The Russian Empire and Its Rivals

Dominic Lieven

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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.

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.

“[A] fascinating and sweeping study that straddles the disciplines of history and political science. Lieven compares the goals of empire, peoples, ideologies, geography, demography, and the great power status of the Russian empire with its major rivals—the British, Habsburg, and Ottoman Empires. . . . The book ends with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the last great European empire, and its aftermath. Highly recommended.”—Choice

“A book which is provocative and wise . . . a very great intellectual achievement.”—John Lloyd, Financial Times

“Dominic Lieven has served up a masterful, comparative treatment that places the Russian empire at the heart of the discussion. . . . Lieven’s approach offers a fresh vantage point on some older issues, and in the process, it makes a fruitful contribution to the field of empire studies as a whole. Just bringing Russia into the mix would have made a significant contribution, but this study accomplishes much more. . . . His ruminations on the differences and similarities of the various empires are woven seamlessly throughout the text, and graduate students and professors alike will find those musings well reasoned and valuable for world history, Russian history, and European history.”—Jonathan Grant, History: Reviews of New Books

“[A]n ambitious study comparing the Russian empire with those of Britain, the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans. This is a much-needed volume, and it is a genuine pleasure to read. . . . Lieven’s comparison of the Russian and Ottoman empires is especially rich. . . . By comparing the Russian situation with those of other empires, . . . Lieven is able to show with much greater force and nuance how certain social conditions often portrayed as peculiarly Russian in fact derived from the imperial drive to defend a sprawling multinational empire against better-financed and more secure enemies.”—Steven Merritt Miner, New York Times Book Review

"[A] far-reaching historical investigation. Astute and evenhanded." —Publishers Weekly

“This is absorbing reading. Teachers of Russian, European and world history will find exciting themes in this volume for classroom discussion. . . . Lieven’s study of empires is certainly one of the most interesting recent books on Russian history. . . . It would appeal to both professional historians and the general public.”—Michael Jakobson, Slavic Military Studies

“A joy to read.”—Anne Applebaum, Sunday Times

“Lieven’s history of empire is a work of majestic sweep. . . . Heavy with erudition, Lieven’s work brims with grand judgements. . . . Lieven is on to something. Empire as he imagines it would be a better idea.”—Stephen Kotkin, The New Republic

“As an initial effort to appreciate the centrality of Russia’s long imperial experience more fully, many can learn much from this volume. The challenges of comparative history scare off most scholars, so we must thank Professor Lieven for picking up the gauntlet, stepping bravely into poorly charted waters, and drawing up a portolan for those daring enough to follow.”—Edward J. Lazzerini, The Russian Review

“[A]n artful argument about the nature of the Russian empire. . . . [A]n impressive piece of English intellectual showmanship, full of insight.”—Robert G. Kaiser, Washington Post Book World

“This is indeed global history on the grand scale.”—Martin Sieff, Washington Times
ISBN: 9780300088595
Publication Date: February 8, 2001
528 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4

Sales Restrictions: For sale in the U.S., its territories and dependencies, and the Philippine Republic only