100 Best Russian History Books of All Time

We've researched and ranked the best russian history books in the world, based on recommendations from world experts, sales data, and millions of reader ratings. Learn more

Featuring recommendations from Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Donald J. Trump, and 97 other experts.
1
Pulitzer Prize winner Massie offers the tale of a princess who went to Russia at 14 and became one of the most powerful women in history. Born into minor German nobility, she transformed herself into an empress by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant, curious mind, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers, and reaching the throne, tried using their principles to rule the vast, backward empire. She knew or corresponded with notable figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette & John Paul Jones. Wanting to be the... more
Recommended by Elon Musk, and 2 others.

Elon MuskI know what you're probably thinking ... did she really f* a horse? (Source)

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2
Unrivalled in scope and brimming with human drama, A People’s Tragedy is the most vivid, moving and comprehensive history of the Russian Revolution available today.

‘A modern masterpiece’ Andrew Marr

‘The most moving account of the Russian Revolution since Doctor ZhivagoIndependent

Opening with a panorama of Russian society, from the cloistered world of the Tsar to the brutal life of the peasants, A People’s Tragedy follows workers, soldiers, intellectuals and villagers as their world is consumed by revolution and then...
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Recommended by Thomas Keneally, Roland Chambers, and 2 others.

Thomas KeneallyWell, I’ve chosen this because, from what I remember, it’s the book I most admired while I was writing about Russia because it gives the tremendous overall sweep of the entire catastrophe up to the end of the civil war in 1922 and the famine. Figes has the capacity to focus on people you’ve never heard of and show them as representatives of ideologies competing for control of the Russian state,... (Source)

Roland ChambersA People’s Tragedy is the most readable and illuminating history of the Russian revolution to be written, using material that only became available to historians following the Soviet Union’s collapse. (Source)

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3

Nicholas and Alexandra

The story of the love that ended an empire.

In this commanding book, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert K. Massie sweeps readers back to the extraordinary world of Imperial Russia to tell the story of the Romanovs’ lives: Nicholas’s political naïveté, Alexandra’s obsession with the corrupt mystic Rasputin, and little Alexis’s brave struggle with hemophilia. Against a lavish backdrop of luxury and intrigue, Massie unfolds a powerful drama of passion and history—the story of a doomed empire and the death-marked royals who watched it crumble.
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4

Gulag

A History

The Gulag--a vast array of Soviet concentration camps that held millions of political and criminal prisoners--was a system of repression and punishment that terrorized the entire society, embodying the worst tendencies of Soviet communism. In this magisterial and acclaimed history, Anne Applebaum offers the first fully documented portrait of the Gulag, from its origins in the Russian Revolution, through its expansion under Stalin, to its collapse in the era of glasnost. Applebaum intimately re-creates what life was like in the camps and links them to the larger history of the Soviet Union.... more
Recommended by Edward Lucas, and 2 others.

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5

Peter the Great

His Life and World

Against the monumental canvas of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and Russia, unfolds the magnificent story of Peter the Great, crowned at the age of 10. A barbarous, volatile feudal tsar with a taste for torture; a progressive and enlightened reformer of government and science; a statesman of vision and colossal significance: Peter the Great embodied the greatest strengths and weaknesses of Russia while being at the very forefront of her development.

Robert K. Massie delves deep into the life of this captivating historical figure, chronicling the pivotal events that...
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6

The Romanovs

1613-1918

The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface for three centuries. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world’s greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and...
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7
From the award-winning author of The Whisperers, Orlando Figes Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia is a dazzling history of Russia's mighty culture.

Orlando Figes' enthralling, richly evocative history has been heralded as a literary masterpiece on Russia, the lives of those who have shaped its culture, and the enduring spirit of a people.

'Wonderfully rich ... magnificent and compelling ... a delight to read'
  Antony Beevor

'A tour de force by the great storyteller of modern Russian historians ... Figes mobilizes a cast of...
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Recommended by Thomas Keneally, and 1 others.

Thomas KeneallyAnd another brilliant work. He repeats many of the devices I mentioned in the first book. This is an extensive picture of Russian culture, putting culture in its place as inseparable from society. He shows the Russian mind, the cosmology of belief, daily life on a cultural basis. It’s enchanting. I don’t want to say it isn’t upbeat…but, then again, a third of Shakespeare’s plays are tragedies and... (Source)

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8

Stalin

The Court of the Red Tsar

An alternative cover edition for ISBN 9781400076789 can be found here

This widely acclaimed biography provides a vivid and riveting account of Stalin and his courtiers—killers, fanatics, women, and children—during the terrifying decades of his supreme power. In a seamless meshing of exhaustive research and narrative ?lan, Simon Sebag Montefiore gives us the everyday details of a monstrous life.We see Stalin playing his deadly game of power and paranoia at debauched dinners at Black Sea villas and...
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Recommended by Elon Musk, and 1 others.

Elon MuskOne of the few books so dark I had to stop reading. (Source)

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9

The Gulag Archipelago

(Abridged edition)

The Gulag Archipelago is Solzhenitsyn's masterwork, a vast canvas of camps, prisons, transit centres and secret police, of informers and spies and interrogators and also of heroism, a Stalinist anti-world at the heart of the Soviet Union where the key to survival lay not in hope but in despair.

The work is based on the testimony of some two hundred survivors, and on the recollection of Solzhenitsyn's own eleven years in labour camps and exile. It is both a thoroughly researched document and a feat of literary and imaginative power. This edition has been abridged into one...
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Recommended by Jordan B Peterson, and 1 others.

Jordan B Peterson"The Gulag Archipelago" audiobook is available now in the UK (https://t.co/FwqDKSEp2w) with a forward narrated by me as well as a Q&A with myself and Ignat Solzhenitsyn at the end of the book that I believe you'll enjoy! Who here has previously read the book? https://t.co/SHldoeI0sY (Source)

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10
Americans call the Second World War “The Good War.” But before it even began, America’s wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens—and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.
Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single...
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Eric Weinstein[Eric Weinstein recommended this book on Twitter.] (Source)

Antony BeevorThis book is about…the Stalinist repression of the areas known as the borderlands, which Snyder has termed the bloodlands. Snyder is looking at the deliberate mass murder of civilians in a particular zone of Europe between about 1930, at the start of the second Ukraine famine, and 1945. (Source)

Edward LucasBloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin offers the best account of the most important and terrible years of the last century, when Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler jointly consigned the territories and people between their two empires to the meat-grinder. (Source)

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11

The Romanovs

The Final Chapter

In July 1991, nine skeletons were exhumed from a shallow mass grave near Ekaterinburg, Siberia, a few miles from the infamous cellar room where the last tsar and his family had been murdered seventy-three years before. But were these the bones of the Romanovs? And if these were their remains, where were the bones of the two younger Romanovs supposedly murdered with the rest of the family? Was Anna Anderson, celebrated for more than sixty years in newspapers, books, and film, really Grand Duchess Anastasia? The Romanovs provides the answers, describing in suspenseful detail the dramatic... more

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12

Voices from Chernobyl

On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred at the Chernobyl complex in Pripyat. English-language reportage on the incident has, so far, focused on facts, names, and data; Voices from Chernobyl presents first-hand accounts of what happened to the people of Belarus and the fear, anger, and uncertainty that they lived through. In order to give voice to their experiences, Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people (firefighters, disaster-cleanup technicians, and innocent citizens alike) affected by the meltdown. She presents these interviews in monologue... more

