Thursday, February 3, 2011


Edward Rutherford's novel Russka is a great read.  960 pages.  1800 years of history.  A sweeping history of Russia through the tales of several families - peasants to the nobility.  It's a rollicking good story, or rather a series of stories, with each section set in a different time period, linked because they cover multiple generations of the same families.

I would say my knowledge of Russian history is limited to the major facts.  The five families in this book are set against the major events of Russia's history.  And the main feeling I gained was of how backward Russia has been.  It's always been behind the rest of Europe, and it's never had the incredible cultures and accomplishments of other Asian countries.  Serfdom was still in vogue long after the rest of Europe was developing healthy middle classes.  The serf had a miserable life; although not technically a slave, he was not allowed to move to a new farm or work for a new master.

The maintenance of such stiff autocracy by the tsar into the 20th Century meant that at the time of the revolution, there was no history at all in Russia of anything other than completely autocratic rule.  I knew that of course, but this book really got me thinking aobut it and put Russia's current situation in perspective.  They don't have good governance now, but in fact they never did.

No comments: