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Russian monarchy, Ural Mountains, Bolsheviks, communist state, Russian Revolution

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Russia, an independent country officially known as the Russian Federation (in Russian, Rossiyskaya Federatsiya). By far the world’s largest country, Russia is almost twice the size of the next largest country, Canada. Russia sprawls across eastern Europe and northern Asia. It possesses mineral resources unmatched by any other country. Four-fifths of the people live in the European part of Russia, west of the Ural Mountains. The capital, Moscow, is an administrative, commercial, industrial, and cultural hub in the heart of European Russia.

In the 14th and 15th centuries a powerful Russian state began to grow around Moscow. Russia emerged as a great world power during the reign of Peter the Great, who built Saint Petersburg as Russia’s new “window on the West” and moved the seat of government there in 1712. The massive Russian Empire reached its greatest size in 1914, before World War I. Moscow regained its capital status after the Russian Revolution of 1917, when militant socialists called Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian monarchy. In 1922 they founded the world’s first communist state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, or Soviet Union). Russia was the largest and most powerful Soviet republic.

The USSR had a totalitarian political system in which Communist Party leaders held political and economic power. The state owned all companies and land, and the government controlled most aspects of the economy. After the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, Russia began transforming itself into a more democratic society with an economy based on market mechanisms and principles. For many Russians the transformation brought a severe decline in standard of living. At the same time, Russia became more integrated with the global economy and benefited from improved relations with the countries of the European Union as well as its neighbors in Asia.


For younger readers

Corona, Laurel. The Russian Federation. Lucent, 2001. History of the Soviet empire from 1917 until its disintegration, for readers in grades 6 to 12.

Gottfried, Ted. The Stalinist Empire. 21st Century, 2002. Part of a 4-volume series on the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, for readers in grade 8 and up.

Matthews, John R. The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union. Lucent, 1999. For middle school readers.

Otfinoski, Steven. Boris Yeltsin and the Rebirth of Russia. Millbrook, 1995. For readers in grades 7 and up.

Rice, Terence M. G. Russia. Gareth Stevens, 1999. For readers in grades 5 to 7.

Rogers, Stillman D. Russia. Children's Press, 2002. In the Enchantment of the World series, for readers in grades 4 to 8.

Wilson, Neil. Russia. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 8.

Russia: History

Bachrach, Deborah. The Charge of the Light Brigade. Lucent, 1996. Account of the British army's charge against the Russian army at the Battle of Balaklava in October 1854. For middle school to adult readers.

Moynahan, Brian. The Russian Century: A Photographic History of Russia's 100 Years. Random House, 1994. A stunning photographic record of 20th-century Russia.

Pipes, Richard. Russian Revolution. Random House, 1991. This general study by a prominent historian covers the period from 1899 to 1919.

Raymond, Boris, and Paul Duffy. Historical Dictionary of Russia. Scarecrow, 1998. A reference work especially useful for understanding Russian terminology and institutions.

Riasanovsky, Nicholas Valentine. A History of Russia. 6th ed. Oxford University Press, 1999. An authoritative history.

Simes, Dimitri K. After the Collapse: Russia Seeks Its Place as a Great Power. Simon & Schuster, 1999. Offers insights into Russia's geopolitical thinking.

Thompson, John M. Russia and the Soviet Union: An Historical Introduction from the Kievan State to the Present. Westview, 1998. A brief and lucid account from ancient Russia to Yeltsin's dispersal of the anti-reform parliament.

Thompson, John M. Revolutionary Russia, 1917. 2nd ed. Waveland, 1989, 1996. Introductory volume that clarifies events, personalities, and theories of the period.

Vronskaya, Jeanne. Biographical Dictionary of the Soviet Union, 1917-1992. 2nd ed. Saur, 1992. Up-to-date biographical information on prominent Soviets and people in the newly independent states.