Craig MazinThese are sources I found fascinating and useful. Not ALL of them, but a bunch. First up, obviously... Svetlana Alexievich's Voices From Chernobyl. Absolutely essential, and heartbreaking, reading. There's a reason Ms. Alexievich has a Nobel Prize. (Source)

Kate BrownIt’s a very beautiful work and I think it gives you the emotional landscape of how people dealt with their anxieties, fears, the health problems that ensued, and their growing sense of disillusionment with their political leaders and the Communist party. (Source)

Rebecca AltmanWhat follows events like Chernobyl is a politics of measurement. Who counts? What counts? Who does the counting? How are boundaries drawn for the purposes of counting and comparing? And what is discounted, or never counted at all? (Source)

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13
In the tradition of John Reed's classic Ten Days That Shook the World, this bestselling account of the collapse of the Soviet Union combines the global vision of the best historical scholarship with the immediacy of eyewitness journalism. "A moving illumination . . . Remnick is the witness for us all." —Wall Street Journal. less
Recommended by Stephen Lucas, Edward Lucas, and 2 others.

Stephen LucasIf you’re not that interested in the intricacies of Soviet law but just want to know what it was like, this is what it was like. (Source)

Edward LucasTo understand the collapse of communism at first hand, the unrivalled account is the Pulitzer-prize winning Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. (Source)

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14
The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

April 25, 1986, in Chernobyl, was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black...
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Recommended by Maggie Koerthbaker, and 1 others.

Maggie KoerthbakerSo I'm reading "Midnight in Chernobyl" because obviously TV viewing needs to come with a syllabus afterwards. https://t.co/bWCLHTy7fq It is very interesting contrasting the fictionalized show, the history book, and the essays meant to debunk aspects of the show. (Source)

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15
The Battle of Stalingrad was not only the psychological turning point of World War II: it also changed the face of modern warfare. Historians and reviewers worldwide have hailed Antony Beevor's magisterial Stalingrad as the definitive account of World War II's most harrowing battle.

In August 1942, Hitler's huge Sixth Army reached the city that bore Stalin's name. In the five-month siege that followed, the Russians fought to hold Stalingrad at any cost; then, in an astonishing reversal, encircled and trapped their Nazi enemy. This battle for the ruins of a city cost more...
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Recommended by Richard Branson, Peter Snow, and 2 others.

Richard BransonToday is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime. (Source)

Peter SnowYes, it certainly was the turning point of the war. Whatever we British may claim for the titanic fight on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, the Battle of Stalingrad was the real decider and Beevor’s account of it is simply brilliant. He combines a sense of strategic grasp with the incredibly detailed story of ordinary men’s experiences based on their own accounts. He did a huge amount of research... (Source)

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16

A Gentleman in Moscow

The mega-bestseller with more than 1.5 million readers that is soon to be a major television series

He can't leave his hotel. You won't want to.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility--a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of...
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Recommended by Bill Gates, Henry Medine, and 2 others.

Bill GatesIt seems like everyone I know has read this book. I finally joined the club after my brother-in-law sent me a copy, and I’m glad I did. Towles’s novel about a count sentenced to life under house arrest in a Moscow hotel is fun, clever, and surprisingly upbeat. Even if you don’t enjoy reading about Russia as much as I do (I’ve read every book by Dostoyevsky), A Gentleman in Moscow is an amazing... (Source)

Henry MedineI promote range and diversity. Thus, I recommend readers to expose themselves to as many different topics as possible. I usually have 2-4 books I refer back to at any given time. They range in topics from management, art, spirituality and philosophy. Trying to get the engineering thing going but don't much of a mind for science. (Source)

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17
They were the Princess Dianas of their day—perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.

Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters...
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18

The momentous new book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag and Iron Curtain.

In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. It is one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the twentieth century. With unprecedented authority and detail, Red Famine investigates how this happened, who was responsible, and what the consequences were. It is the fullest account yet published of these terrible events.

The book draws on a mass of archival material and first-hand testimony only...

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19

War And Peace

War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.

As Napoleon's army invades, Tolstoy brilliantly follows characters from diverse backgrounds—peasants and nobility, civilians and...
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Vanora BennettAlthough it was published in 1869, War and Peace deals with events half a century earlier. This makes it one of the first historical novels – and, all these years later, it’s still the greatest. (Source)

Tendai HuchuTolstoy does something which is very unusual in War and Peace and which, for his time, was pretty profound: he sees the conditions of the ordinary soldier on the battlefield. (Source)

Niall FergusonAs a middle aged man, I react differently to Tolstoy than I did when I first read War and Peace at about 15. (Source)

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20
Rappaport, an expert in the field of Russian history, brings you the riveting day-by-day account of the last fourteen days of the Russian Imperial family, in this first of two books about the Romanovs. Her second book The Romanov Sisters, offering a never-before-seen glimpse at the lives of the Tsar's beautiful daughters and a celebration of their unique stories, will be published in 2014.

The brutal murder of the Russian Imperial family on the night of July 16–17, 1918 has long been a defining moment in world history. The Last Days of the Romanovs reveals in...
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21
A magnificent new biography that revolutionizes our understanding of Stalin and his world

It has the quality of myth: A poor cobbler’s son, a seminarian from an oppressed outer province of the Russian empire, reinvents himself as a revolutionary and finds a leadership role within a small group of marginal zealots. When the old world is unexpectedly brought down in a total war, the band seizes control of the country, and the new regime it founds as the vanguard of a new world order is ruthlessly dominated from within by the former seminarian until he stands as the absolute...
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22
A real-life political thriller about an American financier in the Wild East of Russia, the murder of his principled young tax attorney, and his dangerous mission to expose the Kremlin's corruption.

Bill Browder's journey started on the South Side of Chicago and moved through Stanford Business School to the dog-eat-dog world of hedge fund investing in the 1990s. It continued in Moscow, where Browder made his fortune heading the largest investment fund in Russia after the Soviet Union's collapse. But when he exposed the corrupt oligarchs who were robbing the companies in which he was...
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Eric RiesThis reads like a thriller, but is an urgent and important story about the dangers of Putin’s Russia and the events leading to the Magnitsky Act. (Source)

Anand Sanwal@geoffreysbatt @patrick_oshag 2/ Reminded a bit of the story of @Billbrowder as told in the remarkable book Red Notice which chronicles his investments in Russia very early before everyone saw the opportunity (Source)

Jonathan KayAm reading @Billbrowder's amazing book Red Notice. Did not know incredible story of Bill's dad, who got his @Princeton math PhD at age 20. Like many Jews of era, suffered massive discrimination, stigmatized because of his own dad's communism. Then Eleanor Roosevelt saves the day https://t.co/Bp5PFiIxm1 (Source)

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23
From the award-winning author of A People's Tragedy and Natasha's Dance, a landmark account of what private life was like for Russians in the worst years of Soviet repression
 
There have been many accounts of the public aspects of Stalin's dictatorship: the arrests and trials, the enslavement and killing in the gulags. No previous book, however, has explored the regime's effect on people's personal lives, what one historian called "the Stalinism that entered into all of us." Now, drawing on a huge collection of newly discovered documents, The Whisperers reveals...
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24

Secondhand Time

The Last of the Soviets

From the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich, comes the first English translation of her latest work, an oral history of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia. Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive documentary style, Secondhand Time is a monument to the collapse of the USSR, charting the decline of Soviet culture and speculating on what will rise from the ashes of Communism. As in all her books, Alexievich gives voice to women and men whose stories are lost in the official narratives of nation-states,... more
Recommended by Sam Freedman, Stephanie Flanders, and 2 others.

