100 books like A Short History of Russia

By Mark Galeotti,

Here are 100 books that A Short History of Russia fans have personally recommended if you like A Short History of Russia. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Putin's Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Wolf

From my list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about Eastern Europe, both past and present, and what it means to have Russia as a neighbor. I write historical fiction and historical thrillers with a soupcon of espionage. I talk about the politics of the day, whether the story is set during WWII or in modern times. While my stories and characters are fictional, I constantly strive to accurately reflect time, place, and, most of all, history. I hope that my novels entertain and inform about a corner of the world folks may not know much about. 

Ursula's book list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia

Ursula Wong Why did Ursula love this book?

Mr. Galeotti makes Russia’s ever-changing military status read like a spy novel. You might think information about drones, tanks, aircraft, and MANPADS is boring. I beg to differ.

Starting with the disarray caused by the breakup of the Soviet Union, Mr. Galeotti tells us who changed things, who failed to, and why. He matches the retooling of the Russian military to war lessons learned in Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, and Syria.

Mr. Galeotti has intimate knowledge of history, personal connections with individuals in the Russian military, and a brilliant way of putting it all together. He asked a Russian soldier his opinion of a photograph of Putin, who never served in the military, sitting at the controls of a fighter aircraft. The soldier said it was like being married to a virgin; the concept was good, but the experience wasn’t there.

This book is amazing.

By Mark Galeotti,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Putin's Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Financial Times - Best books of 2022: Politics 'The prolific military chronicler and analyst Mark Galeotti has produced exactly the right book at the right time.' The Times A new history of how Putin and his conflicts have inexorably reshaped Russia, including his devastating invasion of Ukraine. Putin's Wars is a timely overview of the conflicts in which Russia has been involved since Vladimir Putin became prime minister and then president of Russia, from the First Chechen War to the two military incursions into Georgia, the annexation of Crimea and the eventual invasion of Ukraine itself. But it also…


Book cover of A History of the Baltic States

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Wolf

From my list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about Eastern Europe, both past and present, and what it means to have Russia as a neighbor. I write historical fiction and historical thrillers with a soupcon of espionage. I talk about the politics of the day, whether the story is set during WWII or in modern times. While my stories and characters are fictional, I constantly strive to accurately reflect time, place, and, most of all, history. I hope that my novels entertain and inform about a corner of the world folks may not know much about. 

Ursula's book list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia

Ursula Wong Why did Ursula love this book?

Mr. Kasekamp’s book is the first substantial reference I found on the great European kingdom called the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. For hundreds of years, this religiously and culturally tolerant kingdom ruled the lands from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. It encompassed most of Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states, part of Russia, Poland, and more. Andres Kasekamp tells us how it came to be, how it thrived, and how it fell. 

He goes on to tell us how the Commonwealth’s progressive ideals were reflected in the freedom that came to Poland and the Baltic countries after WWI and why the resistance to the Soviet occupation of WWII was so passionate. 

Now, when I read about Poles, Lithuanians, and others standing alongside their brothers and sisters on today’s battlefields of Ukraine, I understand that it goes beyond protecting home and hearth. It’s about a shared spiritual and political history.

By Andres Kasekamp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of the Baltic States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this key textbook, Andres Kasekamp masterfully traces the development of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, from the northern crusades against Europe's last pagans and Lithuania's rise to become one of medieval Europe's largest states, to their incorporation into the Russian Empire and the creation of their modern national identities. Employing a comparative approach, a particular emphasis is placed upon the last one hundred years, during which the Baltic states achieved independence, endured occupation by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and transformed themselves into members of the European Union.

This is an essential textbook for undergraduate students taking modules on…


Book cover of Vilnius Poker

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Wolf

From my list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about Eastern Europe, both past and present, and what it means to have Russia as a neighbor. I write historical fiction and historical thrillers with a soupcon of espionage. I talk about the politics of the day, whether the story is set during WWII or in modern times. While my stories and characters are fictional, I constantly strive to accurately reflect time, place, and, most of all, history. I hope that my novels entertain and inform about a corner of the world folks may not know much about. 

Ursula's book list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia

Ursula Wong Why did Ursula love this book?

This book is dense, disagreeable, confusing, uncomfortable, and marvelous. The scenes are vivid, even devastating. The descriptions ring true, from dirty windows in the library to working hard to make nothing appear like something. The characters embody the black and hopeless existence of Vilnius under Soviet rule.

