New Books Network

John Steinberg, “All the Tsar’s Men: Russia’s General Staff and the Fate of the Empire, 1898-1914” (Johns Hopkins UP, 2010)
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was the most important political event of the twentieth century (no Revolution; no Nazis; no Nazis, no World War II; no World War II, no Cold War). It’s little wonder, then, that historians have expended oceans of effort and ink trying to explain why and... Read More
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, “The Anti-Imperial Choice: The Making of the Ukrainian Jew” (Yale UP, 2009)
I’ve got a name for you: Robert Zimmerman (aka Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham). You’ve heard of him. He was a Jewish kid from Hibbing, Minnesota. But he didn’t (as the stereotype would suggest) become a doctor, lawyer, professor or businessman. Nope, the professions were not for him. He loved the... Read More
Charles King, “The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus” (Oxford UP, 2008)
There’s a concept I find myself coming back to again and again–“speciation.” It’s drawn from the vocabulary of evolutionary biology and means, roughly, the process by which new species arise. Speciation occurs when a species must adapt to new circumstances; the more new circumstances, the more new species. Thus one... Read More
Rebecca Manley, “To the Tashkent Station: Evacuation and Survival in the Soviet Union at War” (Cornell UP, 2009)
By the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Bolshevik Party had already amassed a considerable amount of expertise in moving masses of people around. Large population transfers (to put it mildly) were part and parcel of building socialism. Certain “elements” needed to be sent... Read More
Kees Boterbloem, “The Fiction and Reality of Jan Struys: A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Globetrotter” (Palgrave-McMillan, 2008)
When we speak of the “Age of Discovery,” we usually mean the later fifteenth and sixteenth century. You know, Columbus, Magellan and all that. But the “Age of Discovery” continued well into the seventeenth century as Europeans continued to travel the globe in search of riches, fame and adventure. And... Read More
Simon Morrison, “The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years” (Oxford UP, 2009)
In the Soviet Union, artists lived lives that were at once charmed and cursed. Though relatively poor, the USSR poured resources into the arts. The Party created a large, well-funded cultural elite of which only two things were expected. First, that they practice their art. Second–and here’s the rub–that they... Read More
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, “Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917” (Cambridge UP, 2008)
Every Jew knows the story. The evil tsarist authorities ride into the Shtetl. They demand a levy of young men for the army. Mothers’ weep. Fathers’ sigh. The community mourns the loss of its young. It’s a good story, and some of it’s even true. The reality, of course, was... Read More
Andrew Gentes, “Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822” (Palgrave-McMillan, 2008)
Being “sent to Siberia” is practically a synonym for exile even in English-speaking countries. Why is this? In his fascinating new book Exile to Siberia, 1590-1822 (Palgrave, 2008), Andrew Gentes explains. And it’s quite a story indeed. The tsars began to dispatch people to Siberia almost as soon as they... Read More
Alex Rabinowitch, “Prelude to Revolution: The Petrograd Bolsheviks and the July 1917 Uprising” (Indiana UP, 2008)
It’s hard to know what to think about the Russian Revolution of 1917. Was it a military coup led by a band of ideological fanatics bent on the seizure of power? Was it a popular uprising led by an iron-willed party against a bankrupt political order? Or something else? The... Read More
Katy Turton, “Forgotten Lives: The Role of Lenin’s Sisters in the Russian Revolution, 1864-1937” (Palgrave-McMillan, 2007)
A number of years ago I read Robert Service’s excellent biography of Lenin and came away thinking “We don’t really know enough about the women who surrounded Lenin throughout his life.” Katy Turton, a lecturer in modern European history at Queen’s University Belfast, has fixed that. Her Forgotten Lives: The... Read More