The Russian Empire and the World, 1700-1917: The Geopolitics of Expansion and Containment

In This Review

The Russian Empire and the World, 1700-1917: The Geopolitics of Expansion and Containment

By John P. Ledonne
Oxford University Press, 1997
394 pp. $45.00
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LeDonne has filled an important deficit. Until this book, there had been no major account in English of Russian foreign policy from Peter the Great to Lenin. Ledonne orders this large expanse of history by tracing the outward movement of Russia against neighboring empires and their equally regular maneuverings to keep it hemmed in. He takes his inspiration from the nineteenth-century geopoliticians Sir Halford Mackinder and Admiral Alfred T. Mahan, using their ideas to capture the permanent ebb and flow between the heartland and the coastlands. Geography is destiny in this account. That allows LeDonne to reduce the history of Russian foreign policy to a neat, striking pattern of expansion and containment. But in doing so, contrary to the historian's craft, he blots out the complicated and often unique interplay of domestic and international factors that caused Russia to act the way it did.