Monday, June 21, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 29 (Geoffrey Hosking)

Hosking, Geoffrey
Russia and the Russians

I think I bought this online, though I am not sure.

A few years back I started targeting areas of the world I knew nothing about and reading histories about them. I didn't get too far, as it is very difficult to find history books that are also good reading. History is such a diverse subject that you really have to know exactly what you are looking for in order to find something interesting to read.

This one was pretty useful as a primer of Russian political history, even though it's point of view is strictly that of the sovereign nation and its domestic and foreign policy challenges. It's dry, but thorough. I prefer this to the kind that is written toward a general audience, the ones whose narratives swashbuckle along on sentences laden with action verbs and colorful adjectives.

from Russia and the Russians

The north Eurasian plain is not only Russia's geographical setting, but also her fate. From the Carpathians in the west to the Greater Khingan range in the east, a huge expanse of flat, ope territory dominates the Eurasian continent. It divides into four bands of terrain, running from west to east. In the south is desert, broken only by oases along the rivers which run off the mountains along the souther and eastern rims. Then comes steppe, lightly watered country with a thin and variable covering of grasses and scrub, again broken intermittently by oases, gullies and river valleys. Farther north is a belt of coniferous forest, interspersed toward its southern edge with deciduous trees; only to the west of the Urals does this deciduous belt broaden to become a large and independent ecological zone. Finally comes the tundra: frozen wastelands and swamp, with broad rivers flowing through them to the Arctic Ocean, itself frozen for much of the year.

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