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1. Stalin : A Biography,
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2. Racing the Enemy : Stalin, Truman,
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3. Land of the Firebird
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4. Stalin's Folly : The Tragic First
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5. Born to Rule : Five Reigning Consorts,
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6. Ghost Wars: The Secret History
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7. Spy Handler
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8. The Great Game: The Struggle for
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9. Cold War Submarines: The Design
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10. A History Of The World In Six
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11. China Marches West : The Qing
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12. A History of Russia
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13. Mathematical Circles: Russian
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14. Soldiers of God: With Islamic
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15. City on Fire : The Forgotten Disaster
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16. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege,
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17. Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the
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18. Russian Impressionism: Paintings,
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19. Stalin : The Court of the Red
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20. Memoirs (George F. Kennan Memoirs)

1. Stalin : A Biography,
by Robert Service
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
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Asin: 0674016971
Catlog: Book (2005-04-04)
Publisher: Belknap Press
Sales Rank: 4359
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Overthrowing the conventional image of Stalin as an uneducated political administrator inexplicably transformed into a pathological killer, Robert Service reveals a more complex and fascinating story behind this notorious twentieth-century figure. Drawing on unexplored archives and personal testimonies gathered from across Russia and Georgia, this is the first full-scale biography of the Soviet dictator in twenty years.

Service describes in unprecedented detail the first half of Stalin's life--his childhood in Georgia as the son of a violent, drunkard father and a devoted mother; his education and religious training; and his political activity as a young revolutionary. No mere messenger for Lenin, Stalin was a prominent activist long before the Russian Revolution. Equally compelling is the depiction of Stalin as Soviet leader. Service recasts the image of Stalin as unimpeded despot; his control was not limitless. And his conviction that enemies surrounded him was not entirely unfounded.

Stalin was not just a vengeful dictator but also a man fascinated by ideas and a voracious reader of Marxist doctrine and Russian and Georgian literature as well as an internationalist committed to seeing Russia assume a powerful role on the world stage. In examining the multidimensional legacy of Stalin, Service helps explain why later would-be reformers--such as Khrushchev and Gorbachev--found the Stalinist legacy surprisingly hard to dislodge.

Rather than diminishing the horrors of Stalinism, this is an account all the more disturbing for presenting a believable human portrait. Service's lifetime engagement with Soviet Russia has resulted in the most comprehensive and compelling portrayal of Stalin to date.

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Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars We return again to the subject of Stalin
Gangster! Evil dictator! Georgian Al Capone!Robert Service uses all of these terms to describe Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhughashvili, known as Stalin, in this new biography.That he also uses terms such as intellectual, paterfamilias, singer of songs and lover of wine, to describe the `man of steel' disgusts and alienates some readers.Apparently, we must distance ourselves from such a man, make him somehow inhuman, in order to fit him into our modern worldview.More interesting, and more useful, is a biography that seeks to understand the human factors, for Stalin was not some alien dropped from outer space, but a man.

This is the work of a professional historian who is deeply immersed in both the primary sources (many newly available) and the historiography of Stalin. Service seeks to undertake a multidimensional approach, looking at political, economic, personal, international and many other factors of both Stalin and the world in which he lived. Among the more interesting points Service brings out, is the importance of Stalin in the pre-revolutionary period, including his importance and high place (although less visible than some of the others) in the party structure, debunking the myth that Stalin came out of nowhere, suddenly and mysteriously knocking the Bolshevik train off track. Stalin was Lenin's protégé and student, and although he differed on several key points, there was continuity between the two. In a sense this is the sequel to the author's works on Lenin.

If there is one thing I wish could be added to a generally excellent work, it would be while Service sufficiently discredits both Leninism and Stalinism I would have preferred, since he was on the subject,a discussion of the failure not only Bolshevism but of Marxism in general. Admittedly it is slightly beyond the scope, but it seems to leave open the question, could a Marxist state under some more benign leadership have worked?It is my belief that the historian of the twentieth century has already before him evidence to answer this question, and anyway, (with sincere apologies) let us hope no one will ever undertake such an experiment.That being said, in all a very good biography suitable for all readers.

5-0 out of 5 stars Yes please!
Quit Stalin (stalling) and buy this book! (that was a joke but this is a good book).