Sam Freedman@martinbright It's amazing. Have you read Second Hand Time? Best book of the century so far for me. Just incredible. (Source)

Stephanie FlandersThe power comes from the stories themselves, the people she found and talked to. (Source)

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25

Young Stalin (Joseph Stalin, #1)

'Young Stalin' is an adventure story about an exceptional, turbulent young man, born in exoticism, raised in the church, fancying himself a poet, then embracing revolutionary idealism and thereby finding his romantic Messianic mission in life.

Culminating in the 1917 revolution, Simon Sebag Montefiore's bestselling biography radically alters our understanding of the gifted politician and fanatical Marxist who shaped the Soviet empire in his own brutal image. This is the story of how Stalin became Stalin.
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Recommended by Thomas Keneally, and 1 others.

Thomas KeneallyThis is an extensive picture of the pre-revolutionary Bolshevik at the tougher prison-going end of the spectrum, far removed from the leafiness implicit in the pictures of Lenin and Krupskaya in exile in Switzerland. It is a much harder experience that Stalin goes through. You can see in the young Stalin considerable signals that he is a very strange man of certain twitches, but a man of great... (Source)

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26
Russian playwright and historian Radzinsky mines  sources never before available to create a  fascinating portrait of the monarch, and a minute-by-minute account of his terrifying last days.  Updated for the paperback edition. less
Recommended by Suzannah Lipscomb, and 1 others.

Suzannah LipscombThis tale of the demise of Tsar Nicholas II and his family is superbly written, brilliantly researched, and an utterly enchanting read. It makes the last days of the Romanovs devastatingly vivid and completely unforgettable. (Source)

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27

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Solzhenitsyn's first book, this economical, relentless novel is one of the most forceful artistic indictments of political oppression in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. The simply told story of a typical, grueling day of the titular character's life in a labor camp in Siberia, is a modern classic of Russian literature and quickly cemented Solzhenitsyn's international reputation upon publication in 1962. It is painfully apparent that Solzhenitsyn himself spent time in the gulags--he was imprisoned for nearly a decade as punishment for making derogatory statements about Stalin in a letter to a... more
Recommended by Robert Conquest, and 1 others.

Robert ConquestYes let’s do that as I’ve quite a lot to say about old Solzh. It was a critical book – an entirely objective account of a victim in a labour camp. Just one day in an ordinary labour camp. Not exaggerated, not even a particularly nasty day. The most extraordinary part is how is got printed. It ran contrary to everyone in the Communist Party in Russia, but the Novy Mir editor Tvardovsky snuck a... (Source)

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28
Victor Sebestyen’s riveting biography of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin—the first major biography in English in nearly two decades—is not only a political examination of one of the most important historical figures of the twentieth century but also a fascinating portrait of Lenin the man.

Brought up in comfort and with a passion for hunting and fishing, chess, and the English classics, Lenin was radicalized after the execution of his brother in 1887. Sebestyen traces the story from Lenin’s early years to his long exile in Europe and return to Petrograd in 1917 to lead the first Communist...
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Recommended by Ben Horowitz, and 1 others.

Ben HorowitzA thrilling biography that provides great insight into how Communism works in practice. (Source)

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29
“During the first two months of 1917 Russia was still a Romanov monarchy. Eight months later the Bolsheviks stood at the helm. They were little known to anybody when the year began, and their leaders were still under indictment for state treason when they came to power. You will not find another such sharp turn in history especially if you remember that it involves a nation of 150 million people. It is clear that the events of 1917, whatever you think of them, deserve study.”
--Leon Trotsky, from History of the Russian Revolution

Regarded by many as among the most powerful...
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Recommended by Roland Chambers, and 1 others.

Roland ChambersI chose this book because almost everything that people read about the Russian revolution is written by Westerners, partly because the official histories written under Stalin were incredibly boring and predictable. That all changed when the archives opened up after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there’s a gap all the same, which Trotsky tried to fill. (Source)

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30

A History of Russia

Now completely revised in this eighth edition, A History of Russia covers the entire span of the country's history, from ancient times to the post-communist present. Keeping with the hallmark of the text, Riasanovsky and Steinberg examine all aspects of Russia's history--political, international, military, economic, social, and cultural--with a commitment to objectivity, fairness, and balance, and to reflecting recent research and new trends in scholarly interpretation. New chapters on politics, society, and culture since 1991 explore Russia's complex experience after communism and... more

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Don't have time to read the top Russian History books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.
31

Ten Days that Shook the World



Ten Days That Shook the World is John Reed’s eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution. A contemporary journalist writing in the first flush of revolutionary enthusiasm, he gives a gripping record of the events in Petrograd in November 1917, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks finally seized power. Containing verbatim reports both of speeches by leaders and the chance comments of bystanders, set against an idealized backcloth of the proletariat, soldiers, sailors, and peasants uniting to throw off oppression, Reed’s account is the product of passionate...
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Recommended by Martin Sixsmith, and 1 others.

Martin SixsmithI like John Reed because he’s a journalist like myself, like yourself, and he was on hand to paint this fantastic, vivid picture of 1917. As you know, Warren Beatty turned it into that movie Reds in the 1980s that made revolution fun, sexy and exciting. John Reed debunks the great Soviet myth that October was a huge heroic struggle by the masses. He said: No, it wasn’t like that. The Winter... (Source)

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32

The Crimean War

A History

From "the great storyteller of modern Russian historians," (Financial Times) the definitive account of the forgotten war that shaped the modern age

The Charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale—these are the enduring icons of the Crimean War. Less well-known is that this savage war (1853-1856) killed almost a million soldiers and countless civilians; that it enmeshed four great empires—the British, French, Turkish, and Russian—in a battle over religion as well as territory; that it fixed the fault lines between Russia and the West; that it set in motion the...
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Recommended by Matthew Yglesias, and 1 others.

Matthew Yglesias@cjane87 I liked Orlando Figes’ book in Crimea but it’s the only one I’ve read so I can’t say if it’s best (Source)

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33
Epic in scope, precise in detail, and heart-breaking in its human drama, Former People is the first book to recount the history of the aristocracy caught up in the maelstrom of the Bolshevik Revolution and the creation of Stalin’s Russia. Filled with chilling tales of looted palaces and burning estates, of desperate flights in the night from marauding peasants and Red Army soldiers, of imprisonment, exile, and execution, it is the story of how a centuries’-old elite, famous for its glittering wealth, its service to the Tsar and Empire, and its promotion of the arts and culture, was... more

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34
In the long-awaited follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag, acclaimed journalist Anne Applebaum delivers a groundbreaking history of how Communism took over Eastern Europe after World War II and transformed in frightening fashion the individuals who came under its sway.

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In Iron...
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35
Pulitzer Prize-finalist Stephen Kotkin continues his definitive biography of Stalin, from collectivization and the Great Terror through to the coming of the conflict with Hitler's Germany that is the signal event of modern world history.

