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The Russia Anxiety Reviews

The Russia Anxiety by Mark B. Smith

The Russia Anxiety

And How History Can Resolve It

Mark B. Smith

3.67 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Allen Lane
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 4 Jul 2019
ISBN: 9780241312766

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.

4 stars out of 5
8 Jul 2019

"capture[s] with verve and imagination the grand sweep of its history, and combines this with an astute commentary "

Smith’s cure for the Russian Anxiety is authentic, not fake, history, especially comparative history, which reveals Russia to be a state that conducts itself no better or worse than any other big power. Russian history is many layered, Smith argues, and the deeper we dig the more apparent it becomes that the tropes of Russophobic history bear little or no relation to reality. Smith’s narrative is much enlivened by the inclusion of biographical sketches depicting those who have created, resisted and lived with the Russia Anxiety. As a Russian history specialist, he deploys his deep knowledge of the country’s culture, society and peoples to capture with verve and imagination the grand sweep of its history, and combines this with an astute commentary on contemporary politics.


4 stars out of 5
Max Hastings
30 Jun 2019

"The great merit of such a contrarian book is that it prompts a review of prejudices. "

Smith makes an important fundamental point: we must talk to the Russians and live alongside them. We cannot send them to stand in the corner. But most of us absolutely reject a moral and political equivalence between Russia and the West, because Putin’s nation places so low a value upon personal rights and freedoms.

The author is correct that we overdo the Russia Anxiety, but not for the reason he gives, that the Russians are much like us. In truth, it is because their country is weak and failing. Its global mayhem-making is rooted in consciousness of its inability to build an electric toaster that any foreigner, save a Cuban or Venezuelan, would buy.

3 stars out of 5
Edward Lucas
29 Jun 2019

"The author tries to paint a picture of a country with normal flaws. It’s a stretch"

Giles’s book is concise, lucidly argued and minutely researched. It would serve as an excellent primer on East-West security if the publisher had not decided to price it like a textbook (ie stonkingly). It would be interesting to see him debate Smith. It would be even more interesting if Trenin were there too: he might chide Giles for relentless pessimism about the future, but would scarcely dispute his realism about the present.