Russia Direct presents a roundup of the most interesting books with a focus on Russia released in 2013.


RD presents the 2013 best books about Russia. Photo: ITAR-TASS

In 2013 a few noteworthy English-language books on Russia appeared in the bookstores. Below we list the top 10 reads on the subject definitely worth checking out.

1. Russia's Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North by Marlene Laruelle. M.E. Sharpe. November 2013

In 2013 the Arctic became one of the most talked-about topics at an international level. As the case of a group of Greenpeace activists arrested whilst trying to storm the Prirazlomnaya oil rigging platform became of public knowledge, geopolitical competition in this rich region grew.

Marlene Laruelle’s book is recommended for anyone who wishes to understand this topical issue, as the author provides a deep analysis of the Russian economic, political, social and military strategy in the Arctic Region.

2.  Emerging Powers in a Comparative Perspective: The Political and Economic Rise of the BRIC Countries by Vidya Nadkarni and Norma C. Noonan. Bloomsbury. February 2013

This book is the result of the work of two well-known American political analysts, Vidya Nadkarni and Norma Noonan, who assembled a dynamic team of authors, including Russian expert on U.S.- Russian relations Tatyana Shakleina (Head of the Department of Applied Analysis of International Issues of the Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia).

The chapter on Russia, written by Shakleina, offers an interesting combination of general theoretical discourse and factual content. What makes the book unique in its approach is it offers to opportunity to understand the position of Russia in contemporary international relations by comparing them to other “emerging powers” – Brazil, China and India.

3.  Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity by Andrey P. Tsygankov. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; Third Edition. February 2013

This book by Andrey Tsygankov, a Russian political scientist working at San Francisco State University, is of interest for several reasons. First, Tsygankov examines the evolution of Russian foreign policy over a relatively long period - from the era of Mikhail Gorbachev to the end of the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev - trying to find features of continuity in the policy of different leaders.

Second, Tsygankov leaves aside the traditional arguments about Russia’s foreign policy as a policy of confrontation, focusing on domestic political reasons influencing the Russian strategy in the international arena. The author also pays considerable attention to the issue of external factors in the evolution of a modern Russian foreign policy concept.

4. Part of Europe. History of the Russian state. From its origins to the Mongol Invasion by Boris Akunin. AST, 2013

This year, Boris Akunin, one of the most famous Russian writers, historian, publicist and intellectuals, introduced his first major historical work, which certainly deserves a spot in any mandatory reading list.

The author describes it as a book “for people who have little knowledge about the history of Russia, but would like to understand it.” The work is devoted to the political history of Russia, its state formation, the development of institutions and mechanisms of power, and life and traditions of the Russian people to a larger extent.

5.  Arms for Uncertainty: Nuclear Weapons in U.S. and Russian Security Policy by Stephen Cimbala. Ashgate Pub Co; New edition 2013

This book by American military expert Stephen Cimbala is dedicated to one of the central issues on the Russian-American bilateral agenda: nuclear weapons and nonproliferation issues. The author believes that the presence of nuclear weapons in some countries, while still acting as a deterrent, also leads them to expand their conventional weapons arsenal. At the same time, Cimbala devotes particular attention to the nuclear nonproliferation issue.

In this sense, Russia plays the role of the U.S.’s partner in curbing “threshold countries” and comprehensively strengthening the nonproliferation regime. As a case study, the author examines the successes and failures of the nonproliferation regime in regions such as the Middle East and Asia, with a special focus on the cases of Iran and North Korea.

6.  How the US, China and Russia Deal with Their Betrayed Intelligence Officers by Luc Changlei Guo. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 2013

n 2013 Edward Snowden became almost as popular as a rock star. As he reached the Sheremyetevo airport in Moscow, many experts wondered whether his stay in Russia would affect Russian-American relations was mentioned negatively.

This book, however, focuses on another issue, though related directly to Snowden’s decision to stay in Russia. Chinese expert Luc Changlei Guo analyzes in detail the policy of the United States, Russia and China towards war criminals and considers, in this regard, the prospects of the former NSA employee.

The book is particularly interesting in that it discusses the events from an “Eastern perspective” and analyses them in light of Eastern values - often radically different from Western ones.

7. Russia 2025: Scenarios for the Russian Future by Maria Lipman and Nikolay Petrov. Palgrave Macmillan 2013

Two major Russian experts – Maria Lipman (Chief Editor of Pro et Contra journal of the Moscow Carnegie Center) and Nikolay Petrov (Professor of Higher School of Economics Research Institute), analyze the Russian economy and politics, while also offering development scenarios for the next decade.

The two look at a variety of relevant factors, from oil prices to changes in the most important political forces. Foreign experts highly praise this book, particularly impressed by the depth of analysis and its comprehensive review of the reality of contemporary Russia.

8. Russia, the West, and Military Intervention by Roy Allison. Oxford University Press July 2013

The topic of military intervention has been repeatedly discussed over the past years. This book focuses on the constant conflict between Western countries and Russia on the matter. Observing that Russia opposed operations in Kosovo, Iraq and Libya, the author tries to understand the reasons for such behavior, stating that Russia’s position is an alternative vision of the world order that cannot be ignored.

9. Russian Foreign Policy: Interests, Vectors, and Sectors by Nikolas K. Gvosdev and Christopher Marsh. Cq Pr August 2013

Two recognized military experts give their assessments on the foreign policy of contemporary Russia. The book is notable in that it provides a deep analysis of almost every vector in Russian foreign policy, indicating the economic, social and political reasons behind them, as well as the historical context.

10. The Fight for Influence: Russia in Central Asia by Alexey Malashenko. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. December 2013

For Russia, Central Asia is a key region for many reasons. Among them, security issues - from instability concerns on the borders to the need to prevent and minimize risks for Russia in relation to internal conflicts in Central Asia - are particularly relevant.

Moreover, the region is significant for Russia in both the economic and cultural sense. Author Alexey Malashenko mentions the reduction of Russia’s influence in Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, talks about the country’s opportunities and prospects to strengthen relations with the Central Asian states and considers the interaction between Russia and countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.