Daniel Beer

The Great Bear

Russia: A 1,000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East

By

BBC Books 611pp £25 order from our bookshop

Prominent in Stalinist propaganda of the 1930s, the metaphor of the path features heavily in Martin Sixsmith’s 1,000-year history of Russia. Presiding over a sprawling Eurasian landmass unsecured by natural borders, surrounded by enemies and struggling for unified control over an unruly, multi-ethnic population, successive Russian rulers opted for a powerful, centralised service state that marshalled its natural and human resources for defence and international competition. This overriding raison d’état explains why at ‘moments of unruly destiny’, Russia chose its ‘Asiatic heritage’ over an alternative European path of liberalism and democracy. Sixsmith sees Russian history as a battleground between the forces of dark, autocratic traditions on the one hand and enlightened, civilised, Western, democratic values on the other. This is captivating stuff. It is also, however, deeply problematic and simplistic.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Whom did Picasso label a 'bristly pig'? Read Rosalind P Blakesley's review of The Collector by Natalya Semenova to… ,
    • Alexandra Gajda on Anna Beer's new biography, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh ,
    • Mark Lawson reviews @jonathancoe's Middle England - The Rotters' Club for our Brexit age. ,
    • 'Behind every book that is published lies ... a haunted landscape, populated by the ghosts of things written and ex… ,
    • 'We once more live in a great age of dragon invention' Here's Tom Shippey on Martin Arnold's The Dragon ,
    • RT : Man at the q&a part of the book panel: Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't s… ,
    • Here's @epkaufm's Whiteshift, reviewed in this month's magazine by ,