Vytautas, the protagonist, flashes back to his tortured days in the labor camps in Siberia. He is haunted by evil in the persona he calls “they” who roam the streets of Vilnius. He loves and tragically stops loving.

His inflections of the Soviet system come in many forms, like the story about his dying grandfather being kicked out of a hospital before he could affect their mortality statistics. He drifts into and out of the fantastical. The last section is written from a dog’s perspective.

I loved the reality of the book. It presented the essence of an experience, albeit from a man…

By Ricardas Gavelis, Elizabeth Novickas (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vilnius Poker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Detailing a man's mental breakdown—and his obsession with a seductress named Lolita, the omnipresent "them," and the need to uncover what's "really going on"—Vilnius Poker is an epic, paranoid novel about the surreal absurdities and horrors of life under Soviet rule. In the words of Kirkus Reviews, "think of it as The Matrix behind the Iron Curtain—unsettling and profoundly interesting."


Book cover of Soviet Fairytales

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Wolf

From my list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about Eastern Europe, both past and present, and what it means to have Russia as a neighbor. I write historical fiction and historical thrillers with a soupcon of espionage. I talk about the politics of the day, whether the story is set during WWII or in modern times. While my stories and characters are fictional, I constantly strive to accurately reflect time, place, and, most of all, history. I hope that my novels entertain and inform about a corner of the world folks may not know much about. 

Ursula's book list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia

Ursula Wong Why did Ursula love this book?

This book shows us that not everyone had a devastating experience under the Soviets. I love it because it’s about average people and (somewhat) average events that become extraordinary because of the political circumstances. 

What was it like for a teenager to date when the KGB might be watching? How did families manage to cheer at military parades of sophisticated equipment when they couldn’t find toilet paper to buy?

These wonderful stories entertained and informed. They weren’t funny, but a few made me chuckle from the absurdity. 

By Grazina Pranauskas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soviet Fairytales as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 'Workers Paradise' of the Soviet Union what was life like for those on the periphery of the Russian empire? In these short stories, Grazina Pranauskas offers the reader piercing vignettes of everyday existence in Lithuania under a totalitarian regime ...


Book cover of All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin

Mark Lawrence Schrad Author Of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

From my list on understanding Putinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve lived, learned, and loved Russian politics since before the collapse of communism. My Vodka Politics book takes a deep dive into Russian history but is ultimately focussed on better understanding contemporary social, economic, and political developments in Russia, where Putin and Putinism are at the core. Having taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Russian and post-Soviet politics for the past fifteen years, I find it essential to keep up-to-date on the latest scholarship. There are many great works out there by gifted journalists, writers, and scholars, many of which illuminate perhaps only part of Russia’s personalized autocracy. The ones I’ve listed here I feel present the most well-rounded picture, from a wide variety of perspectives.

Mark's book list on understanding Putinism

Mark Lawrence Schrad Why did Mark love this book?

Of course, it takes more than one man to run a country, and in All the Kremlin’s Men, opposition journalist Mikhail Zygar expands that scope to examine various important figures within Putin’s inner circle. From good friends to politicians, important bureaucrats, and oligarchs—and in many cases, the lines between those categories are very much blurred. Zygar builds on a decade’s worth of interviews and investigative journalism to give a rare, behind-the-scenes look at Russia’s elites, how they relate to one another, and to Putin. The book presents an immensely readable history of post-Soviet Russian politics, moving the chronology forward from 1980s reformism to the tumultuous 1990s, and into the era of High Putinism, with each chapter highlighting the role of this leader or that. The Russian-language original, Vsya kremlevskaya rat’, quickly became a bestseller in Russian nonfiction, which also resulted in ever greater political pressure by the Kremlin…

By Mikhail Zygar,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked All the Kremlin's Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

All the Kremlin's Men is a gripping narrative of an accidental king and a court out of control. Based on an unprecedented series of interviews with Vladimir Putin's inner circle, this book presents a radically different view of power and politics in Russia. The image of Putin as a strongman is dissolved. In its place is a weary figurehead buffeted--if not controlled--by the men who at once advise and deceive him.