4-0 out of 5 stars A Biography That Tries To Humanize Stalin
The author tries to humaninze Stalin and view him as a more intellectual person than he is viewed in earlier biographies. Stalin's vast and terrible crimes against the persons in his own country are almost pure evil and the reader will be disturbed at the author's effort to "rehabilitate" Stalin.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Step in the Wrong Direction.
Robert Service's book is the newest addition to the recent spate of books on Joseph Stalin.While a meticulously researched effort, it is disturbing that the author is at pains to "humanize" Stalin and to understand his behaviour. I quote from a review of the book in The Economist, 6 January 2005:

"Here the reader is told that Stalin's crimes, while vast and terrible, were things which a sane, intelligent, sometimes kindly human being might do for understandable if not defensible reasons. It does not feel like a step in the right direction."

I would recommend, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore, and as a companion volume, Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him by Donald Rayfield as giving superior treatment to the subject.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ground Breaking
Reading this biography one becomes aware how much previous biographies of Stalin were affected by Trotsky's work and perspective. A good deal of scholarship about the Soviet Union depended on documents that were carried out by him and his written works were influential. Some of the more influential writers of Soviet history were in fact disciples of Trotsky such as Isaac Deutscher.

Broadly Trotsky hoped to gain power in the Soviet Union following Lenin's death. He was however outmanoeuvred by Stalin. Trotsky was contemptuous of Stalin's ability and he thought he was a nonentity. This is reflective in his writing and accounts of Stalin's career and rise. As a result he portrayed Stalin as a nothing who had arisen not through his own ability but through a mysterious numbers game in the party which preferred hacks to people of real talent.

Stalin after in his road to power was happy to portray himself in a similar way to the Trotsky caricature of him.That is an ordinary practical man who could empathise with the problems of workers and peasants and have real solutions to problems rather than overblown rhetoric.

This book suggests a very different picture of Stalin's rise. In reality he was only General Secretary of the party for a short time before the power struggle to oust Trotsky. He had little time to stack the party and the reason he won was because he was a better political operator. In fact Stalin had always been an important figure in the Bolshevik movement holding important positions such as being the editor of the party newspaper. Although a poor public speaker he was a person of considerable intelligence and he was a skilled writer. Broadly Trosky was a person who was somewhat egocentric and he had little ability to read people and depended on his charisma and ability as a speaker. By the 1920's a bit more was required to gain power in the Soviet Union.

The main power of the book is to show that Stalin was in fact an intellectual figure. It deals in less detail with the historical background of Stalin's rule skating over the oppression of the peasants and the development of industry. In fact the chapter on the second world war makes at least one mistake suggesting that the battle of Karhov was the first Soviet offensive of the war obviously forgetting the attacks on the German forces by Zhukov in late 1941.

Never the less the power and importance of the book is to show how previous biographies were written and influenced by ideas around Stalin's rise which when put to the test are shown to be wrong. In looking at Stalin's personality it is also clear that he was not a person who suffered from what would be described as a mental illness. His actions were to purposeful and systematic for that. Despite this the book is perhaps better at showing what could be described as the evil of Stalin's rule. Not only the effects on those who were killed by his regime but the brutal and irrational nature of the regime he created.
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2. Racing the Enemy : Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan,
by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
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Asin: 0674016939
Catlog: Book (2005-05-15)
Publisher: Belknap Press
Sales Rank: 3558
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Book Description

With startling revelations, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa rewrites the standard history of the end of World War II in the Pacific. By fully integrating the three key actors in the story--the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan--Hasegawa for the first time puts the last months of the war into international perspective.

From April 1945, when Stalin broke the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact and Harry Truman assumed the presidency, to the final Soviet military actions against Japan, Hasegawa brings to light the real reasons Japan surrendered. From Washington to Moscow to Tokyo and back again, he shows us a high-stakes diplomatic game as Truman and Stalin sought to outmaneuver each other in forcing Japan's surrender; as Stalin dangled mediation offers to Japan while secretly preparing to fight in the Pacific; as Tokyo peace advocates desperately tried to stave off a war party determined to mount a last-ditch defense; and as the Americans struggled to balance their competing interests of ending the war with Japan and preventing the Soviets from expanding into the Pacific.

Authoritative and engrossing, Racing the Enemy puts the final days of World War II into a whole new light.

