A Historical Introduction from Kievan Rus’ to the Present

John M. Thompson and Christopher J. Ward

Eighth Edition • July 25, 2017 • 416 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813349855 • $50.00 USD$64.99 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813350776 • $34.99 USD$44.99 CAN

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This lucid account of Russian and Soviet history presents major trends and events from ancient Kievan Rus’ to Vladimir Putin’s presidency in the twenty-first century. Russia does not shy away from controversial topics, including the impact of the Mongol conquest, the paradoxes of Peter the Great, the “inevitability” of the 1917 Revolution, the Stalinist terror, and the Gorbachev reform effort. Updates to the eighth edition include: discussion on the Russia-Georgia war of 2008, the 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, the war in eastern Ukraine, and the Russian annexation of Crimea. Distinguished by its brevity and amply supplemented with useful images and suggested readings, this essential text provides balanced coverage of all periods of Russian history and incorporates economic, social, and cultural developments as well as politics and foreign policy.


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John M. Thompson, a graduate of Columbia’s Russian Institute, taught history at Indiana University for seventeen years and was a distinguished visiting professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Air War College. He taught Russian and world history at Midcoast Senior College in Maine.

Christopher J. Ward received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He teaches Russian and world history at Clayton State University in metropolitan Atlanta and is the author of Brezhnev’s Folly: The Building of BAM and Late Soviet Socialism.

Preface to the First Edition

Chapter 1. Introduction: Ancient Russia and Kievan Rus’
The Geography of Russia and the Former Soviet Union
The Peoples of Russia and the Former Soviet Union
The Formation of Kievan Rus’
How Did the Peoples of Kievan Rus’ Make a Living?
The Societies of Kievan Rus’
Religion and Culture in Kievan Rus’
Power and Politics in Kievan Rus’
Further Reading

Chapter 2. Kievan Rus’ in Crisis and the Mongol Contact, 1054–1462
Kievan Rus’ and Its Rivals
The Arrival of the Mongols
The Impact of the Mongols
The Decline of Mongol Power
Further Reading

Chapter 3. The Rise of Moscow, 1328–1533
The Odds Against Moscow
Moscow’s Advantages
Moscow’s Ascent, 1328–1533
Further Reading

Chapter 4. Ivan the Terrible and the Time of Troubles, 1533–1618
The Personality and Character of Ivan the Terrible
The Reforms of Ivan IV
Ivan Versus the Aristocracy
The Time of Troubles, 1598–1613
Further Reading

Chapter 5. The Molding of Imperial Russian Society, 1613–1689
The Autocracy
The Orthodox Church
The Expansion of the Russian Imperial State
Relations with the West
Further Reading

Chapter 6. Peter the Great and the Conundrum of Westernization, 1689–1725
Peter’s Coming of Age
Peter’s Personality and Character
Peter in War and Diplomacy
Peter’s Reforms
Resistance to Peter
Further Reading

Chapter 7. Change and Continuity, 1725–1801
Peter’s Successors, 1725–1762
Catherine the Great, 1762–1796
Russian Imperial Expansion and Colonization
Economic and Social Development
The Changing Role of the Nobility
Education and Culture
The Reign of Paul I, 1796–1801
Further Reading

Chapter 8. Autocracy, Dissent, and Ferment, 1801–1855
The Serf Economy
The Dilemma of Reform
Creativity and Dissent
The Russian Empire: Arbiter of Europe, Colonizer of Asia and America
Further Reading

Chapter 9. Reform, Reaction, and Modernization, 1855–1904
The Era of the Great Reforms, 1855–1881
Terror and Reaction
Economic and Social Modernization, 1861–1905
Competing Ideologies
Foreign Policy
Further Reading

Chapter 10. Revolution, Reform, and War, 1904–1917
The Revolution of 1905
The Duma Period, 1906–1914
The Silver Age: Russian Imperial Culture, 1890–1917
The Russian Empire in World War I, 1914–1917
Further Reading

Chapter 11. Revolution, Civil War, and the Founding of the Soviet State, 1917–1928
The February Revolution: The Collapse of Autocracy
The October Revolution: The Bolsheviks Come to Power
Civil War and Foreign Intervention, 1918–1921
The New Economic Policy and Coexistence, 1921–1928
The Struggle for Power
Further Reading

Chapter 12. The Stalin Revolution and World War II, 1928–1946
Stalinism: Industrialization and Collectivization
Stalinism: Societal Change and Repression
Soviet Culture, 1917–1953
The Soviet Union Before and During the Second World War, 1928–1946
Further Reading

Chapter 13. The Soviet Union During the Cold War: Superpower, Stability, and Stagnation, 1946–1984
After the War: Reconstruction and Repression
The Cold War
The Final Years of Stalinism
Khrushchev and De-Stalinization
Peaceful Coexistence and Troubles in Eastern Europe
The Sino-Soviet Split
Soviet Relations with the West
Khrushchev: Reformer or Repairman?
Stability and Stagnation: The Brezhnev Years
Détente and Renewed Cold War
Soviet Society in Flux
Further Reading

Chapter 14. Gorbachev and the Collapse of the Soviet Union, 1985–1991
The Origins of the Gorbachev Reforms
Perestroika and Economic Reforms
New Attitudes in Soviet Foreign Policy
Gorbachev’s Later Reforms and Faltering Control
The Attempted Coup of August 1991
Further Reading

Chapter 15. Russia in a Post-Soviet World, 1991–2000
Boris Yeltsin and the New Russian Federation
On the Road to Capitalism
Setbacks and Problems
Challenges of Life in Post-Soviet Russia
Changing Cultural Attitudes
Incomplete Democracy in the Yeltsin Era
Terrorism and War in the Caucasus
Post-Soviet Russian Foreign Policy
Further Reading

Chapter 16. The Putin Era: Russia in the Twenty-First Century
The Rise of Vladimir Putin
Economic Growth and Contraction
The Putin-Medvedev Administration
New Challenges in the Caucasus
Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century
Further Reading


Praise for Prior Editions

“A detailed volume…providing students with a clear survey of key issues affecting the country and its peoples. Any college-level introductory course in Soviet Union history will find this an excellent text.”
The Midwest Book Review

“Comprehensive, balanced, up to date, engaging, and deftly written, Russia and the Soviet Union is the best brief history of Russia available today. The book is perfectly suited for use in introductory courses on Russian history and for general readers seeking to make sense of Russia over the centuries. Thompson has packed a lifetime of thoughtful reflection, teaching, and distinguished research into this volume.”
—Donald J. Raleigh, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Through a fresh format and effective revisions, John Thompson has rendered still more succinct what was already a very neat, comprehensive and highly readable text. With updated biographies (‘Further Reading’) in several chapters and some new illustrations, as well as an additional chapter on Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia and the Soviet Union in its sixth edition remains a superlative text for both students of Russian history and the casual reader.”
—Vicki Hendrickson Grove, University of Colorado, Boulder

Russia and the Soviet Union is a superb one-semester text for a course in Russian history from origins to the near-present. Thompson does a judicious job of introducing key debates and does not hesitate to express his own considered opinion where warranted. The balanced coverage of medieval, early modern, modern, and contemporary periods is extremely important for introductory courses, as is the newly revised section of Russia under Putin. Overall, this is a readable, exciting, stimulating book which always has students asking for more.”
—David W. McFadden, Fairfield University

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