When we left Stalin at the end of Stalin: Paradoxes of Power: 1878-1928, it was 1928, and he had finally climbed the mountaintop and achieved dictatorial power of the Soviet empire. The vastest peasant economy in the world would be transformed into socialist modernity, whatever it took.
What it took, or what Stalin believed it took,...
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36
A New York Times and Wall Street Journal Nonfiction Bestseller! — What happened that night on Dead Mountain?The mystery of Dead Mountain: In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain. Eerie aspects of the mountain climbing incident—unexplained violent injuries, signs that they cut open and fled the tent without proper clothing or shoes, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers, and elevated levels of radiation found on some of their clothes—have led to decades of... more

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37
The Harvest of Sorrow is the first full history of one of the most horrendous human tragedies of the 20th century. Between 1929 and 1932 the Soviet Communist Party struck a double blow at the Russian peasantry: dekulakization, the dispossession and deportation of millions of peasant families, and collectivization, the abolition of private ownership of land and the concentration of the remaining peasants in party-controlled "collective" farms. This was followed in 1932-33 by a "terror-famine," inflicted by the State on the collectivized peasants of the Ukraine and certain other areas... more

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38
From the author of A People’s Tragedy, an original reading of the Russian Revolution, examining it not as a single event but as a hundred-year cycle of violence in pursuit of utopian dreams

In this elegant and incisive account, Orlando Figes offers an illuminating new perspective on the Russian Revolution. While other historians have focused their examinations on the cataclysmic years immediately before and after 1917, Figes shows how the revolution, while it changed in form and character, nevertheless retained the same idealistic goals throughout, from its origins in...
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39
'The Forsaken' is the true story of the Americans who, to escape the privations and hopelessness of the Great Depression back home, emigrated to Stalinist Russia in pursuit of a brighter future. They found themselves in the midst of a massacre. less
Recommended by Harvey Klehr, Lyubov Vinogradova, and 2 others.

Harvey KlehrThis is a fairly recent book which is wonderful and very depressing. It is an account of a large number of Americans who were living in Russia in the 1930s. Many of them had gone there to work. Others had been taken by their parents who had wanted to help build socialism. And many of these people were caught up in the purge trials and hundreds of them were killed. Tzouliadis oriented his book... (Source)

Lyubov VinogradovaI’m sure this will be of interest to a Western audience. Its subject is those former American citizens who were made to give up American citizenship in exchange for Soviet citizenship. (Source)

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40

The Russian Revolution 1917-1932

This provocative and eminently readable work looks at the many upheavals of the Russian Revolution as successive stages in a single process. Focusing on the Russian Revolution in its widest sense, Fitzpatrick covers not only the events of 1917 and what preceded them, but the nature of the social transformation brought about by the Bolsheviks after they took power. Making use of a huge amount of previously secret information in Soviet archives and unpublished memoirs, this detailed chronology recounts each monumental event from the February and October Revolutions of 1917 and the Civil War of... more

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41

Tsar

The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra

This spectacular illustrated history tells the story of the last Romanovs - one of the great tragic love stories of all time - with unparalleled vividness & intimacy. The text, which follows Nicholas & Alexandria from their childhood's to the Siberian cellar where their lives ended, is complemented by rare images from the imperial family's private collections (locked away for decades in Soviet archives, & published here for the first time), as well as by contemporary full-color photographs of the places & palaces the Romanovs knew. less

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42
The celebrated author of A Spy Among Friends and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union.

If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for...
more

Casey Neistatjust finished this yesterday. absolutely fantastic book. super recommend if you're into spycraft and espionage. bravo @BenMacintyre1 https://t.co/4OG4C1cBQ1 (Source)

Isabel Hardman@holland_tom @BenMacintyre1 Oh it’s a brilliant book isn’t it. Another one I was sad to finish. (Source)

Amrullah SalehI had a great conversation with Ambassador Micheal Lund Jeppesen of @DKinAfghanistan . On the sidelines of our rich conversation we spoke of the Spy & the Traitor a great book in which Denmark's intelligence features highly. Proud of our alliance & cooperation. https://t.co/47GMb7ETWr (Source)

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43

The 900 Days

The Siege of Leningrad

The Nazi siege of Leningrad from 1941 to 1944 was one of the most gruesome battles of World War II. Nearly three million people endured it; just under half of them died. For twenty-five years the distinguished journalist and historian Harrison Salisbury pieced together this remarkable narrative of villainy and survival, in which the city had much to fear-from both Hitler and Stalin. less

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44

The Great Terror

A Reassessment

The definitive work on Stalin's purges, Robert Conquest's The Great Terror was universally acclaimed when it first appeared in 1968. Harrison Salisbury called it "brilliant...not only an odyssey of madness, tragedy, and sadism, but a work of scholarship and literary craftsmanship." And in recent years it has received equally high praise in the former Soviet Union, where it is now considered the definitive account of the period.
When Conquest wrote the original volume, he relied heavily on unofficial sources. With the advent of glasnost, an avalanche of new material became...

more

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45
This sweeping saga recreates the extraordinary opulence and violence of Tsarist Russia as the shadow of revolution fell over the land, and destroyed a way of life for these Imperial women

The early 1850s until the late 1920s marked a turbulent and significant era for Russia. During that time the country underwent a massive transformation, taking it from days of grandeur under the tsars to the chaos of revolution and the beginnings of the Soviet Union.

At the center of all this tumult were four women of the Romanov...
more

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46

Anna Karenina

Tolstoy's epic novel of love, destiny and self-destruction, in a gorgeous new clothbound edition from Penguin Classics. Anna Karenina seems to have everything - beauty, wealth, popularity and an adored son. But she feels that her life is empty until the moment she encounters the impetuous officer Count Vronsky. Their subsequent affair scandalizes society and family alike and soon brings jealously and bitterness in its wake. Contrasting with this tale of love and self-destruction is the vividly observed story of Levin, a man striving to find contentment and a meaning to his life - and also a... more

Chelsea HandlerI don't know if I have to expound on why I love this book, but everyone should read [this author], and this was the first one of his works I read. So, it's like a first boyfriend. Or my first Cabbage Patch Kid. (Source)

Marvin LiaoMy list would be (besides the ones I mentioned in answer to the previous question) both business & Fiction/Sci-Fi and ones I personally found helpful to myself. The business books explain just exactly how business, work & investing are in reality & how to think properly & differentiate yourself. On the non-business side, a mix of History & classic fiction to understand people, philosophy to make... (Source)

Rupert IsaacsonAnna’s trying to be her authentic self, a sexual and loving woman and she gets whopped for it and that’s not fair. (Source)

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47
Here is a pioneering account of everyday life under Stalin, written by a leading authority on modern Russian history. Focusing on the urban population, Fitzpatrick depicts a world of privation, overcrowding, endless lines, and broken homes, in which the regime's promises of future socialist abundance rang hollowly. We read of a government bureaucracy that often turned life into a nightmare, and of how ordinary citizens tried to circumvent it. We also read of the secret police, whose constant surveillance was endemic at this time, and the waves of terror, like the Great Purges of 1937, which... more

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48
Volume 1 of the gripping epic masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn's chilling report of his arrest and interrogation, which exposed to the world the vast bureaucracy of secret police that haunted Soviet society less

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49
The essential journalist and bestselling biographer of Vladimir Putin reveals how, in the space of a generation, Russia surrendered to a more virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy.

Award-winning journalist Masha Gessen’s understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled. In The Future Is History, Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new...
more

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50

Kolyma Tales

It is estimated that some three million people died in the Soviet forced-labour camps of Kolyma, in the northeastern area of Siberia. Shalamov himself spent seventeen years there, and in these stories he vividly captures the lives of ordinary people caught up in terrible circumstances, whose hopes and plans extended to further than a few hours This new enlarged edition combines two collections previously published in the United States as Kolyma Tales and Graphite. less
Recommended by David Olusoga, and 1 others.

David OlusogaFive Books aims to keep its book recommendations and interviews up to date. If you are the interviewee and would like to update your choice of books (or even just what you say about them) please email us at [email protected] (Source)

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51

Alexandra

The Last Tsarina

A czarina Alexandra, mulher de Nicolau II, assombrosamente bonita e melancólica, fiel seguidora de Rasputine, executada, juntamente com toda a sua família, no seguimento da Revolução de Outubro de 1917, mantém-se uma personagem enigmática da história mundial.

Num tom confidente, rico em detalhes, com base em investigação histórica cuidada e enriquecida por uma brilhante imaginação, o relato da vida de Alexandra e da sua sociedade resulta num retrato biográfico tão intenso e difícil de abandonar, quanto é também um envolvente romance. Com esta obra, Alexandra deixa de ser uma figura...
more

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53

Darkness at Noon

The newly discovered lost text of Arthur Koestler’s modern masterpiece, Darkness at Noon—the haunting portrait of a revolutionary, imprisoned and tortured under totalitarian rule—is now restored and in a completely new translation.

Editor Michael Scammell and translator Philip Boehm bring us a brilliant novel, a remarkable discovery, and a new translation of an international classic.

In print continually since 1940, Darkness at Noon has been translated into over 30 languages and is both a stirring novel and a classic anti-fascist text. What...
more
Recommended by Ben Domenech, and 1 others.

Ben DomenechA new translation of DARKNESS AT NOON takes what was always an important book and makes it great literature. https://t.co/ATmRSQTuaK (Source)

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54

The Russian Revolution

Mr. Pipes writes trenchantly, and at times superbly....No single volume known to me even begins to cater so adequately to those who want to discover what really happened to Russia....Nor do I know any other book better designed to help Soviet citizens to struggle out of the darkness."

-- Ronald Hingley, The New York Times Book Review

Ground-breaking in its inclusiveness, enthralling in its narrative of a movement whose purpose, in the words of Leon Trotsky, was "to overthrow the world," The Russian Revolution draws conclusions that have already aroused great controversy...
more

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55
Hopkirk's spellbinding account of the great imperial struggle for supremacy in Central Asia has been hailed as essential reading with that era's legacy playing itself out today. The Great Game between Victorian Britain & Tsarist Russia was fought across desolate terrain from the Caucasus to China, over the lonely passes of the Parmirs & Karakorams, in the blazing Kerman & Helmund deserts, & thru the caravan towns of the old Silk Road-both powers scrambling to control access to the riches of India & the East. When play first began, the frontiers of Russia & British... more
Recommended by Stephen Evans, and 1 others.

Stephen EvansThis takes me away from London and cholera to Afghanistan, the North West Frontier and Central Asia. Hopkirk’s Great Game is a history of the game of exploration and espionage played out by representatives of Britain and Russia in the 19th century. (Source)

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56

Khrushchev

The Man and His Era

The definitive biography of the mercurial Soviet leader who succeeded and denounced Stalin. Nikita Khrushchev was one of the most complex and important political figures of the twentieth century. Ruler of the Soviet Union during the first decade after Stalin's death, Khrushchev left a contradictory stamp on his country and on the world. His life and career mirror the Soviet experience: revolution, civil war, famine, collectivization, industrialization, terror, world war, cold war, Stalinism, post-Stalinism. Complicit in terrible Stalinist crimes, Khrushchev nevertheless retained his humanity:... more
Recommended by Francis Spufford, and 1 others.

Francis SpuffordKhrushchev started off a miner’s son and had one of those rocket rides in the social stratosphere that could happen once Stalin had got rid of all the old Bolsheviks and needed a completely new political class. He went being from being a semi-literate party member out in the country to the deputy mayor of Moscow in about five years, and he finally ended up as one of Stalin’s inner circle. He... (Source)

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57
A journey into the glittering, surreal heart of 21st century Russia, where even dictatorship is a reality show

Professional killers with the souls of artists, would-be theater directors turned Kremlin puppet-masters, suicidal supermodels, Hell's Angels who hallucinate themselves as holy warriors, and oligarch revolutionaries: welcome to the wild and bizarre heart of twenty-first-century Russia. It is a world erupting with new money and new power, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, home to a form of dictatorship-far subtler than twentieth-century strains-that is...
more
Recommended by Paul Kedrosky, John Sipher, and 2 others.

Paul KedroskyFascinating how this quote — from Peter Pomerantsev's terrific 2014 book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia — already seems like it's from another era. (Source)

John Sipher@twistopherrobin His book is great. “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”. (Source)

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58
Edited and translated from the Russian by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova, Knopf Canada is proud to present a masterpiece of the Second World War, never before published in English, from one of the great Russian writers of the 20th century – a vivid eyewitness account of the Eastern Front and “the ruthless truth of war.”

When the Germans invaded Russia in 1941, Vasily Grossman became a special correspondent for the Red Star, the Red Army’s newspaper. A Writer at War – based on the notebooks in which Grossman gathered raw material for his articles – depicts the crushing...
more
Recommended by Anna Reid, and 1 others.

Anna ReidThese are the notes Grossman took while a war correspondent for the army newspaper, the Red Star. They are true first drafts of history – quick descriptions of what was going on around him as he sat in some truck or dugout, waiting for something to happen. He has a wonderful, cinematic eye, describing the look of burned-out villages, roads full of refugees, and so on. And he gets the voices of... (Source)

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59
As the BBC Moscow correspondent for almost twenty years, Sixsmith tells Russia's full and fascinating story, from its foundation in the last years of the tenth century to the first years of the twenty-first, skillfully tracing the conundrums of modern Russia to their roots in its troubled past. Covering politics, music, literature and art, he explores the myths Russians have created from their history.


Marking the twentieth anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the complex political...
more

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60
In February 1917, in the midst of bloody war, Russia was still an autocratic monarchy: nine months later, it became the first socialist state in world history. How did this unimaginable transformation take place? How was a ravaged and backward country, swept up in a desperately unpopular war, rocked by not one but two revolutions?

This is the story of the extraordinary months between those upheavals, in February and October, of the forces and individuals who made 1917 so epochal a year, of their intrigues, negotiations, conflicts and catastrophes. From familiar names like Lenin and...
more

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Don't have time to read the top Russian History books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

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61

Life and Fate

A book judged so dangerous in the Soviet Union that not only the manuscript but the ribbons on which it had been typed were confiscated by the state, Life and Fate is an epic tale of World War II and a profound reckoning with the dark forces that dominated the twentieth century.

Interweaving a transfixing account of the battle of Stalingrad with the story of a single middle-class family, the Shaposhnikovs, scattered by fortune from Germany to Siberia, Vasily Grossman fashions an immense, intricately detailed tapestry depicting a time of almost unimaginable horror and even...
more
Recommended by Antony Beevor, Francis Spufford, and 2 others.

Antony BeevorLife and Fate…is probably the most important work of fiction about World War II. But, in fact, it is more than just a fiction because it is based on very close reporting from his time with the soldiers. It is a deliberate act of literary homage to Tolstoy as one can see in the title. It is definitely the War and Peace of the 20th century. (Source)

Francis SpuffordIt is about the strange interval of freedom during the Second World War in which the Soviet regime had to trust its people because it couldn’t compel their loyalty. (Source)

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62
Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia's last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (Amelia Lost; The Lincolns) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia's poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards. less

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63
For three centuries - beginning with the accession of Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov in 1613 - the Romanov Dynasty ruled Russia. Its reign ended with the execution of Nicholas II and Alexandra in the early 20th century. Noted Russian scholar W. Bruce Lincoln has portrayed the achievement, significance and high drama of the Dynasty as no previous book has done. His use of rare archival materials has allowed him to present a portrait of the Romanovs based on their own writings and those of the persons who knew them.

Preface
Acknowledgments
A Note on Russian Names and Dates
more

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64
The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low- level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.

Handpicked as a successor by the "family" surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like a perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and...
more
Recommended by Edward Lucas, and 1 others.

Edward LucasIt’s a very polemical portrait of Putin, a man whom she detests. I think she nails a lot about him. She really focuses in on Putin the man and inverts this common picture of a glamorous, decisive, tough guy to show that the reality is sordid, scary and in a way rather pathetic. (Source)

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65

Journey into the Whirlwind

Eugenia Ginzburg's critically acclaimed memoir of the harrowing eighteen years she spent in prisons and labor camps under Stalin's rule

By the late 1930s, Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg had been a loyal and very active member of the Communist Party for many years. Yet like millions of others who suffered during Stalin's reign of terror, she was arrested—on trumped-up charges of being a Trotskyist terrorist and counter-revolutionary—and sentenced to prison. With an amazing eye for detail, profound strength, and an indefatigable spirit, Ginzburg recounts the years, days, and...
more

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66

Russian Thinkers

Few, if any, English-language critics have written as perceptively as Isaiah Berlin about Russian thought and culture. Russian Thinkers is his unique meditation on the impact that Russia's outstanding writers and philosophers had on its culture. In addition to Tolstoy's philosophy of history, which he addresses in his most famous essay, 'The Hedgehog and the Fox,' Berlin considers the social and political circumstances that produced such men as Herzen, Bakunin, Turgenev, Belinsky, and others of the Russian intelligentsia, who made up, as Berlin describes, 'the largest single Russian... more

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67

City of Thieves

From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival — and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering...
more

Brian KoppelmanI’ve given it to 100 people. All of them thanked me and gave away a bunch themselves. (Source)

Nicholas CarlsonAmazing recommendations. Thanks everyone. Just finished a book off this list: "City of Thieves." It was funny, moving, and thrilling. I also recommend it. https://t.co/mvmjjNpyHC (Source)

The CEO Library Community (through anonymous form)One of the best 3 books I've read in 2019 (Source)

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68
Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth

Big Oil and Gas Versus Democracy—Winner Take All

Rachel Maddow’s Blowout offers a dark, serpentine, riveting tour of the unimaginably lucrative and corrupt oil-and-gas industry. With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe—from Oklahoma City to Siberia to Equatorial Guinea—exposing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas. She shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth,...
more

Joy ReidThis week I had the chance to interview my pal Rachel @Maddow about her amazing new book, Blowout!! Tune in to #amjoy at 10am ET Sunday to check it out (and find out what Equatorial Guinea, Michael Jackson's glove, black oil and Texas tea have in common...! https://t.co/mTQZKIZT2T (Source)

Thebeat W/ari Melber[email protected]'s book, #Blowout, is now number one on The @nytimes Best Seller List for the second week in a row! https://t.co/Hyia070255 (Source)

Josh Long ( )😂 @maddow you’re so amazing. I’m listening to the Audible version of your fantastic book “Blowout” and just got to a part where you detail a sad, lonely existence and then - as an aside - declare “aw! Sad.” in a completely different voice 😂 (Source)

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69

Russia Under the Old Regime

This study analyzes the evolution of the Russian state from the 9th century to the 1880s, and its unique role in managing Russian society. The development of Russia was different from that of the rest of Europe. The natural poverty of geographical conditions made it extremely difficult to construct an effective regime, and a "patrimonial" state arose in which the country was conceived as the personal property of the tsar. The book describes the evolution of this regime, and analyzes the political behaviour of the principal social groupings, peasantry, nobility, bourgeoisie and clergy, and... more

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70
Prince Grigory Potemkin was Catherine the Great's lover, secret husband, and partner in ruling the Russian Empire. Their affair was so tumultuous, they negotiated an arrangement that allowed them to share power while he was free to love his beautiful nieces, and Catherine, her favorites. But they never stopped loving each other. Their endearing and passionate relationship remains one of history's most remarkable love affairs.

Potemkin shone as an outstandingly gifted statesman, winning the Crimea, founding the Black Sea Fleet, reforming the Cossacks, planning new cities like...
more
Recommended by Andrei Maylunas, and 1 others.

Andrei MaylunasWe move to the age of Enlightenment: a very nice, well-written book by Simon Sebag Montefiore, and it’s called The Life of Potemkin. So what do we have? We’ve had the reforms of Peter the Great, cutting his ‘window on to Europe’, then we had – and the 18th century is a crucial one – Russia meeting the Enlightenment. Catherine the Great comes to power, and that’s where the biggest revolution I... (Source)

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71
Napoleon dominated nearly all of Europe by 1810, largely succeeding in his aim to reign over the civilized world. But Britain eluded him. To conquer the island nation, he needed Russia's Tsar Alexander's help. The Tsar refused, and Napoleon vowed to teach him a lesson by intimidation and force. The ensuing invasion of Russia, during the frigid winter of 1812, would mark the beginning of the end of Napoleon's empire. Although his army captured Moscow after a brutal march deep into hostile territory, it was a hollow victory for the demoralized troops. Napoleon's men were eventually turned back,... more

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72

The Fate of the Romanovs

Abundant, newly discovered sources shatter long-held beliefs

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 revealed, among many other things, a hidden wealth of archival documents relating to the imprisonment and eventual murder of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their children. Emanating from sources both within and close to the Imperial Family as well as from their captors and executioners, these often-controversial materials have enabled a new and comprehensive examination of one the pivotal events of the twentieth century and the many controversies that surround it.
more

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73
On the centenary of the death of Rasputin comes a definitive biography that will dramatically change our understanding of this fascinating figure

A hundred years after his murder, Rasputin continues to excite the popular imagination as the personification of evil. Numerous biographies, novels, and films recount his mysterious rise to power as Nicholas and Alexandra's confidant and the guardian of the sickly heir to the Russian throne. His debauchery and sinister political influence are the stuff of legend, and the downfall of the Romanov dynasty was laid at his feet.
more

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74
“A riveting, immensely detailed biography of Putin that explains in full-bodied, almost Shakespearian fashion why he acts the way he does.” –Robert D. Kaplan
 
The New Tsar is the book to read if you want to understand how Vladimir Putin sees the world and why he has become one of the gravest threats to American security.

The epic tale of the rise to power of Russia's current president—the only complete biography in English – that fully captures his emergence from shrouded obscurity and deprivation to become one of the most consequential and...
more
Recommended by David Heinemeier Hansson, and 1 others.