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3. Land of the Firebird
by Suzanne Massie, SuzanneMassie
list price: $32.00
our price: $32.00
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Asin: 096441841X
Catlog: Book (1980)
Publisher: Hearttree Press
Sales Rank: 156192
Average Customer Review: 4.86 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars Well worth the price
I first read this magnificent tome on Russian history and culture in 1997. As it was part of a history class in college, the first read was a bit of a drag...page after page of description concerning the minutia of Russian life: clothes, churches, meals, religious & superstitious rituals, architecture, commerce, political strife, and so on. Really, with the whirl of the Social Circus of that college year, trudging through all this obscure information brought me no end of grief and silent lamentation! To think of all that time I could have been out with friends looking to score whatever cheap release was on hand or burning inside...spent instead sludging through *detailed history*!

Cut to four years later...

I'm going to Russia. In two weeks. Like so many other unplanned affairs that seem to formulate out of nowhere and take one by the lapels, shoving one screaming into the storm of life, this reviewer took it in stride and decided to find some quick-but-informative text on the destination in mind--especially one with such contradictory reports as Mother Russia. Thus, I dug this out of my library and began anew, stifling a faint unpleasant feeling no doubt inspired by those long sleepless college nights. There had to be some merit here, yes?

Oh yes.

'Land of the Firebird' is a WONDERFUL and ENGAGING in-depth look of Russian history from 987-1917, spanning the ascension of Vlad and the Orthodox Church to right before the Revolution. With colorful prose Suzanne Massie details the variety of Russian existence--tsars and serfs and merchant-princes and babushkas--no stone is left uncovered as she cross-references nearly a thousands years, writing with equal consideration of art, poetry, country-life, court-life, politics and its myriad games, myths and legends, influence "outside the sphere." It would be impossible to truly set down the full range of Russia experience for this time in the 450 pages allotted the reader, but the author does an admirable job in covering the major shakers and movers and events while sparing a considerable amount of print for the minor peoples and patterns that set the foundation of this ancient, troubled country. It certainly put an interesting light on what I saw come the spring of '01.

Indispensable for the casual student of Russia.

5-0 out of 5 stars Priceless
I bought this book in the early 80's and absolutely loved it. I recommended it to friends who were going to spend a year in Russia. They took it with them and shared it with their Russian friends, who copied whole chapters by hand -- all the while bemoaning the loss of so much of their rich, pre-revolutionary culture.

5-0 out of 5 stars AN ABSOLUTE TREASURE
Having read many books on Russian history, architecture, notable personalties and points of interest, I found this book to be invaluable. It is a must have if you're interested in Russian history, planning to travel there, or simply want to try to understand how a Russian thinks. Also has wonderful illustrations and photographs.

5-0 out of 5 stars A "must" for all interested in Russian history & art.
For an interesing, riveting compilation of history combined with art, this book is unmatched in its ability to inform the reader without getting bogged down in excessive analysis and/or description of historical events. Ms. Massie also treats history and art as appendages of each other, and in a style as narratively friendly as her most popular book, Nicholas and Alexandra. It is a "must" in advance of a Russian tour, and a good one to have in one's personal reference library.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best compilation of Russian History ever!
I love this book ... Read more


4. Stalin's Folly : The Tragic First Ten Days of World War Two on the Eastern Front
by Constantine Pleshakov
list price: $26.00
our price: $17.16
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Asin: 0618367012
Catlog: Book (2005-05-15)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 7596
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched a massive three-pronged attack on the Soviet Union, and in days his troops were within reach of Moscow. The attack was stunning, but Stalin"s response was even more astonishing. During the invasion, the mighty Soviet military stood in place while its soldiers were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands.

Drawing on a wealth of newly available documents, from classified Politburo papers and diaries of key generals to diplomatic cables and secret police memos, the Russian historian Constantine Pleshakov paints a startling portrait of Stalin, one of history"s most feared despots, as a vulnerable and paralyzed leader. Refusing to believe that the Germans would strike first, despite repeated warnings, he continued to supply them with war materials in the days before the attack, then tied his generals" hands in the crucial first hours of the invasion. For more than a week, while Hitler rolled over Soviet territory, Stalin cowered in his dacha, leaving the country rudderless and — as Pleshakov reveals here — nearly losing power. The Red Army"s effort to regain the territory lost in those first ten days cost more than 10 million Soviet lives.

