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Russia under Western Eyes

Russia under Western Eyes

From the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum

Martin Malia

ISBN 9780674002104

Publication date: 04/07/2000

As the dust clears from the fall of Communism, will Western eyes see Russia, the unclaimed orphan of Western history or Russia as she truly is, a perplexing but undeniable member of the European family? A dazzling work of intellectual history by a world-renowned scholar, spanning the years from Peter the Great to the fall of the Soviet Union, this book gives us a clear and sweeping view of Russia not as an eternal barbarian menace but as an outermost, if laggard, member in the continuum of European nations.

The Russian troika hurtles through these pages. The Spectre, modernity's belief in salvation by revolutionary ideology, haunts them. Alice's looking glass greets us at this turn and that. Throughout, Martin Malia's inspired use of these devices aptly conveys the surreality of the whole Soviet Russian phenomenon and the West's unbalanced perception of it. He shows us the usually distorted images and stereotypes that have dominated Western ideas about Russia since the eighteenth century. And once these emerge as projections of the West's own internal anxieties, he shifts his focus to the institutional structures and cultural forms Russia shares with her neighbors.

Here modern Europe is depicted as an East-West cultural gradient in which the central and eastern portions respond to the Atlantic West's challenge in delayed and generally skewed fashion. Thus Russia, after two centuries of building then painfully liberalizing its Old Regime, in 1917 tried to leap to a socialism that would be more advanced and democratic than European capitalism. The result was a cruel caricature of European civilization, which mesmerized and polarized the West for most of this century. As the old East-West gradient reappears in genuinely modern guise, this brilliantly imaginative work shows us the reality that has for so long tantalized--and eluded--Western eyes.


  • In Russia Under Western Eyes Martin Malia takes on and demolishes...clichés that continue to infest our debate about what went wrong in Russia. Western opinion, he points out, has traditionally 'demonized or divinized' Russia 'less because of her real role in Europe than because of the fears and frustrations, or the hopes and aspirations, generated within European society by its own domestic problems.'...Russia Under Western Eyes is the product of decades of research and thoughtful reflection by a historian as familiar with the intellectual history of modern Western and Central Europe as that of Russia itself. His broad perspective allows him to avoid the exaggeration of Russian distinctiveness frequently encountered in writings by those who know Russia better than the rest of Europe, or the rest of Europe better than Russia. His prose, though erudite and nuanced, is clear and straightforward. Refreshingly, Malia never leaves his reader in doubt of his views. In fact, he shouts out his key judgements with éclat...Russia Under Western Eyes is the most insightful book published in any language to date on Russia's place in European intellectual and political history. It is likely to stand as the definitive treatment of the subject for years to come, a source of pithy questions for those who agree and of propositions to refute for those who don't. But Malia has set a standard of proof that will be exceedingly difficult for his critics to match.

    —Jack F. Matlock, Jr, New York Times Book Review


  • Martin Malia was Professor of History, Emeritus, at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917–1991.

Book Details

  • 528 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press