The regional governors and bureaucratic leaders are immovable objects, far more powerful in their fiefdoms than the president himself. So are the gatekeepers-those officials who guard the pathways to…


Book cover of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Mark Lawrence Schrad Author Of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

From my list on understanding Putinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve lived, learned, and loved Russian politics since before the collapse of communism. My Vodka Politics book takes a deep dive into Russian history but is ultimately focussed on better understanding contemporary social, economic, and political developments in Russia, where Putin and Putinism are at the core. Having taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Russian and post-Soviet politics for the past fifteen years, I find it essential to keep up-to-date on the latest scholarship. There are many great works out there by gifted journalists, writers, and scholars, many of which illuminate perhaps only part of Russia’s personalized autocracy. The ones I’ve listed here I feel present the most well-rounded picture, from a wide variety of perspectives.

Mark's book list on understanding Putinism

Mark Lawrence Schrad Why did Mark love this book?

You may recognize Fiona Hill from her damning testimony in the first impeachment of President Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal, at which time she was senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council. Prior to that, she—along with co-author Cliff Gaddy—were two of the top minds on Russian politics at the Brookings Institute.

Together their book, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin goes beyond the standard biographies of Vladimir Putin’s rise from the streets of Leningrad to the KGB to the Kremlin. More importantly, it highlights the variety of roles that Putin plays in the role he currently occupies: the embodiment of the state, the interpreter of Russian history, the survivalist, the outsider, the free marketeer, and the case officer. Understanding how Putin switches from one role to another atop the Russian political system is crucial to understand that system.

By Clifford G. Gaddy, Fiona Hill,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mr. Putin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fiona Hill and other U.S. public servants have been recognized as Guardians of the Year in TIME's 2019 Person of the Year issue.

From the KGB to the Kremlin: a multidimensional portrait of the man at war with the West.

Where do Vladimir Putin's ideas come from? How does he look at the outside world? What does he want, and how far is he willing to go?

The great lesson of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 was the danger of misreading the statements, actions, and intentions of the adversary. Today, Vladimir Putin has become the greatest challenge…


Book cover of The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

David Sax Author Of The Future Is Analog: How to Create a More Human World

From my list on picks for book club.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer by profession, but until recently I was never in a book club. My wife was, briefly, and my friend Ben’s wife was (he’s also a writer). One day I said to Ben “why don’t we start a book club?”, and we did. Seven years later, the club is not only going strong, but it has assumed a central place in the lives of the seven of us who make it up. The book is the excuse to get together, to create and deepen friendships, to build a community around ideas. Start a book club. Choose some books. These are a good start. At least in my opinion.

David's book list on picks for book club

David Sax Why did David love this book?

I have always been fascinated with Russia, and love reading any book about Russia and Russians, whether the classic fiction of Dostoyevsky, or the absurdist work of Gary Shteyngart. But for insightful political analysis of Putin’s destruction of Russia’s democracy and society, written with a love for the people and country, and a keen eye toward their humanity, nothing beats this dead-eyed read from the great Masha Gessen. Her analysis of modern Russia under Putin’s grip came out a few years before the invasion of Ukraine, which is sort of a culmination of the ideas and stories here. This book is a portrait of individual tragedies woven together as a collective, where the historical resentments of one man (Putin) doom the future of an entire people. If you want to understand how Russia got here. Or what it might feel like to be a young Russian, caught up in this…

By Masha Gessen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Future Is History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Future is History Masha Gessen follows the lives of four Russians, born as the Soviet Union crumbled, at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children or grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own - as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers and writers, sexual and social beings. Gessen charts their paths not only against the machinations of the regime that would seek to crush them all (censorship, intimidation, violence) but also against the war it waged on understanding itself, ensuring…


Book cover of War with Russia?: From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate

John Philipp Baesler Author Of Clearer Than Truth: The Polygraph and the American Cold War

From my list on Russia in Western eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in West Germany, surrounded by American soldiers and with a father who had escaped communist East Germany, the Cold War always fascinated me. What was it about? Would it ever end? When it did, it took everybody by surprise. This lesson, that nothing is certain and that history can always make a turn when you least expect it, stayed with me as I pursued my degrees in history, first in Heidelberg and then at Indiana University Bloomington. As an immigrant to the United States, I study the United States from the outside and the inside. How Americans see themselves, and how they see others, is my main interest that I keep exploring from different angles.

John's book list on Russia in Western eyes

John Philipp Baesler Why did John love this book?

For readers following coverage of Russia in the American press, this treatment of recent US-Russian relations will be a revelation. Historian Stephen Cohen, while never downplaying the serious shortcomings of Russia under Vladimir Putin, provides a much-needed correction of the widespread idea that the dangerous decline of US-Russian relations is simply the fault of one man. Cohen meticulously chronicles the many American missteps since the end of the Cold War that any Russian leader would have had to consider acts of U.S. aggression. I love this book because it holds a mirror to American views of innocence and benevolence and paints a much more realistic picture of great power conflict than is presented in the news.