Stalin"s Folly is a dramatic hour-by-hour account that sheds light
on an enigmatic and ruthless figure while providing a new and far
deeper understanding of Russian history.
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Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars A must read
Stalin could not be woken.The warnings had been there all along.Zhukov was calling him on the phone.Operation Barbaroosa was already in full swing, the greatest titanic clash of arms the world had ever seen began on June 22nd, 1941.This book takes the reader through the outbreak of hostilities to the first ten days.The lead up to the war and the causes of Russia's weak position are given a tour de force of story telling.We learn how Stalin, while pretending to prepare for war and claiming he knows the attack is coming, puts his army in the worst possible situation.

When war comes, the army is helpless, the commanders shaken, and they want leadership.Stalin offers to resign, and then he disappears.He is shaken too. He has been betrayed?Perhaps he worries he will lose his empire?Zhukov and the few competent Soviet commanders are forced to deal.In the end millions die, hundreds of thousands are captured.10 days did no change the world however.As the Nazis strike deep into Soviet territory already the gears are coming into motion that will make the Russian war machine unstoppable.For all his failings Stalin had built up a country economically to win, he had instilled an ideology of victory.Stalin waited for the Germans in Moscow and he declared "if the Germans want a war of extermination they will get one." When Churchill visited in 1942, Stalin said "the Germans are not supermen".

This is a masterful account of these days, an insiders account of the Soviet mindset, a character study of people under crises, no one will be disappointed with this excellent account.

Seth J. Frantzman

5-0 out of 5 stars Stalin's Follyis a great read!
By 1941 Stalin had either killed off his best military leaders or brutally subdued them into fearful and servile yes-men.His psychotic breakdown in the face of the German invasion paralyzed the Red Army and resulted in the needless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers and civilians.

Pleshakov transforms the history of the first ten days of World War II into a profoundly moving account of the capacity of the human spirit to survive.His portrait of Stalin is devastatingly on target.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ten (More) Days That Shook the World
Constantine Pleshakov's Stalin's Folly is a comprehensive and compelling examination of the first ten days of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.

The invasion and the events leading up to it are well known.Pleshakov begins the story by tracing briefly the course of evens in Easter Europe in the two years before the invasion.The Hitler-Stalin Pact was signed on August 23, 1939.Eight days later, the German military launched its blitzkrieg against Poland.After the rapid defeat of Poland and pursuant to secret protocols in place between Germany and the USSR, the conquered territories were divided into Soviet and German spheres of influence.Estonia, Latvia and the eastern portion of Poland were placed under the Soviet sphere.

In an extended introductory section, Pleshakov points out that the Soviet defensive fortifications running along its old border, strong and well built, were dismantled and plans for new fortifications along the new border were made.Most of the Soviet air force was also moved into these forward areas. By the time of the invasion the new fortifications were not complete.Further the Soviet general staff and virtually its entire officer corps had either been killed or sent to the Gulag in Stalin's purges.The survivors included older cavalry generals from the Civil War and newly promoted senior officers such as the soon to be world famous Georgy Zhukov.

Despite their inexperience the Soviet High Command understood that Stalin's decision to position the bulk of his army and air force so close to the front lines was extraordinarily dangerous.From a military viewpoint, defensive lines should be further from the initial point of attack so they would have time to deploy effectively.This advance positioning would only be effective if Soviet forces were planning a preemptive attack on the German forces.And this is exactly what Stalin was planning.Pleshakov's extensive research into Soviet archives indicates that Stalin planned a preemptive strike to commence in June 1942.Stalin knew the pact would not last but that the Germans would not attack until after Hitler's armies had conquered Britain. Sadly for Stalin, by the summer of 1940 Hitler had decided not to invade Britain and turned his attention east. Hitler instructed his general staff to plan for an invasion, codenamed Operation Barbarossa, to begin in the spring of 1941.

Once the invasion begins, in the dawn hours of June 22, 1941 Pleshakov takes the reader on a detailed, almost hour-by-hour discussion of the disastrous first ten days.These were ten days in which Stalin would not speak to the Soviet people.Pleshakov details Stalin's mood swings, his deep depression and panic.Disastrous counterattacks were ordered.On the first day of the invasion virtually the entire Soviet Air Force was destroyed on the ground. Three weeks into the war, the Soviet Union had lost 28 infantry divisions and 600,000 soldiers out of 3 million in uniform.It would take 3 more years and at least 10 million more Soviet lives before the territorylost in the first ten days of the war was liberated by the Red Army.

