Cover: Russia: The Story of War, from Harvard University PressCover: Russia in HARDCOVER


The Story of War

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Product Details


$29.95 • £23.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674972483

Publication Date: 04/24/2017


304 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

20 halftones, 6 maps

Belknap Press


Examine[s] Russia’s self-image in detail, providing the kind of context and nuance that is badly needed in the current climate of hysteria and conspiracy theories. Looking back eight centuries, Carleton traces an epic tale of war and redemption, of a Russia that finds itself constantly at risk of barbarian invasion and annihilation and yet manages, time and again, to save both itself and its neighbors… Russia: The Story of War…make[s] clear why Russia has been so infuriated by U.S. policy toward Ukraine and Georgia.—Sophie Pinkham, The New Republic

Gregory Carleton’s book is a salutary reminder of the narratives and images which capture Russians’ imagination.—Geoffrey Hosking, The Times Literary Supplement

Carleton explores elements of Russian self-image as they appear not only in official narratives but also in literature and film: the endurance and bravery of the solitary soldier, a people rising to defend the Motherland, the ever-present threat of war and the unspeakable toll it takes. To understand Russia in the Putin era, Carleton argues in this spare, original book, one must recognize the mental and emotional outlook that near-constant war has produced.—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

Provides a fascinating cultural history of the evolution of what [Carleton] calls Russia’s ‘civil religion,’ a ‘grand narrative of war’ that reaches back to the Mongol experience in the 13th through 15th centuries and the Time of Troubles in the early 17th century. The key ingredients of the Russian war myth are invasion, resistance, self-reliance, and self-sacrifice. It is a narrative that appears repeatedly throughout Russian history, literature, art, and film, and is a current staple of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political rhetoric.—Francis P. Sempa, New York Journal of Books

The worsening of relations between Russia and the West…makes Carleton’s book essential to understanding how and why Russia sees itself as it does.—John A. Pennell, International Affairs

Vividly written and clearly argued, Russia: The Story of War is scholarship at its best. Carleton offers the most accessible work available that explains how memories of wars have occupied a preeminent part of the Russian national mythology. Provocative in the best sense and convincing in its interpretations, this timely book is packed full of insights.—Stephen M. Norris, author of Blockbuster History in the New Russia: Movies, Memory, Patriotism

Carleton makes an important contribution to understanding post-Soviet Russian nationalism, both at the elite level and in popular culture, by surveying speeches, films, novels, television, and architectural and monumental representations of war and their place in shaping what he calls Russia’s civic religion. He shows how Russia’s contemporary ‘narrative of war’ reaches back to the Mongol conquest of the twelfth century and forward to Russia’s wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, and even to today’s conflict with Ukraine.—Mark von Hagen, Arizona State University

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