Empire: The Russian Empire and Its Rivals

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How does one empire differ from another? Why do empires rise and fall? What has made empires flourish in some eras and regions of the world but not in others? In this broad and ambitious book, Dominic Lieven explores the place and meaning of empire from ancient Rome to the present. The central focus of the book is Russia and the rise and fall of the Tsarist and the Soviet Empires. The overwhelming majority of works on empire concentrate on the European maritime powers. Lieven's comparative approach highlights the important role played by Russia in the expansion of Europe and its rise to global dominance. The book contrasts the nature, strategies, and fate of empire in Russia with that of its major rivals, the Habsburg, Ottoman, and British empires, and considers a broad range of other cases from ancient China and Rome to the present-day United States, Indonesia, India, and the European Union.

Many of the dilemmas of empire persist in today's world, and Lieven throws new light on some of the most intractable current examples, including the crisis in the former Soviet Union, the troubles in Ulster, and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. This major examination of the imperial experience presents history on the grandest scale, combining formidable erudition with stimulating readability.

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About the Author:

Walter Liedtke is curator in the department of European paintings and Michiel C. Plomp is associate curator in the department of drawings and prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Axel Rüger is curator of Dutch paintings at the National Gallery, London.

Dominic Lieven, a former Kennedy scholar at Harvard University, is professor of Russian government at the London School of Economics. Among his many publications are the highly praised Nicholas II and Russia's Rulers Under the Old Regime, published by Yale University Press.

From Publishers Weekly:

Lieven's compelling assessment of the forces behind the decline of political imperialism tend to sink from view in his dense, far-reaching historical investigation. The first chapter's discussion of the shifting definitions of empire, though at times taxing to the reader's attention, is astute and evenhanded. With the czarist and Soviet empires as his primary focus, Lieven (Russia's Rulers Under the Old Regime) bolsters his study with treatments of various empires, beginning with ancient China and Rome. His expertise on czarist Russia informs the book's outstanding section on this period. Lieven, professor at the London School of Economics, argues that the Russian empire was stronger than the declining Ottoman and Hapsburg empires and, in the 19th century, exerted power comparable to that of the British Empire. He explicates the role of World War I in the downfall of the czarist regime cleanly and convincingly: wartime preoccupation and weakening of Russian elites and of capitalist Europe precluded significant counterrevolution. And while a variety of external and domestic forces contributed to the demise of the Soviet empire, Lieven attributes much to the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev. In the end, he says, the U.S.S.R. was likely the last empire in the strict sense of the word: "The lesson of Soviet history is that empire does not pay in today's world, even in terms of its own narrow priorities of power." The book's broad, scholarly worldview will appeal to a readership of academics and lay historians. (Mar.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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