It is a tribute to Pleshakov's writing skills that he conveys the drama and suspense of an event that we know the outcome of.I should also add that the fact that this work may be called a popular history does not mean that Pleshakov's research and attention to detail is less than rigorous. It is.

Shakespeare once wrote, that "the common curse of mankind,-folly and ignorance, be thine in great revenue!"As Pleshakov so artistically and intelligently shows, folly was found in great revenue in the first ten days of the war on the Eastern Front.Yet he also shows the courage and resilience of the people of the Soviet Union that enabled them to eventually stem the tide and destroy the German armies in the east.This is an excellent book. Anyone interested in the Second World War or Soviet history should enjoy it immensely.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
An excellent source for the first few weeks of the War on the Eastern Front.A few minor mistakes here and there (like saying 35,000 officers were killed in the purges, when in fact 35,000 were arrested) but overall it is an invaluable addition to the literature on the time period and events it describes.At times hour by hour accounts of what was going on, excellent descriptions about the problems units had in terms of communications with their superiors and suborindates as well as the devastation suffered by front line units and the useless counter-attacks and conflicting orders being sent out.Well worth the read. ... Read more


5. Born to Rule : Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria
by Julia P. Gelardi
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
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Asin: 0312324235
Catlog: Book (2005-03-19)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Sales Rank: 533495
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6. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of The CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet
by Steve Coll
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
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Asin: 0143034669
Catlog: Book (2004-12-28)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 17396
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7. Spy Handler
by Victor Cherkashin, Gregory Feifer
list price: $26.00
our price: $17.16
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Asin: 0465009689
Catlog: Book (2005-01-01)
Publisher: Basic Books
Sales Rank: 35985
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Book Description

Victor Cherkashin's incredible career in the KGB spanned thirty-eight years, from Stalin's death in 1953 to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In this riveting memoir, Cherkashin provides a remarkable insider's view of the KGB's prolonged conflict with the United States, from his recruitment through his rising career in counterintelligence to his prime spot as the KGB's number- two man at the Soviet Embassy in Washington. Victor Cherkashin's story will shed stark new light on the KGB's inner workings over four decades and reveal new details about its major cases. Cherkashin's story is rich in episode and drama. He took part in some of the highest-profile Cold War cases, including tracking down U.S. and British spies around the world. He was posted to stations in the U.S., Australia, India, and Lebanon and traveled the globe for operations in England, Europe, and the Middle East. But it was in 1985, known as "the Year of the Spy," that Cherkashin scored two of the biggest coups of the Cold War. In April of that year, he recruited disgruntled CIA officer Aldrich Ames, becoming his principal handler. Refuting and clarifying other published versions, Cherkashin will offer the most complete account on how and why Ames turned against his country. Cherkashin will also reveal new details about Robert Hanssen's recruitment and later exposure, as only he can. And he will address whether there is an undiscovered KGB spy-another Hanssen or Ames-still at large. Spy Handler will be a major addition to Cold War history, told by one of its key participants. ... Read more


8. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia
by Peter Hopkirk
list price: $17.00
our price: $11.56
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Asin: 1568360223
Catlog: Book (1994-04-01)
Publisher: Kodansha Globe
Sales Rank: 7144
Average Customer Review: 4.59 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

In a phrase coined by Captain Arthur Connolly of the East India Company before he was beheaded in Bokhara for spying in 1842, a "Great Game" was played between Tsarist Russia and Victorian England for supremacy in Central Asia. At stake was the security of India, key to the wealth of the British Empire. When play began early in the 19th century, the frontiers of the two imperial powers lay two thousand miles apart, across vast deserts and almost impassable mountain ranges; by the end, only 20 miles separated the two rivals.

Peter Hopkirk, a former reporter for The Times of London with wide experience of the region, tells an extraordinary story of ambition, intrigue, and military adventure. His sensational narrative moves at breakneck pace, yet even as he paints his colorful characters--tribal chieftains, generals, spies, Queen Victoria herself--he skillfully provides a clear overview of the geographical and diplomatic framework. The Great Game was Russia's version of America's "Manifest Destiny" to dominate a continent, and Hopkirk is careful to explain Russian viewpoints as fully as those of the British. The story ends with the fall of Tsarist Russia in 1917, but the demise of the Soviet Empire (hastened by a decade of bloody fighting in Afghanistan) gives it new relevance, as world peace and stability are again threatened by tensions in this volatile region of great mineral wealth and strategic significance. --John Stevenson ... Read more

Reviews (58)

4-0 out of 5 stars History as it should be written
"The Great Game" is a well-written and gripping account of the British and Russian machinations in central Asia during the 19th century that reads more like a novel than a dry history book. What's even better is that the story is quite relevant to the geopolitical realities of our century.

