A Very Brief History of China-Russia Relations

The response of much western commentary to the Russia China agreements has been scepticism that they can ever burgeon into an outright partnership because of the supposedly long history of mutual suspicion and hostility between the two countries. The Economist for example refers to the two countries as “frenemies”. To see whether these claims are […]

Translation: Russia isn’t Germany – It has Nothing to Repent For

The German president has decided to teach Russia to fight with remnants of totalitarianism, and could not think of anything better than to call to repent. Original article by Alexander Romanov German president allowed himself to teach Russians to fight “remnants of totalitarianism” The German president  decided to teach Russia to fight with remnants of totalitarianism, […]

Translation: Dark Clouds of Revanchism

Izvestiya runs a piece by political scientist Avigdor Eskin on historical revisionism in Eastern Europe (especially in the Baltic countries and Ukraine) pertaining to World War II. Dark Clouds of Revanchism For more than 20 years, Nazi revanchism in Eastern Europe has been allowed to roam freely in the post-Soviet space. Immediately after the break-up […]

Russia’s Best Leader was… Brezhnev!

In a recent poll conducted by the Levada Center, Leonid Brezhnev was revealed to be Russians’ favorite ruler of the 20th century. Do you see his era as a Golden Age, or as a zastoi? Russian Attitudes to Former Heads of State

Translation: A Pity the Nazis didn’t Make Lampshades out of Today’s Liberals

In one of the most scandalous op-eds of the year, KP’s Ulyana Skoybeda takes the liberal Leonid Gozman to task for equating SMERSH with the SS. The original byline was later toned down, and the author offered a partial – and some insist, halfhearted – apology. The Politician Leonid Gozman Says: “A Nice Uniform is the […]

Translation: The Red Army “Rape of Germany” was Invented by Goebbels

In an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russian history professor Elena Sinyavskaya in a discussion with Alexey Ovchinnikov disputes the factual provenance of the Red Army rape of Germany. The Myth of the “Rape of Germany” was Invented by Goebbels In recent years, Victory Day has unfortunately acquired a not very pleasant tradition: the closer the holiday comes, […]

The Russian Imperialist Genocide In Chechnya

Hard as it is to believe, but in the wake of the Boston Bombings, many Western commentators actively trying to find the roots of the Tsarnaev brothers’ rage in Russia’s “aggression” or even “genocide” of Chechnya. This is not to deny that Chechens did not have an exceptionally hard time of it in the 1990s. That said, […]

Book Review: Benjamin Schwartz – In Search Of Wealth And Power

In Search of Wealth and Power by Benjamin Schwartz, published in 1964. Rating: 4/5. In Search of Wealth and Power is a very dense but richly rewarding tome by Benjamin Schwartz, a noted China scholar. He focuses on the life of the translator Yan Fu to illustrate the culture clashes that arose when traditional Chinese civilization came into […]

Book Review: Arthur H. Smith – Chinese Characteristics

Chinese Characteristics by Arthur Henderson Smith, published in 1894. It is available free here. Rating: 5/5. In rich and evocative prose reminiscent of De Tocqueville’s writings on America, Arthur H. Smith lays out what he sees as the core features of the Chinese character and his values. The tone is bold and fearless, making sweeping generalizations and brusque judgments that […]

Georgians Are The Biggest Stalinists

It’s no real secret that many Russians have a positive impression of Stalin; it was 49% in February 2013, insignificantly down from 53% in 2003. (This is not a view that I share). There are probably a few big reasons for this: (1) The mistaken notion that without him Russia would have remained in the […]

Putin’s Birthday, Birth Of A Legacy

The latest US-Russia.org Expert Discussion Panel focused on an assessment of Putin’s historical legacy, on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Here I try to answer whether history will see Putin as the “founder of a modern and successful Russia”, or as a tragic figure who threw away his chance of greatness to the “delusion of indispensability”: […]

Graphing Influence

As today seems to be the day of cool visualizations on this blog, so on this note I’d like to highlight a really cool way of analyzing the influence of various people (philosophers, coding languages, etc) on history. One of the basic strategies is to feed the information in Wikipedia info-boxes into a computer program […]

Last Word On Jews In Russia

At least until the issue arises again. Over to Alex Mercouris: … I do not agree that the two big revolutionary parties in tsarist Russia, the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Social Democrats were under Jewish ideological influence. I do not know what “Jewish ideology” is. Anyway the Socialist Revolutionaries had their origins in the far […]

Jaan Kaplinski – From Confrontation To Reconciliation

Two weeks back, the distinguished Estonian poet and linguist Jaan Kaplinski in a comment on this blog linked to his article in the Russian-Estonian paper День за Днем lamenting the state of Estonian – Russian relations, especially as they were apparently really good back in the Tsarist days. In that article from От противостояния к примирению (From Confrontation to […]

Book Review: Kenneth Pomeranz – The Great Divergence

Pomeranz, Kenneth – The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (2001) Category: economy, history, world systems; Rating: 5*/5 Summary: Brad DeLong’s review; The Bactra Review; Are Coal and Colonies Really Crucial? The Power Of Contingency: Why China Didn’t Rule The World It’s a rare book that not only vastly informs you on a […]

Walled Off By Complexity: Did China Stagnate Because Of Its Writing System?

One of the biggest questions in global history is why it was Western Europe that industrialized first, and ended up colonizing most of the rest of the world. As late as 1450, the possibility of such an outcome would have been ridiculed. By almost any metric, China was well in the lead through the medieval period […]

A Response To Vadim Nikitin’s Arguments For The “Liberation” Of Khodorkovsky And The Kuriles

Over at his Foreign Policy Russia blog, and (provocatively?) a few days before Russia’s Unity Day, Vadim Nikitin penned the post Khodorkovsky = Kurils in which he argued for their mutual liberation from the Russian state. Whereas in their time both the conquest of the Kurils and the destruction of robber oligarch Khodorkovsky had been “effective […]

Book Review: Howard Bloom – The Lucifer Principle

Depressingly fatalist, morbidly truthful, irresistibly Nietzschean. That’s Howard Bloom’s “The Lucifer Principle” in a nutshell: a meandering trawl through disciplines such as genetics, psychology and culture that culminates in a theory of evil, purporting to explain its historical necessity, its creative potential and the possibility of it ever being vanquished. The odds do not appear to […]

Reconciling Stalin with Victory

За нас за вас и за десант и за спецназ! I would like to start off by expressing my deepest respects to the Red Army veterans who fought and died so that (literally) hundreds of millions of their Slavic brethren could live. Вечная слава героям! Last year I discussed four myths about the Eastern Front, […]

Prophets of the Great War: Friedrich Engels, Ivan Bloch, and Pyotr Durnovo

Though there are plenty of caveats and exceptions, it is safe to generalize that predictions of what the “next war” was going to be like before 1914 were completely inaccurate. The Great War would not be the quick, clean affair typical of the wars of German unification in the 1860’s-70’s or the sensationalist literature of the […]