Cornell University Press 2019
New Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in National SecurityNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network December 24, 2019 Jennifer Eremeeva
Professor Paul Robinson‘s new book, Russian Conservatism (Cornell University Press, 2019) is a comprehensive examination of the roots and development of the hardy strain of conservative political thought in Russian history.
Robinson begins by tackling the thorny question of how to define conservatism in the Russian context and introduces readers to the “principle of organicism.” The use of natural metaphors by Russian conservatives to define their fundamental beliefs is potent: change and development must be organic, and, as Nikolai Berdiaev asserted, “…consist of a healthy reaction to violation of organic nature.”
Armed with this definition, Robinson expertly guides us through the development of conservative thought in Russia, beginning with the reign of Alexander I and ending with Vladimir Putin. Along the way, Robinson pauses to introduce the Slavophiles, Pan Slavs, Eurasianists, and the emigre thinkers such as Ivan Ilyin, now enjoying a return to favor amongst Russian elites.
Unlike many historians who bring the narrative to a screeching halt in October 1917, Robinson offers us a through-line for the continued development of Russian conservatism during the Soviet century from the heady days of revolution to the return of more “traditional” values and trappings in the run up to World War II. This approach offers a new perspective on the topic, as does Robinson’s deft division of each period into a separate and thorough examination of the cultural, political, and socio-economic branches of the movement.
Professor Robinson writes fluidly and engagingly about his topic; Russian Conservatism is a magisterial work, and a must-read for students of Russia’s past as well as those of her present, and certainly those eager to divine her future.
Paul Robinson is Professor of History of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. He is author of several books, including The White Russian Army in Exile, 1920–1941, and Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, Supreme Commander of the Russian Army which won the Society for Military History’s distinguished book award for biography, and most recently, co-author of Aiding Afghanistan. He blogs about his research and Russia regularly at https://irrussianality.wordpress.com.
Jennifer Eremeeva is an award-winning author and American expatriate writer who writes about travel, culture, cuisine and culinary history, Russian history, and Royal History, with bylines in Reuters, Fodor’s, USTOA, LitHub, The Moscow Times, and Russian Life. She is the in-house travel blogger for Alexander & Roberts, and author of two books: “Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow,” and “Have Personality Disorder, Will Rule Russia: A Pocket Guide to Russian History.”
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