Although a few forays are taken into Turkey, the Caucasus and the Far East, most the action takes place in central Asia (including the Pamirs and western China), and much of that was in the buffer region that is now Afghanistan. After having spent centuries subjugated by Mongol invaders, an expansionist imperial Russia began trying to secure its borders by extending its sphere of influence into central Asia. Meanwhile the British had colonized India and were concerned about protecting her northern borders. 'The Great Game' was an expression coined by an early participant and later immortalized by Rudyard Kipling to describe the often-shadowy means these two great powers used to pursue these goals.

At the beginning of the 19th century few westerners had gone into central Asia and almost none had seen the great cities of the area. Into this void came a series of British and Russian adventurers seeking information about the terrain, population, and cities, and who in many cases sought to create alliances with the local rulers that could be used to further Britain's and Russia's imperial ambitions and cement their desired security zones.

The book is written around the stories of these adventurers, many of whom, but by no means all, were soldiers. The early explorers had the advantage of entering a region where no westerners had been before and could often pass themselves off as Indian traders. Eventually they were able to penetrate far enough into central Asia to meet local rulers who were so isolated that they understood 'Britain' and 'Russia' to be simply powerful tribes in their general vicinity. The British and Russian envoys would try to outdo each other in attempting to indicate the sizes of their respective countries (which, in the case of the UK, would include its vast colonial holdings for maximum impact).

Much of the book is devoted to the first and second Afghan wars in which the British tried to install their monarch of choice and were eventually routed as a result of both their incompetence and the fierce Afghan fighters. Some of the accounts of Afghanistan today could almost have been taken directly from 'The Great Game'. Life for many in the region appears to have changed very little in the intervening years.

Hopkirk has written this book from an unabashedly pro-western and pro-British perspective, but it is a fascinating story and one that still has great pertinence to world affairs today. I can highly recommend it to anybody who would like a better understanding of both the history and current reality of central Asia.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent History of the 'Great Game'
Peter Hopkirk's book 'The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia' is a great historical account and a very enjoyable book to read. It is very rare nowadays to find a book that holds your attention throughout, without finding one boring section, this is one of those books. In over 560 pages (paperback edition) Peter Hopkirk tells the amazing stories of a number of early British and Russian officers and men involved in the great imperial struggle for supremacy in Central Asia.

I found myself reading late into the morning, at times I couldn't put the book down. Most of the time I had heard of the places and people involved but a lot of this story was new to me. The narrative read like a novel, gripping but informative, never boring and full of information, breathing life into history in a way that is hard to find now-a-days.

This is a great book and I fully agree with the quote on the front cover of the book by Jan Morris "Peter Hopkirk is truly the laureate of the Great Game." If you ever wanted to learn something about this large and remote area then this is the book to start with. If you enjoy military history then this book has it, if you enjoy historical accounts of exploration then this book has it, if you just enjoy good history then this book has it all.

The story of Britain and Russia carving out their Empires in India, Afghanistan and the surrounding areas is truly fascinating and I was amazed at the brave and resourceful men who carved their name in history during this period. Most people have heard of the Khyber Pass and places like Chitral however I had never heard of the Pamirs and Karakorams mountain ranges or of the Kerman and Helmund deserts nor of some of the fierce and warlike tribes that lived in these areas.

After reading this book I yearn for more information about this region and I intend to buy the rest of Peter Hopkirk's books. I would rate this book one of the better ones I have read this year and to finish my review I would like to quote Byron Farwell from his review in 'The New York Times':

"Those who enjoy vividly told tales of derring-do and seek a clear understanding of the history of the emerging central Asian countries will find this a glorious book."

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Story
If you like history told on a grand scale, you'll love Peter Hopkirk's "The Great Game." The author has done a superb job making an obscure epoch of nineteenth history come to life in an easily accessible and immensely entertaining narrative. Employing a style and approach highly reminiscent of such bestsellers as David Fromkin's "A Peace to End All Peace" or Robert Massie's "Dreadnought," Hopkirk uses a number of harrowing expeditions by young, intrepid (and mostly British) army officers and diplomats to convey the drama, intrigue and danger of the imperial contest that Rudyard Kipling christened "The Great Game."

