BEYOND THE KREMLIN

Russia past and present, from a historian in Cambridge

The Russia Anxiety

Mark B. Smith’s new book, The Russia Anxiety: And How History Can Resolve It, came out with Allen Lane / Penguin in July. The publisher writes:

Russia is an exceptional country, the biggest in the world. It is both European and exotic, powerful and weak, brilliant and flawed. Why are we so afraid of it?

Time and again, we judge Russia by unique standards. We have usually assumed that it possesses higher levels of cunning, malevolence and brutality. Yet the country has more often than not been a crucial ally, not least against Napoleon and in the two world wars. We admire its music and its writers. We lavish praise on the Russian soul. And still we think of Russia as a unique menace. What is it about this extraordinary country that consistently provokes such excessive responses? And why is this so dangerous?

Ranging from the earliest times to the present, Mark B. Smith’s remarkable new book is a history of the ‘Russia Anxiety’. Whether ally or enemy, superpower or failing state, Russia grips our imagination and fuels our fears unlike any other country. This book shows how history itself offers a clearer view and a better future.

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