Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas:  3 (2013), 3 Rezensionen online / Im Auftrag des Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien in Regensburg herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Verfasst von: Zaur Gasimov


Geoffrey Hosking: Russian History. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. XVI, 154 S., 13 Abb. = Very Short Introductions, 308. ISBN: 978-0-19-958098-9.

Geoffrey Hosking is professor emeritus at University College in London. The author has studied and taught Russian History and Slavonic Studies for more than forty years at different universities in Great Britain, Germany and in Russia as well. HisRussian History, which was published this year by Oxford University Press, is a particular one. Thisvery short introductionis an offspring of several books on Russian history and the place of Russians within Russian history. Hosking has often been visiting Russia, he has good contacts to the liberal media in Moscow and he cooperates with the leading universities of Russia.

Already in the introduction Hosking answers the question on Russias Europeanness: It [Russia Z. G.] is in many ways a European country, yet it is too large, too close to us, and too strange to fit into any comfortable pigeonholes.(p. xv)

Hosking introduces his readership to the Russian history by making them aware of key notions of Russian civilization. At the very beginning of the monograph:Pravda is a key word of understanding the Russian culture.(p. 4). Students of Russian history would learn in this way that Pravda was not only the title of the main Soviet newspaper, but that it had deep roots in Russian culture and traditions since the ancient period. This time is actually the beginning of Hoskings narrative. He starts with the period of consolidation of Slavs in what we call now Eastern Europe. Then he depicts in a very clear way the expansion of Kiev and Muscovy, the Mongol invasion and occupation of almost the whole of Eurasia. Hosking’s analysis differs from the traditional narrative of the so calledMongol-Tatar yoke. At least,for the Orthodox Church, the Mongol dominion was almost a Golden Age.(p. 8)

Hosking pays particular attention to the relations between Russia and Europe.In the technical sense, Rus kept up with European military developments, but in other respects remained a closed and rather isolated world of its own.(p. 23) So, Russia had its specific way of social development; its elites were much closer to Europe than the others parts of its population, which remained extremely conservative and much less Europeanised. In the 19th and particularly in the 20th century the Russian engagement with Western thought reached its critical stage. The imitation of European ideas in Russia was enriched and synthesised with the own philosophical thought and messianism.Communists believed that Marxism, as interpreted by Lenin, had given them the key to history and entitled them to a monopoly of power.(p. 97) Alongside with HoskingCommunists were utopians: they believed they could and should transform peoples consciousness.(p. 103) But this project was doomed to fail as well. Hosking demonstrated precisely how ambiguous Soviet communism in reality was: what did the Soviet elites appeal for, what did they demand and were they able to provide all this?

The history of Russia written by Hosking does not end in 1991. The readership would find both Gorbachev and Yeltsin but also Putin and even Medvedev ina very short introduction. Describing the contemporary period Hosking did not cite resolutions of main political parties and results of talks between Russian presidents and their Western counterparts. His history of Russia is less a political history than a cultural one. Under Yeltsin in the 1990s, then,so Hosking,oligarchs, provincial governors, and ethnic separatists each built their own sub-state networks, controlling access to capital and coercive resources.(p. 127) The introduction of Hosking is to recommend to everyone who is eager to get an insight view into Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet history of the (until now) biggest country in Eurasia.

Zaur Gasimov, Istanbul

Zitierweise: Zaur Gasimov über: Geoffrey Hosking: Russian History. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. XVI, 154 S., 13 Abb. = Very Short Introductions, 308. ISBN: 978-0-19-958098-9, http://www.oei-dokumente.de/JGO/erev/Gasimov_Hosking_Russian_History.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

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