A quick word of caution: this book isn't really a primer on current events in Afghanistan and the surrounding areas. I mention that because there are some exerts to that effect on the cover of the new paperback and I suspect that angle has been pushed by the publishers to promote sales. Yes, there are some graphic tales of western forces being mutilated by Muslim mobs incited by the harangues of mullahs in Kabul and other now familiar cities, but that is where the potential similarities end. In short, this is a book about nineteenth century imperial competition; Islam in general and Afghanistan in particular are elements of that story, not the focus. It is told primarily from the British perspective and focuses on their century-long cold war with imperial Russia. The borders of their global empires became, in London's opinion, uncomfortable close in the mid-1800s as Moscow's borders expanded inexorably southwards in search of new economic markets and trade routes until they encroached upon the mountain passes to northern India, thus threatening the "crown jewel" of the British Empire. For over a hundred years the British worked to parry this threat, oscillating between a proactive policy of military presence in Persia, Afghanistan and elsewhere (known as "the forward school" and leading to three wars) and the withdrawn, passive defense of India (derisively dubbed "masterly inactivity").

I found two things to be particularly remarkable in this tale. First, it is difficult to underestimate just how little the British and Russians knew about the inhabitants and topography that filled the critical buffer zone between their two great empires. It would be no exaggeration to claim that we know more today about the surface of Mars than British knew about the Pamir region north of Kashmir in the late nineteenth century. Second, most of the leading characters that explored and charted these unknown areas for their respective governments were in their mid-twenties at the time of their heroic missions. Few episodes of international grand strategy and policy have been so directly shaped by the deeds of such young men.

A number of modern historians have dismissed the threat that imperial Russian expansion presented to India, but Hopkirk asserts that the challenge was genuine and the British response reasoned and legitimate. In the process, one can't help but get the impression that after long years of close study, the author has concluded that the "forward school" was the correct one, his specific claims to be non-judgmental notwithstanding.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Good Overview
My brother introduced this book to me 5 years ago, but its size intimidated me, so I put it aside. Big mistake. I finally started reading it and found it completely intriguing. I had NO idea of any of the history of Russian expansionism into Central Asia. Zip. Zilch. It's a tragedy that this topic is not covered in American high school curriculums. Our teachers and professors blathered on about the cold war, but I had no idea of how Russia and the Soviet Union came to be what they were/are in the 20th and 21st centuries. I would have appreciated a better background on Russian and Soviet acquisitions of surrounding territories. This book provides all that and more in a very readable, summary fashion, as a tale told around individual historic figures. Very entertaining and hard to put down.
-pj

5-0 out of 5 stars Filling a gap in world history
This books fills a gap in world history. All have heard of Marco Polo and most of Dgengiz Khan; some might know about the Russian advances towards India into Central Asia and might even place the British defeats in Afghanistan in the mid 1800s in the same context; however, no book could have filled that gap in my knowledge as good the Hopkins' Great Game. Not only interesting, but moreover entertaining. Once caught, it will be impossible to put it down. ... Read more


9. Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines
by Norman Polmar, Kenneth J. Moore
list price: $60.00
our price: $60.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1574885944
Catlog: Book (2003-12-01)
Publisher: Brassey's Inc
Sales Rank: 118692
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Submarines had a vital, if often unheralded, role in the superpower navies during the Cold War. Their crews carried out intelligence-collection operations, sought out and stood ready to destroy opposing submarines, and, from the early 1960s, threatened missile attacks on their adversary’s home-land, providing in many respects the most survivable nuclear deterrent of the Cold War. For both East and West, the modern submarine originated in German U-boat designs obtained at the end of World War II. Although enjoying a similar technology base, by the 1990s the superpowers had created submarine fleets of radically different designs and capabilities. Written in collaboration with the former Soviet submarine design bureaus, Norman Polmar and K. J. Moore authoritatively demonstrate in this landmark study how differing submarine missions, antisubmarine priorities, levels of technical competence, and approaches to submarine design organizations and management caused the divergence. ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars A lok behind the scene
This is an excellent book! Full of detailed references it is the first book on early to modern submarines that gives us a look behind the scene. It explains very well the important role the submarines played during the cold war. We learn how design decisions were made in the U.S. as well as the Soviet Union, how such decisions were implemented, and we learn that rather few personalities played a very decisive role on both sides of the iron curtain. Near the end of the cold war, both, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were struggling with the problem of having to design a new generation of submarines which however started to be excessively expensive to build. Only the very knowledgeable reader may be missing here and there a more detailed account concerning "the design and construction" issues. It is clear that the authors have collected more information on these questions than what they were able to put in a single volume of reasonable size. But then this was probably also not their main goal, and the title of the book is exactly right: this is information about the cold war, on the people who fought this war, their political views and the way these views influenced the construction of the submarines they built to fight this war. Truly interesting.

