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books about Russia


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#1 JennyD

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Posted 14 December 2017 - 11:50 PM

My DS12 is an avid reader of the news and has become very interested in Russia.  He has lots of questions about Vladimir Putin and the situation in Russia, some of which I can answer but many that I cannot, so we could use some good reading material.  Any recommendations for accessible nonfiction about contemporary Russia?  Adult-level books are fine as long as they don't presume much background knowledge.  


Edited by JennyD, 14 December 2017 - 11:52 PM.


#2 eternalsummer

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 12:08 AM

There's a book of interviews with Oliver Stone, translated and transcribed - the interviews are pretty recent, so it's an interesting enough read.  It's kind of a funny set of interviews because Putin's clearly to the right of Oliver Stone in many ways, but to the left of him (or I guess I should say to the Soviet of him, not sure it is leftism exactly) in others, and reading their navigation of these fundamental misunderstandings is interesting. https://www.amazon.c...s/dp/1510733426

It's a pretty easy read because it's a transcription of interviews that were meant for public consumption anyway.

 

Now, for more serious material: if he's interested in current events, books might be too behind the times (although they would of course provide an important background).  You could look through some of these links for what is currently going on - as a caution, they're hosted on 4chan, which has no filters or moderation for profanity or anything that is not strictly illegal, so while the links are clean, some of the comments might not be particularly heartwarming:

http://boards.4chan....hread/152837636

 

Especially the second set of links is relevant.

 

To understand Putin and modern Russia, esp. as it relates to the US, you have to understand the geopolitics of where Russia is currently exerting influence - so while Ukraine and etc. are important, the middle east is currently at a crisis point and Russia is intimately involved with some of the players there.

 

Finally, I don't say this to be politically controversial, but to get a grasp of the full implications of Putin's plans for Russia, you've got to consider seriously what his play is in the US with Trump.   


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#3 Roadrunner

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 12:14 AM

Oliver Stone interviews are Russian propaganda.


I would go to the library and thoroughly research Economist magazines and read articles on Russia. That would be the best way to understand modern politics.
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#4 eternalsummer

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 12:19 AM

Yes, you have to read it as Russian propaganda, but it is interesting Russian propaganda :)


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#5 Tanaqui

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 02:13 AM

Yes, but perhaps blatant propaganda is not the best thing to give a 12 year old with little background knowledge.


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#6 xahm

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 07:55 AM

Not a book, but I'd recommend reading The Moscow Times. That's the English language newspaper read by the ex-pats in Russia, as well as some Russians who want a different pov than what they get in the state media. Russian politicians may decry it as an "anti-Putin rag," and it is a bit pro-western in tone, but the reporting is solid, factual, and close to the action. Since it is written for ex-pats, it doesn't assume a deep knowledge base in Russian history or government, which makes it very accessible.
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#7 J-rap

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 08:11 AM

I learned the best at that age (about countries and their politics) by reading biographies.  I just bought this book as a gift for someone:

 

https://www.amazon.c...0?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

It's not contemporary, but tells a story about a girl living in Communist Russia.  Getting that background might be helpful in understanding what's going on today.  


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#8 8FillTheHeart

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 08:35 AM

Not post-Soviet, but where I would start for some historical understanding of contemporary Russia:
http://www.americanr...tsynharvard.htm
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#9 JennyD

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 10:36 AM

Thanks for all of the recommendations!

 

J-rap, biographies are a great idea.  I'll look more closely at that one you recommended.  (I had actually meant to read Petrushevskaya's book of novellas from a few years ago and totally forgot about it until I just saw her name again.)  

 

It's just hard to know where to start with this subject.  Obviously Russian politics today -- like the politics of any country -- makes no sense without the context of everything that came beforehand.  I myself read a lot of newspaper and magazine articles about Russia but find that they tend to presume a fair amount of background knowledge.  DS does know about the Soviet era, etc. (many of family members immigrated from Russia in the 1920s, and we have close friends who immigrated from former Soviet states, so these are not totally new topics) but his knowledge is pretty limited -- he's 12, after all.  I'm trying to figure out how to help him get up to speed enough to better understand the daily news.  


Edited by JennyD, 15 December 2017 - 10:37 AM.

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#10 Roadrunner

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Posted 15 December 2017 - 11:05 AM

Marrin biography on Stalin is excellent for that age.
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#11 Farrar

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Posted 17 December 2017 - 05:27 PM

I know you asked for nonfiction, but some of the better books I'm aware of for that age group are definitely fiction. The Gloria Whelan trilogy that starts with Angel on the Square is a good one. Breaking Stalin's Nose is another good one (and I think that's actually a memoir). And a 12 yo could absolutely read Animal Farm and read about the parallels that Orwell created in his allegory.

 

There are a few other YA titles that take place in the USSR in the 40's or 50's - mostly focused on oppression and so forth, but I haven't read any of them so I'm not sure which are good.

 

For understanding how things got the way they are now, I'd turn more to articles - I find that while a long adult nonfiction book is usually too much for this age, they can read a long article. I'd look at sources you trust and search for longform articles about Russia. There's plenty out there about how Putin came to power, etc.


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#12 creekland

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Posted 17 December 2017 - 07:58 PM

This book is 20 years old now, but really quite a good one for reading about Russia during the transition period when it opened up more:

 

Open Lands : Travels Through Russia's Once Forbidden Places

 

https://www.goodread...166.Open_Lands_


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#13 daijobu

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Posted 19 December 2017 - 11:07 PM

If you want to read something scary/exciting, I can recommend A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Litvinenko and Putin's War with the West.  I couldn't put it down.  

 

Inspired by that and feeling like I've been ignoring Russia for the past 40 years, I'm now reading Who Lost Russia: How the World Entered a New Cold War.  I recounts the history of Russia from the fall of the Soviet Union to the present.  It covers Gorbachev/Yeltsin/Putin and how after so much promise we've failed to transform Russia into a western ally.  So far, it's been rather sympathetic to Russia/Putin, so this amateur historian has been perplexed.  But I'm still only about half way through.  This book is quite dry and a little boring.  It helps if you of some familiarity with history from the administrations of George HW Bush on, but you will learn a lot.  

 

I agree with your DS, this is very interesting!  

 

HTH!  


Edited by daijobu, 19 December 2017 - 11:10 PM.

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#14 J&JMom

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 01:10 PM

I know you asked for nonfiction, but some of the better books I'm aware of for that age group are definitely fiction. The Gloria Whelan trilogy that starts with Angel on the Square is a good one. Breaking Stalin's Nose is another good one (and I think that's actually a memoir). And a 12 yo could absolutely read Animal Farm and read about the parallels that Orwell created in his allegory.

 

There are a few other YA titles that take place in the USSR in the 40's or 50's - mostly focused on oppression and so forth, but I haven't read any of them so I'm not sure which are good.

 

For understanding how things got the way they are now, I'd turn more to articles - I find that while a long adult nonfiction book is usually too much for this age, they can read a long article. I'd look at sources you trust and search for longform articles about Russia. There's plenty out there about how Putin came to power,

Thanks for the recommendation on Angel of the Square.  Needed a read aloud for next week's study of Russia in geography with my 7th grader. My library didn't have a copy, but it was only $2 on Amazan Kindle.  


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#15 ScoutTN

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 07:49 PM

No suggestions, just saying hi!  :seeya: