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In considering the bloody and stupifyingly complicated last chapter of the Yugoslav wars, most outsiders view the Kosovo Liberation Army with only slightly less distaste than they do the former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Pettifer sees matters differently.
Smoking may seem a curious route into Bulgarian history, but given the centrality of tobacco to the country’s commerce, examining it allows Neuburger to add depth to many facets of Bulgarian social and political life as the country moved from the tutelage of the Ottoman Empire to autonomy after 1877, through the crosscurrents of World War I and its revolutionary aftermath, and to the genocide of World War II and then the confused heavy hand of communist overlordship.
To hold their own in the nuclear arms race, both the United States and the Soviet Union built sealed-off cities to harvest plutonium. Brown focuses on the history of the two pioneering examples: the Richland community in eastern Washington State and Ozersk, in the southern Urals.
Tsygankov believes that the Russian sense of honor is the key to understanding the long history of the country’s relations with the West. His exegesis applies well to the Putin era, but for the larger picture, theory’s demand for tidiness forces a certain amount of cutting and splicing of history.
Of the many biographies of Vladimir Putin that have appeared in recent years, this one is the most useful, particularly to foreign-policy makers, many of whom must work with a crude or muddled understanding of what makes the Russian leader tick.
Not many countries have produced an academic-cum-official who could or would write a book like this. Gaidar, a scholar-economist, was the architect of Russian economic reform in the Yeltsin era. He completed this genuine magnum opus in 2005, four years before his death, at age 53. In it, he traces all of economic history back to the late Stone Age and places the long path of Russian economic development in this extraordinary context.
The character of the civic values embraced by the generation born after the collapse of the Soviet Union has obvious importance in understanding the prospects of post-Soviet societies. Fournier, an anthropologist, spent the turbulent year of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution observing and interacting with teenagers and their teachers in two Kiev high schools, one public and one private.
This is a story of heroism nonpareil, a heart-stopping account of the roughly one thousand young Polish Jews who, during the 1940s, organized violent resistance against the German ravaging of the Warsaw ghetto, a walled-off area “roughly the size of New York City’s Central Park” into which the Nazis squeezed nearly all of Warsaw’s 400,000 Jews. The Isaac of the title is Isaac Zuckerman, the young Polish-Lithuanian Zionist who willed into existence the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB).
Spy stories always fascinate, and Lucas has real ones to share. They center on the activities of a group of ten Russian spies in the United States whose discovery in 2010 created a media sensation. Lucas also tells the more dramatic but less sensationalized tale of Herman Simm, an Estonian ex-policeman who later became the keeper of Estonia’s top military secrets.
“Former people” was the official label applied to Russia’s decimated nobility. Smith re-creates what they experienced with an intimacy that brings the whole history of these years vividly and grotesquely alive.
If any small slice of the globe matches the complex history of the largest and oldest countries, it is Georgia. Rayfield reconstructs every step of the way in often punishing detail. His treatment of the turbulent eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the violent dance among the Ottomans, the Persians, and the Russians ended with Georgia’s incorporation into the Russian empire, is particularly masterful.
The way capital and coercion intersect constitutes the core of Easter’s explanation for why and how some postcommunist countries emerged with a “contractual” state and others with a “predatory” one. Tracing the complex interplay among politicians, bureaucrats, corporate interests, and labor in the struggle to shape the state’s capacity to finance itself is no simple task, and Easter does it deftly.
Bohle and Greskovits contend that the capitalism of eastern European states differs from the West’s mature form, although not quite as starkly as the authoritarian capitalism some associate with post-Soviet states.
By sharing the emotional fervor of her many, often deep personal relationships with eastern Europeans, formed during ten years of travel and research in the region, Shore gets at the agony and guilt felt by some and the sublimation resorted to by others.
Applebaum brings an impassioned, critical eye to the creation and maintenance of the Soviet system: the methodical, carefully staged infiltration of key institutions, the often violent elimination of competing voices, and the slow subversion of public and private institutions.
This is a rich and fascinating angle on history enhanced by a bounty of beautiful reproductions. Rare is a book this aesthetically pleasing and intellectually original. Seegel should be congratulated for creating it, and the University of Chicago Press, for producing it.
Mitchell has crafted a lucid—albeit minimalist—tour d’horizon of the events themselves and of all three countries’ subsequent backsliding into the illiberal patterns of the past.
Few have studied the Russian oil and gas industry longer or with a broader political perspective than Gustafson. The result is this superb book, which is not merely a fascinating, subtle history of the industry since the Soviet Union’s collapse but also the single most revealing work on Russian politics and economics published in the last several years.
In this careful, economical history, Lohr demonstrates that Russia is not the eternally immured nation it has seemed for much of its history, with the Soviet Union only its most extreme version. Even before Peter the Great, but especially after the Great Reforms of the 1860s, Russia’s efforts to modernize led to a patchwork approach to immigration, emigration, and naturalization.
With good reason, many military historians consider Georgy Zhukov to have been the greatest general of World War II. No other military leader played so central a role in so many battles that determined the war’s outcome, from the defense of Leningrad and Stalingrad to the conquest of Germany. But even more remarkable was Zhukov’s ability to survive in the Soviet system, a tale well told in this compact biography.
Leitenberg and Zilinskas' massive volume explores every dimension of the Soviet biological weapons program: its technical aspects, what U.S. and British intelligence knew about it, the role of Warsaw Pact allies, the proliferation risk, and how it compared to the Soviet chemical weapons program. Still, they stress how much cannot be known, including all that remains behind the Russian Ministry of Defense’s sealed doors and lips.
Lendvai, a Hungarian-born veteran Austrian journalist, paints a discouraging and alarming picture of Hungary. For those who assume that the country, safely sheltered in the European Union and NATO, is well on the way to democratic stability and western European–style liberalism, this book will come as a bit of a shock.
It might seem oxymoronic to speak of shining moments during the waning years of the Soviet Union, but Aron more than justifies the description with a stunning portrait of the intellectual and moral revolution that burst forth between 1987 and 1991. But Aron’s account is less convincing when it comes to explaining why the soul-searching of those heady days later mutated into something more diffuse and less compelling.
Having spent years trying to understand the violence in the former Yugoslavia, Petersen insists that those who have no interest in peace skillfully exploit fear, anger over lost status, and the desire for revenge generated by the bloodletting. International peacemakers, operating from conventional rational-choice calculations that rely on material incentives, do not understand the asymmetric disadvantage they are at when the rawness of emotions is used to thwart their efforts.
Cooley brings firsthand research and a detached, sensible eye to a complex, fast-moving subject. In brisk steps, he demonstrates that the “game” today is not the same one played by the great powers in the nineteenth century.
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