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Russia's Empires

Valerie A. Kivelson and Ronald Grigor Suny

Publication Date - October 2016

ISBN: 9780199924394

448 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $44.99

Two leading historians examine the history of Russia through the prism of empire


Russia's Empires explores the long history of Russia, the Soviet Union, and the present Russian Federation through the lens of empire, analyzing how and why Russia expanded to become the largest country on the globe and how it repeatedly fell under the sway of strong, authoritarian leaders. Authors Valerie A. Kivelson and Ronald Grigor Suny examine how imperial practices shaped choices and limited alternatives. Using the concept of empire, they look at the ways in which ordinary people imagined their position within a non-democratic polity--whether the Muscovite tsardom or the Soviet Union--and what concessions the rulers had to make, or appear to make, in order to establish their authority and preserve their rule.

Russia's Empires tackles the long history of the region, following the vicissitudes of empire--the absence, the coalescence, and the setbacks of imperial aspirations--across the centuries. The framework of empire allows the authors to address pressing questions of how various forms of non-democratic governance managed to succeed and survive, or, alternatively, what caused them to collapse and disappear. Studying Russia's extensive history in an imperial guise encourages students to pay attention to forms of inclusion, displays of reciprocity, and manifestations of ideology that might otherwise go unnoted, overlooked under the bleak record of coercion and oppression that so often characterizes ideas about Russia.

About the Author(s)

Valerie A. Kivelson is Thomas N. Tentler Collegiate Professor and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History at the University of Michigan. She is the author of several books, including Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia (2013) and Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia (2006). She is the editor of Witchcraft Casebook: Magic in Russia, Poland, and Ukraine, 15th-21st Centuries [Russian History/Histoire russe vol. 40, nos. 3-4 (2013)], and co-editor, with Joan Neuberger, of Picturing Russia: Explorations in Visual Culture (2008).

Ronald Grigor Suny is William H. Sewell, Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan; Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History at the University of Chicago; and Senior Researcher at the Higher School of Economics, National Research University, St. Petersburg, Russia. He is the author or editor of eighteen books, including The Structure of Soviet History: Essays and Documents, Second Edition (OUP, 2013), and The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States, Second Edition (OUP, 2010).


"Original, authoritative, and beautifully illustrated--no other short survey engages Russia's remarkable history of diversity as fully and effectively as Russia's Empires. This should become the go-to text for college courses. An impressive achievement."--Willard Sunderland, University of Cincinnati

"In this remarkable work, two of the leading historians of the 'imperial turn' have drawn on the past quarter-century of historical work and produced the most readable and insightful single volume of Russian history to date. Kivelson and Suny reveal how Russia's empires functioned as polities by employing not just coercive power but discursive power. In doing so, they illuminate how Russia also became an 'imperial nation,' one where national and imperial policies developed simultaneously yet frequently produced tensions. Russia's Empires is historical synthesis at its finest."--Stephen M. Norris, Miami University

"Kivelson and Suny give us a concise and elegant new way to think about the development of Russia as an enormously complex multi-ethnic, multi-religious Eurasian empire over the course of its 1,000-year history."--Shoshana Keller, Hamilton College

"Russia's Empires provides an elegant, stimulating, and comprehensive account of Russian history, placing the management of imperial diversity at the heart of the narrative. It is both readable and rigorous, and should help to introduce a new generation of students to the many fascinations of Russia's imperial past and present."--Alexander Stephen Morrison, Nazarbayev University

Table of Contents

    List of Maps
    About the Authors

    Thinking About Empire

    Russia's Imperial Formations

    Chapter One: Before Empire: Early Rus' Visions of Diversity of Lands and Peoples
    Before the State: The Peoples of Rus
    New Models for Understanding Kiev Rus': Stateless Head or Galactic Polity
    Appanage Rus' and Further Fragmentation
    Mongol Khans and the Aura of Empire

    Chapter Two: Imperial Beginnings: Muscovy
    Building a State; Claiming an Empire
    Ivan the Terrible: Imperial Principles in Practice
    Muscovite Autocracy: Power and Obligation
    Who Were the Muscovites? What was Rus'?
    The People Speak: The Time of Troubles
    Imperial Conquest and Control

    Chapter Three: Disrupting the Easy Road from Empire to Nation State: A Theoretical Interlude
    Nation, Nationalism, and the Discourse of the Nation

    Chapter Four: Responsive Rule and Its Limits: Force and Sentiment in the Eighteenth Century
    Succession, Consultation, and the Politics of Affirmation
    The Petrine Revolution and the Imperial State
    Peter's Successors: A Century of Women (and Children) on Top

    Chapter Five: Russians' Identities in the Eighteenth Century: A Multitude of Possibilities
    What does Russian mean? Thinking about Nations in the Eighteenth Century
    A Multiplicity of Nations: The Peoples and Divisions of Empire
    Imperial Expansion in the Eighteenth Century

    Chapter Six: Imperial Russia in the Moment of the Nation, 1801-1855
    A Kind of Constitution
    Clash of Empires
    Imperial Conservatism
    The Decembrists
    Official Nationality
    The Intelligentsia
    Expansion, Conquest, and Rebellion
    Imagining the Russian "Nation": Between West and East

    Chapter Seven: War, Reforms, Revolt, and Reaction
    A Foolish War
    The Great Reforms: Nations, Subjects, and Citizens
    Participatory Politics and Categories of Difference
    Who Are We? More Questions of National Identity
    Russification, Diversity, and Empire
    "Pacifying" the Peripheries
    Conquering Central Asia
    Counter-Reforms and Political Polarization
    Empire and the Revolutionary Movement

    Chapter Eight: Imperial Anxieties: 1905-1914
    The Fate of Empires in the Twentieth Century
    The Modernizing Empire and its Discontents
    Imperial Overreach: Tsarist Modernization and Expansion
    The First Revolution, 1905
    When Nationalism Goes Public: Reimagining Empire

    Chapter Nine: Clash and Collapse of Empires: 1914-1921
    The Great War
    Nationality and Class Across the Revolutionary Divide
    Soviet Power
    Soviet Nationality Policies

    Chapter Ten: Making Nations, Soviet Style: 1921-1953
    The Stalin Years, 1928-1953
    Beating Peasants into Submission
    Empire-State and State of Nations
    Building National Bolshevism
    From Hot War to Cold War: External Empire as Defensive Expansion
    Cold War at Home: The Internal Empire
    Soviet Discursive Power

    Chapter Eleven: Imperial Impasses: Reform, Reaction, Revolution
    Policy and Experience: Friendship of the Peoples
    A Strange Empire
    The Soviet Union in the World
    Gorbachev and the Test of Perestroika

    Chapter Twelve: The End of Empire, 1991-2016 . . . Or Not?
    Vladimir Putin and the Rebuilding of the State
    Democratic Recession in the Post-Soviet States
    Post-Superpower Russia and NATO Expansion
    Red Lines in the Near Abroad: Georgia and Ukraine