David Heinemeier HanssonWith Russia fever at Defcon 2, I’ve made it about half-ways through the biography The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin. It’s a great refresher on post-WWII history, the cold war, KGB, but above all, on the forces present in Russia. There are many lines to draw between Russia’s struggles after the fall of Communism with the fundamental political theories of Fukuyama (Origins of... (Source)

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75
The award-winning author of Villa Air-Bel returns with a painstakingly researched, revelatory biography of Svetlana Stalin, a woman fated to live her life in the shadow of one of history’s most monstrous dictators—her father, Josef Stalin.

Born in the early years of the Soviet Union, Svetlana Stalin spent her youth inside the walls of the Kremlin. Communist Party privilege protected her from the mass starvation and purges that haunted Russia, but she did not escape tragedy—the loss of everyone she loved, including her mother, two brothers, aunts and uncles, and a lover twice her...
more

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76

Doctor Zhivago

This epic tale about the effects of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath on a bourgeois family was not published in the Soviet Union until 1987. One of the results of its publication in the West was Pasternak's complete rejection by Soviet authorities; when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 he was compelled to decline it. The book quickly became an international best-seller.

Dr. Yury Zhivago, Pasternak's alter ego, is a poet, philosopher, and physician whose life is disrupted by the war and by his love for Lara, the wife of a revolutionary. His artistic...
more

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77

Alexander II

The Last Great Tsar

Edvard Radzinsky is justly famous as both a biographer and a dramatist, and he brings both skills to bear in this vivid, page-turning, rich portrait of one of the greatest of all Romanovs. Alexander II was Russia's Lincoln -- he freed the serfs, promised a new, more liberal state for everyone, yet was brought down by a determined group of terrorist anarchists who tried to kill him six times before finally, fatefully, succeeding. His story proves the timeless lesson that in Russia, it is dangerous to start reforms, but even more dangerous to stop them. It also shows that the traps and dangers... more

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78
In the years before the First World War, the great European powers were ruled by three first cousins: King George V of Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Together, they presided over the last years of dynastic Europe and the outbreak of the most destructive war the world had ever seen, a war that set twentieth-century Europe on course to be the most violent continent in the history of the world.

Miranda Carter uses the cousins' correspondence and a host of historical sources to tell the tragicomic story of a tiny, glittering, solipsistic world...
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79
"A penetrating and compassionate book on the most gigantic military struggle in world history."--The New York Times Book Review

"An extraordinary tale... Overy's engrossing book provides extensive details of teh slaughter, brutality, bitterness and destruction on the massive front from the White Sea to the flank of Asia."--Chicago Tribune

The Russian war effort to defeat invading Axis powers, an effort that assembled the largest military force in recorded history and that cost the lives of more than 25 million Soviet soldiers and civilians, was the...
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80
Praise for The Court of the Last Tsar



"Any book by Greg King is a book to be kept and savored. He has not only given us a fresh, clear-eyed, and often startling new look at the life of the last Romanovs, but also lived up to the promise of his title. He has shown us how the whole enterprise worked, from Tsar Nicholas to his lowest cook and chambermaid. This book is a great work of scholarship--and a wonderful read."
--Peter Kurth, author of Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra and Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson

"A mammoth, monumental...
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Don't have time to read the top Russian History books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

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81
On Christmas Day 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the Soviet Union. By the next day the USSR was officially no more and the USA had emerged as the world’s sole superpower. Award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy presents a page-turning account of the preceding five months of drama, filled with failed coups d’état and political intrigue.

Honing in on this previously disregarded but crucial period and using recently declassified documents and original interviews with key participants, he shatters the established myths of 1991 and presents a bold new interpretation of the...
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82
The House of Government is unlike any other book about the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy's War and Peace, Grossman's Life and Fate, and Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, Yuri Slezkine's gripping narrative tells the true story of the residents of an enormous Moscow apartment building where top Communist officials and their families lived before they were destroyed in Stalin's purges. A vivid account of the personal and public lives of Bolshevik true believers, the book begins with their conversion to Communism... more
Recommended by Murtaza Mohammad Hussain, and 1 others.

Murtaza Mohammad Hussain@TheIllegit Sorry *of. That was a great book (Source)

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83
This study is the first of its kind: a street-level inside account of what Stalinism meant to the masses of ordinary people who lived it. Stephen Kotkin was the first American in 45 years to be allowed into Magnitogorsk, a city built in response to Stalin's decision to transform the predominantly agricultural nation into a "country of metal." With unique access to previously untapped archives and interviews, Kotkin forges a vivid and compelling account of the impact of industrialization on a single urban community.

Kotkin argues that Stalinism offered itself as an opportunity for...
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84
A powerful, groundbreaking narrative of the ordinary Russian soldier's experience of the worst war in history, based on newly revealed sources

Of the thirty million who fought in the eastern front of World War II, eight million died, driven forward in suicidal charges, shattered by German shells and tanks. They were the men and women of the Red Army, a ragtag mass of soldiers who confronted Europe's most lethal fighting force and by 1945 had defeated it. Sixty years have passed since their epic triumph, but the heart and mind of Ivan -- as the ordinary Russian soldier was...
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85
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Romanov Sisters, Caught in the Revolution is Helen Rappaport's masterful telling of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution through eye-witness accounts left by foreign nationals who saw the drama unfold.

Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin's Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St Petersburg) was in turmoil - felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt. There, the foreign visitors who filled hotels, clubs, offices and embassies were...
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86

Red Plenty

"Spufford cunningly maps out a literary genre of his own . . . Freewheeling and fabulous." --The Times (London)

Strange as it may seem, the gray, oppressive USSR was founded on a fairy tale. It was built on the twentieth-century magic called "the planned economy," which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working. Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the...
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Recommended by Niall Kishtainy, and 1 others.

Niall KishtainyWhich side was going to win? Socialism or capitalism? He’s taken that episode in history, those few years, and created this incredible narrative. (Source)

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87

The Cold War

A New History

It began during the Second World War, when American and Soviet troops converged from east and west. Their meeting point—a small German city—became part of a front line that solidified shortly thereafter into an Iron Curtain. It ended in a climactic square-off between Ronald Reagan’s America and Gorbachev’s Soviet Union. In between were decades of global confrontation, uncertainty, and fear.

Drawing on new and often startling information from newly opened Soviet, Eastern European, and Chinese archives, this thrilling account explores the strategic dynamics that drove the Cold War,...
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88

Lenin

A Biography

Lenin is a colossal figure whose influence on 20th-century history cannot be underestimated. This biography makes use of archive material to piece together his private as well as public life in an effort to give a complete picture of Lenin in all his different roles. Through the prism of Lenin's career, the author examines events such as the October Revolution and the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, the one-party state, economic modernization, dictatorship and the politics of inter-war Europe. He casts light on the nature of the state and society left behind by Lenin, a state and society which has... more

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89
'Land of the Firebird' is a WONDERFUL and ENGAGING in-depth look of Russian history from 987-1917, spanning the ascension of Vlad and the Orthodox Church to right before the Revolution. With colorful prose Suzanne Massie details the variety of Russian existence--tsars and serfs and merchant-princes and babushkas--no stone is left uncovered as she cross-references nearly a thousands years, writing with equal consideration of art, poetry, country-life, court-life, politics and its myriad games, myths and legends, influence "outside the sphere." less

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90
Dutiful daughter, frustrated wife, passionate lover, domineering mother, doting grandmother, devoted friend, tireless legislator, generous patron of artists and philosophers--the Empress Catherine II, the Great, was all these things, and more. Her reign, the longest in Russian Imperial history, lasted from 1762 until her death in 1796; during those years she built on the work begun by her most famous predecessor, Peter the Great, to establish Russia as a major European power and to transform its new capital, St Petersburg, into a city to rival Paris and London in the beauty of its... more

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Don't have time to read the top Russian History books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

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91
The author of the number-one New York Times bestseller The Russia Hoax picks up where that book ended with this hard-hitting, well-reasoned examination of the latest findings about “collusion” between the Trump Administration and the Russians, offering further proof that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is nothing more than a politically motivated witch hunt.

