Vladimir Putin

Russia's Empires - Their Rise and Fall: From Prehistory to Putin

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 July, 2006, 12:00am


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Russia's Empires - Their Rise and Fall: From Prehistory to Putin

by Philip Longworth

James Murray, $150

Four empires have risen and fallen on Russian soil, the last and shortest being the Soviet Union. In between were the Mongol and the Polish invasions, chaos, collapse and confusion. Philip Longworth, whose attention to basic historical questions has marked his earlier work, explores the aggressiveness and fragility of Russia and raises a few questions about its future under Vladimir Putin, who has found it popular to play the imperial card in vaunting his country's greatness - notably its victory in the second world war - while ignoring its wrongs. Longworth makes much of Russia's geography and difficult climate, which did not encourage a large, dense population. But the concentration of power in the hands of an autocratic state meant bad decisions had enormous ramifications. 'For the most part, Russia's Empires is in fact a conventional history of Russia, which draws heavily on other conventional histories of Russia,' The Telegraph concluded. There are hints of insight, but Longworth fails to pull together the many strands he teases out to explain Russia then and now.