By Stephen F. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War with Russia? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Prescient and even more relevant than when originally released in 2019, this Memorial Edition of War With Russia ? provides keen perspective to help readers understand the current Ukraine crisis. Are we in a new Cold War with Russia? Does Vladimir Putin really want to destabilize the West? War With Russia? answers these questions and more.

America is in a new Cold War with Russia even more dangerous than the one the world barely survived in the twentieth century. The Soviet Union is gone, but the two nuclear superpowers are again locked in political and military confrontations, now from Ukraine…


Book cover of First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President

Andrew Monaghan Author Of Russian Grand Strategy in the Era of Global Power Competition

From my list on Russia and why the Kremlin does what it's doing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures. I started to learn Russian in 1998, and intrigued by the language, I began to study Russia more—delving into history and politics and then doing a PhD in Russian foreign policy. Ever since, trying to learn about and understand Russia has been my professional focus. Alongside books in Russian, these books are all to hand on my reference shelf, well-thumbed and marked up, as I try to write my own work. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! 

Andrew's book list on Russia and why the Kremlin does what it's doing

Andrew Monaghan Why did Andrew love this book?

So much has been written about Vladimir Putin since he came to power, from long biographies to short psychological assessments to fleeting conspiracy theories, all to try to better understand Russia’s long-term leader. This book is a publication of a series of interviews he gave to three Russian journalists when he first came to power back in 1999/2000. So much has happened since, but I found this book to be full of fascinating insights into Putin himself, but also how he views Russian (political) culture, and also those around him that he has continued to rely on ever since. “Surely there are more details?” one of the interviewers asks. “Yes, there are,” comes his reply. But I think this is the place to start.

By Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First Person as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who is this Vladimir Putin? Who is this man who suddenly- overnight and without warning- was handed the reigns of power to one of the most complex, formidable, and volatile countries in the world? How can we trust him if we don't know him? First Person is an intimate, candid portrait of the man who holds the future of Russia in his grip. An extraordinary compilation of over 24 hours of in-depth interviews and remarkable photographs, it delves deep into Putin's KGB past and explores his meteoric rise to power. No Russian leader has ever subjected himself to this kind…


Book cover of The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West

Douglas Kellner Author Of American Horror Show: Election 2016 and the Ascent of Donald Trump

From my list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

My work since the 1970s has focused on the major political struggles of the day as they impact U.S. democracy and provide challenges for understanding and action. As a professional philosopher, I focused on ways that history, philosophy, and theory provide key tools for the interpretation and critique of salient issues. I've written books on U.S. politics and the media, the Gulf War and Iraq War, 9/11 and the War on Terror, and am particularly interested in the interaction between Russia, the U.S., and Europe; hence, the rise of Putin in Russia, the New Cold War, and the 2020s conflict in Ukraine and the response of Western democracies.

Douglas' book list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy

Douglas Kellner Why did Douglas love this book?

Lucas’s book provides a geopolitical context for understanding Putin’s Russia and its relations with the West as a “New Cold War.” Lucas documents how Putin and his KGB cronies seized state power and the dominant institutions of Russian society in the early 2000s to form an autocratic state; how they merged with oligarchs controlling state economic institutions and formed a kleptocracy that used financial institutions and their resources to constitute autocratic state power. Lucas puts Putin, his KGB and military cronies, and the oligarchs in a geopolitical framework and demonstrates how their aggressive military and economic policies constitute a clear threat to the West, which Western leaders have not responded to, seeking instead to do business with Putin and Russia, misperceiving his geopolitical intentions. The conclusion indicates how the Western democratic countries need to band together to counter Putin’s threats and aggression, and need to develop a more aggressive counter-policy,…

By Edward Lucas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Cold War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a preface by Norman Davies, author of Europe: A History. Revised and updated following Russia's attack on Georgia. In the 1990s, Russia was the sick man of Europe, but the rise to power of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin in 1999 coincided with a huge hike in world oil and gas prices, and after Yeltsin's downfall Putin set about re-establishing Russian autocracy. Now with its massive gas and oil reserves Russia has not only paid off its debts but amassed huge cash reserves which it is investing in easily accessible European businesses. Putin's Russia is hostile to open debate.…


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