The president’s enemies cite the number of indictments and guilty pleas wracked up by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his associates as proof of Donald Trump and his...
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Mark R. LevinGrab a copy of Gregg Jarrett’s great new book. Witch Hunt: The Story of the Greatest Mass Delusion in American Political History https://t.co/e9bec42r6J (Source)

Jerome R. CorsiThank you Gregg Jarrett @GreggJarrett for the excellent coverage he gave my 40-hrs inquisition by Mueller in which I refused a plea deal & did NOT get indicted (pgs 380-386) in his new book https://t.co/E4INijaAca WITCH HUNT that I strongly recommend @realDonaldTrump A MUST READ (Source)

Kimberly GuilfoyleGet @GreggJarrett’s new book Witch Hunt! The story of the greatest mass delusion in American political history. Phenomenal writer and storyteller with another great book! https://t.co/oJ7n2jRQEx (Source)

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92

Catherine the Great

Born a little German princess without a drop of Russian blood in her veins she came to embody Russia and as the country moved from war to war and conquest to conquest it was Catherine who became great. Those who served her throne, or her bed, were well rewarded while the serfs were condemned to ever-worsening conditions. Men were instruments of pleasure. The weak had to perish. The future belonged to men - and sometimes a man could have the outward appearance of a woman. She was proof of that. This literary tour de force paints an enthralling picture of Catherine, her seductions, her coaxings... more

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93
A major new history of the Russian conflict immortalized by Tolstoy in War and Peace

Russia's expulsion of Napoleon's Grande Armée in 1812 is considered one of the most dramatic events in European history. However, Tolstoyan myth and an imbalance of British and French interpretations have clouded most Westerners' understanding of Russia's role in the defeat of Napoleon.

Based on a fresh examination of Russian military archives, Russia Against Napoleon provides the first-ever history of the period told from the Russian perspective. In Dominic...
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94
A 2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist

National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson delivers a brilliant and riveting account of the Siege of Leningrad and the role played by Russian composer Shostakovich and his Leningrad Symphony.

In September 1941, Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history—almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943–1944. More than a million citizens perished....
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Recommended by Marc Favreau, and 1 others.

Marc FavreauSymphony for the City of the Dead is, in brief, the story of the Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich and his Seventh Symphony, which he composed during the 444-day Siege of Leningrad by Hitler’s armies during World War Two. It’s an incredibly multilayered history and narrative, both fast-paced and readable. I recommended it to many of my adult friends who read serious nonfiction, because it... (Source)

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95

Chernobyl

History of a Tragedy

On 26 April 1986 at 1.23am a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. While the authorities scrambled to understand what was occurring, workers, engineers, firefighters and those living in the area were abandoned to their fate. The blast put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, contaminating over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.

In Chernobyl, award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy draws on recently opened archives to recreate these events in all their drama, telling the stories of the scientists, workers, soldiers, and...
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Recommended by Stephen Bush, Kate Brown, and 2 others.

Stephen BushIt’s just a really thrilling book, as well as being a really interesting history of that time. But the reason why I think it’s also a brilliant political book is fundamentally what Plokhii reveals in his writing, is that the failure of Chernobyl was fundamentally a failure of a political system, as well as a failure of a scientific system. (Source)

Kate BrownHe’s really good here at laying down the background of the disaster itself, the plant’s construction, the days leading up to it, the moments the accident occurred. He talks about the accident itself, the delay in informing the public, the censorship of news, the trial of the nuclear power plant operators who he thinks were treated as scapegoats, and the political outcomes of all this deception. (Source)

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96
The West has always had a difficult time understanding the Soviet Union. For decades Americans have known a Soviet Union clouded by ideological passions and a dearth of information. Today, with the revelations under glasnost and the collapse of the Communist empire, Americans are now able to see the former Soviet Union as a whole, and explore the turbulent tale of a Soviet history that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
One of the eminent Soviet historians of our time, Ronald Grigor Suny takes us on a journey that examines the complex themes of Soviet history from the last tsar of...
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97
A saga of love and lust, personal tensions and rivalries, antagonisms and hatreds, The Flight of the Romanovs describes the last century of the Russian imperial dynasty-a century that saw the greatest social and political upheavals in all of recorded history. Drawing upon a wealth of untapped resources from Russian, British, and American archives, including unpublished diaries of many of the principal characters and never-before-published photographs, Perry and Pleshakov render an indelible portrait of a family and their time, from the youth of Alexander III in the 1860s to the death, one... more

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98
In the bestselling tradition of Why Nations Fail and The Revenge of Geography, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers.

All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas, and concrete. To understand world events, news organizations and other authorities often focus on people, ideas, and political movements, but without geography, we never have the full picture. Now, in the relevant and timely Prisoners of Geography, seasoned...
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Lee MckenzieThis is a great book and by far the best thing I have read for a while. If you are curious about the world in which we live, geopolitics or just fancy something a little different, you couldn’t do much better than this. Coffee optional! @Itwitius 👏🏻 #prisonersofgeography https://t.co/Gd3G2tDVyT (Source)

Sunil Chhetri@TaranaRaja The cover got me and I'm sure the book is very, very interesting! (Source)

Lucas MoralesDepending on your interest and goals, if you are like me and always looking for the trends in the big picture then I highly recommend being an active contrarian reader. Read what no one else is reading. Your goal is to think outside the box. To look at the world and ask “why hasn’t this been solved?” And that gives you a roadmap as to what opportunities may exist for your entrepreneurial efforts.... (Source)

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99

Russia and the Russians

A History

Hosking follows the country's history from the Slavs' first emergence in the historical record in the sixth century C.E. to the Russians' persistent appearances in today's headlines. The second edition covers the presidencies of Vladimir Putin and Dmitrii Medvedev and the struggle to make Russia a viable functioning state for all its citizens. less

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100
Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett reveals the real story behind Hillary Clinton’s deep state collaborators in government and exposes their nefarious actions during and after the 2016 election.

The Russia Hoax reveals how persons within the FBI and Barack Obama’s Justice Department worked improperly to help elect Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

When this suspected effort failed, those same people appear to have pursued a contrived investigation of President Trump in an attempt to undo the election results and remove him as...

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Donald J. TrumpCongratulations to @GreggJarrett on The TREMENDOUS success of his just out book, “The Russia Hoax, The Illicit Scheme To Clear Hillary Clinton & Frame Donald Trump.” Already number one on Amazon. Hard work from a brilliant guy. It’s the Real Story of the Rigged Witch Hunt! (Source)

Peter Boykin Founder Of Gaysfortrump#TrumpTweet : Congratulations to GreggJarrett on The TREMENDOUS success of his just out book, “The Russia Hoax, The Illicit Scheme To Clear Hillary Clinton & Frame Donald Trump.” Already number one on Amazon. Hard work from a brilliant guy. It’s the Real Story of the Rigged… (Source)

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Don't have time to read the top Russian History books of all time? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.