This is a prelude to my essay on Putin and Holy Russia: Continuity or Contrast? In the meantime, the following represents close to a decade of reading and reflection on Russia.
Johnson, Matthew Raphael. The Third Rome: Holy Russia, Tsarism, and Orthodoxy. The best book on the subject. And the most fun. Johnson has modified his thesis somewhat but the larger picture still stands.
———————–. Sobornisti: Essays on the Old Rite. Advances a fairly powerful thesis that the Tsars alienated their most ardent supporters. This would have dreadful consequences in 1918. Johnson writes elsewhere, “The Old Belief, at the most prosaic level, represented the most powerfully royalist and Orthodox segment of the Russian population. But due to the ham-handed way that Nikon went about his reforming, the Russian monarchy alienated tens of millions of what would have been the Tsar’s best supporters.”
Meyendorff, John. Byzantium and the Rise of Russia. Rebuts the “caesaro-papist” charge. Good discussions on Palamas and Sergius of Radonezh.
Wells, Colin. Sailing from Byzantium. Not really a scholarly work nor solely about Russia, but does a decent job in making connections between Byzantium, the Balkans, and Russia.
Longworth, Philip. Russia: From Pre-History to Putin. Nothing catchy in this book beyond a basic history. However, he does hint (before most scholars and pundits) that Putin will function as a sort of Constantine.
Billington, James. The Icon and the Axe. Billington was librarian of Congress. He is a friend of Soros, so be warned. With that said, he does a good job on early Russian history. He notes that Russia inherited Byzantium’s glory without their Hellenistic dialectic.
Norris, John. Collision Course: Nato, Russia, and Kosovo. Norris is a Clintonian cheerleader, so this book reads like a CNN transcript. He is correct, despite himself, that Kosovo is a focal point in the war between NATO and Russia.
Primakov, Yevgeny. Russia and the Arabs. Soviet atheism could never really work with Muslim fundamentalism. This meant Russia found itself more and more allied with secular Arab governments.
Gerrard, John. Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent. Gerard is bothered by Russia’s faith but presents a mostly fair picture. He argues that Alexey II is rebuilding Russia along the lines of cleansing, history, and sobornost-all explicitly Orthodox categories but also subverting the Soviet trinity of ideology, party, and narodnost.
Engleman, Dennis. Ultimate Things. Argues that the line of Old Roman (Byzantine/Russian) emperors was the restrainer of Antichrist.
Stuermer, Michael. Putin and the Rise of Russia. Somewhat critical Western treatment, but refreshingly free of the shrill media hysteria.
Gogol. Nikolai. Taras Bulba. Fiction but fun and raises important questions. Gogol may very well have solved the problem of different types of nationalisms working together despite themselves. These Cossacks are not Russian, but Ukrainian, but as Bulba is burned alive he shouts his faith in Christ and in the Russian Tsar. One realizes that a stronger country like Russia should protect and nurture Ukrainian nationalism but never force the Ukrainians to become Russians. In short, Gogol is hinting at a Slavic federation which sees Russia as its leader (simply out of necessity)
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. The Russian Question at the End of the 20th Century. He predicted the first 20 years of the 21st century. Solzhenitsyn uses the medium of history to re-tell Russia’s story in a way to call the Russian people back to their spiritual heritage and also to warn Americans of the dangers that their own democratic liberalism offers. Written primarily for Russians, this book is a call for all.
Figes, Orlando. Natasha’s Dance. Figes is an establishment man, but also the leading authority on Russia today.
——————-. The Crimean War. Standard treatment but is particularly sensitive to the Tsar’s understanding of himself as the Protector of Orthodoxy in the Middle East. Sounds like today, doesn’t it?
Engdahl, William. Century of War and Gods of Money. Calls attention to the Anglo “Great Game” against Russia. You really can’t understand today’s geopolitics without understanding that.