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One of my coworkers gave me this compact 1,000-year history of Russia for Christmas. It’s been a joy to read. The book starts with Russia’s beginning as “Rus,” a collection of disparate tribes centered in Novgorod. It follows the country as they begin to form a centralized state and establish government.

This is a fascinating read for anyone interested in understanding the unique Russian mindset. The historical background provides a much deeper appreciation of their desire for secure borders, military prowess, and a unified and specifically Russian culture. It also explains how they went from being a largely progressive, Western-minded country, to a more militaristic, secluded, and Asiatic inspired attitude.

A few things to keep in mind with this read. It is a nonfiction history text of Russia. You will not enjoy this unless you have a vested interest in the subject matter. It’s well written but not exactly conversational. Additionally, more than half the book covers the Soviet regime through ’90s Russian politics. If you’re looking for something more Tzarist, I’d recommend The Romanov Sisters. This is definitely a red history of the country.

That said, it’s very helpful to understand the roots of Russia’s defensive nature, especially as they become a larger presence in the politics of the United States.