand comments. Change the plan you will roll onto at any time during your trial by visiting the “Settings & Account” section. What happens at the end of my trial?

Braithwaite's newest book on Russia takes the reader on a crash course through the country's history. But despite its short length it is more then able to provide the reader with broad historic overview of Russia's very complex, rich and nuanced history. Figes, the professional historian, provides the reader with amazingly detailed information down to what Kerensky’s ministers were eating when the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace to arrest them in 1917: borscht, steamed fish and artichokes. There are differences of emphasis which do not warrant comparison in the short space available here. It is enough to say that the two men occasionally approach subjects from different perspectives. If you do nothing, you will be auto-enrolled in our premium digital monthly subscription plan and retain complete access for 65 € per month.In Russia’s Caucasus mountains in the 1980s the travel writer Colin Thubron met an old man who told him what he knew about Britain. It was, the man said, a country ruled by a queen. Her name was Mrs Churchill and he had seen a picture of her driving a tank. He was nearly right. Britain was ruled by a woman but she was not a queen. There was a picture of her on a tank but she was not Mrs Churchill. She was Margaret Thatcher. Churchill remarked that Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. That has become an excuse for intellectual laziness. Russia is not all that different from anywhere else. But you have to disentangle the facts from the myths created both by the Russians themselves and by those who dislike them. Russians and those who wish them well can be forgiven for despairing at the disasters they so regularly inflict on others and on themselves. After the Soviet collapse they returned to the idea that modern Russia had an exclusive claim to the inheritance of the Orthodox state of Kievan Rus. Vladimir Putin was consumed by the idea that ‘our great common misfortune and tragedy’ was the division since 1991 between Russia and Ukraine, between the parts of what he called ‘essentially the same historical and spiritual space’. The obsession fueled his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Edward Gibbon said that ‘History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.’ Russians, like the rest of us, prefer to believe that their history has progressed in a straight and positive line. They explain away troubling events – such as the brutal reigns of Ivan the Terrible or Stalin – as necessary stages on the path to greatness.

Figes agrees that, whatever the reality about promises made and reneged upon, eastward expansion poisoned the relationship between Nato and Russia. Some argue that there was never anything as coherent as a Russian national state. Most Russians, though, seem to have little doubt. Whatever is meant by a ‘nation’, they believe that theirs is exceptional, chosen by God or History to bring enlightenment to a benighted world. This Messianic sense of mission was born out of Orthodoxy in medieval Muscovy and has survived ever since. It was promoted by Dostoevsky and a host of others in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century the Bolsheviks shared the sense of mission, although for them God was replaced by History working its way through the instrument of Communism. But their Brave New World began to look suspiciously like the old Russian empire under another name.For cost savings, you can change your plan at any time online in the “Settings & Account” section. If you’d like to retain your premium access and save 20%, you can opt to pay annually at the end of the trial. Russia is not an enigma but its past is violent, tragic, sometimes glorious, and certainly complicated. Like the rest of us, the Russians constantly rewrite their history. They too omit episodes of national disgrace in favour of patriotic anecdotes, sometimes more rooted in myth than reality.



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