Watson, William E. The Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union. Greenwood, 1998. A resource that combines narrative, biographic profiles, and the text of key primary documents; designed for student research.

Russia: Land and People

Curtis, Glenn E. Russia: A Country Study. Library of Congress, 1998. From a series of area-studies handbooks.

Dutkina, Galina.Trans. Catherine Fitzpatrick. Moscow Days: Life and Hard Times in the New Russia. Kodansha International, 1996. A picture of life by a Moscow-based journalist.

Isham, Heyward. Russia's Fate Through Russian Eyes: Perspectives of a New Generation. Westview, 2000. Thirty young Russian intellectuals voice their hopes and fears for their country.

Kramer, Mark. Travels with a Hungry Bear: A Journey to the Russian Heartland. Houghton Mifflin, 1996. A reporter's travels through rural Russia from 1987 to 1993.

Randolph, Eleanor. Waking the Tempests: Ordinary Life in the New Russia. Simon & Schuster, 1996. A journalist's account of how ordinary Russians are surviving revolutionary change.

Remnick, David. Resurrection: The Struggle for a New Russia. Vintage, 1998. A portrait of Russia's struggles after the fall of Communism.

Schmemann, Serge. Echoes of a Native Land: Two Centuries of a Russian Village. Knopf, 1997. Describes 19th-century village life and the impact of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Silverman, Bertram, and Murray Yanowitch. New Rich, New Poor, New Russia: Winners and Losers on the Russian Road to Capitalism. Rev. ed. M. E. Sharpe, 2000. An engaging look at the dramatic economic transition of post-Soviet Russia.

Yates, Athol. Russia by Rail. Globe Pequot Press, 1996. A guidebook.

Russia: Cultural History

Figes, Orlando. Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia. Metropolitan Books, 2002.

Kelly, Catriona, and David Shepherd, eds. Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction. Oxford University Press, 1998. A clear introduction to the Russian arts.

King, David. The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia. Holt, 1997. The author shows how Stalin attempted to manipulate history by having images retouched.

Lincoln, W. Bruce. Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of a Thousand Years of Artistic Life in Russia. Penguin, 1998. An encyclopedic account of Russian literature and art.

Milner-Gulland, Robin R., and Nikolai Dejevsky. Cultural Atlas of Russia and the Soviet Union. Rev. ed. Facts on File, 1998. Heavily illustrated atlas, aimed at general audience.

Roosevelt, Priscilla. Life on the Russian Country Estate: A Social and Cultural History. Yale University Press, 1995. Copiously illustrated book recreates a lost period.

Rzhevsky, Nicholas, ed. An Anthology of Russian Litrerature from Earliest Writings to Midern Fiction: Introduction to Culture. M.E. Sharpe, 1997. An introduction to the rich diversity of Russian culture.

Rzhevsky, Nicholas. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Russian Culture. Cambridge University Press, 1999. An exploration of Russian culture and social conditions.

Segel, Harold B. Twentieth-Century Russian Drama: From Gorky to the Present. Columbia University Press, 1993. Post-Chekhovian Russian drama examined for trends, with study of individual works.

Volkov, Solomon. St. Petersburg: A Cultural History. Simon & Schuster, 1997. A cultural biography of the Russian city.


Engelmann, Kurt E., B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Assistant Director, Russian, East European, Central Asian Studies Center of the Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington.

Lincoln, W. Bruce, B.A., Ph.D. Late Distinguished Research Professor of History, Northern Illinois University. Author of Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of a Thousand Years of Artistic Life in Russia and other books.

Parrott, Bruce, Ph.D. Professor and Director of Russian Area and East European Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Coauthor of Russia and the New States of Eurasia: The Politics of Upheaval and coeditor of Democratic Changes and Authoritarian Reactions in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.

Lieven, Dominic Professor of Russian Government, London School of Economics. Author of Russia's Rulers Under the Old Regime and Nicholas II: Twilight of the Empire.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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