5-0 out of 5 stars A look behind the scene
This is an excellent book! Full of detailed references it is the first book on early to modern submarines that gives us a look behind the scene. It explains very well the important role the submarines played during the cold war. We learn how design decisions were made in the U.S. as well as the Soviet Union, how such decisions were implemented, and we learn that rather few personalities played a very decisive role on both sides of the iron curtain. Near the end of the cold war, both, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were struggling with the problem of having to design a new generation of submarines which however started to be excessively expensive to build. Only the very knowledgeable reader may be missing here and there a more detailed account concerning "the design and construction" issues. It is clear that the authors have collected more information on these questions than what they were able to put in a single volume of reasonable size. But then this was probably also not their main goal and the title of the book is exactly right: this is information about the cold war, on the people who fought this war, their political views and the way these views influenced the construction of the submarines they built to fight this war. Truly interesting.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding look at submarine technical history
I just received my copy of the long-awaited book "Cold War Submarines: US & Soviet Design & Construction" by Norman Polmar and Kenneth Moore. I found I could not put it down, and it was well worth the wait. The authors spent years interviewing key figures and reading material from both sides of the Cold War. It starts just after the Second World War, and looks at each side's diesel and exotic propulsion plants and designs. Early submarine cruise missile and ballistic missile programs on both sides are detailed. In the section on submerged speed, the US Albacore and Skipjack class are highlighted, as is the early Soviet Papa class and the Alfa class. The book examines each generation of nuclear submarines, both attack and missile firing, on the two sides (US & Soviet). The design decisions and compromises made with each class are detailed. The text is complemented with some excellent photographs. Several but not all of the very good photos are familiar to those of us who have massive sub book collections, but will probably be new to most with "casual" submarine interests. There are newly drawn, superb line drawings of both US and Soviet submarines throughout the book, complete with some (non-classified) details of internal layouts. These drawings include some "might have been" designs. Such long sought after details as the 1960's CONFORM submarine, a truly remarkable design concept are covered, and there is a picture of a model of the submarine (now I can die in peace). This is the innovative Concept Formulation submarine that Rickover had killed in favor of the 688 class. In the process of killing the program, he ordered almost all details and documents on CONFORM destroyed. The book also delves into other fascinating topics on both sides, such mini-subs, special purpose submarines, and an amazing section on aircraft carrier submarines (with some unique line drawings!).

The two "gold standard" books in submarine design history are Friedman's two volume account of US Submarines ("US Submarines through 1945" and "US Submarines since 1945") and Polmar's one volume "Submarines of the Russian and Soviet Navies 1718-1990". This book easily belongs with these other volumes. The overall production is extremely good, printed on glossy paper. On a scale of 1-10, I gave it a 15! (and I'm a harsh grader!) ... Read more


10. A History Of The World In Six Glasses
by Tom Standage
list price: $25.00
our price: $17.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802714471
Catlog: Book (2005-06-01)
Publisher: Walker & Company
Sales Rank: 453
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Book Description

From beer to Coca-Cola, the six drinks that have helped shape human history.
 
Throughout human history. certain drinks have done much more than just quench thirst. As Tom Standage relates with authority and charm, six of them have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of history, becoming the defining drink during a pivotal historical period.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the 21st century through the lens of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Beer was first made in the Fertile Crescent and by 3000 B.C.E. was so important to Mesopotamia and Egypt that it was used to pay wages. In ancient Greece wine became the main export of her vast seaborne trade, helping spread Greek culture abroad. Spirits such as brandy and rum fueled the Age of Exploration, fortifying seamen on long voyages and oiling the pernicious slave trade. Although coffee originated in the Arab world, it stoked revolutionary thought in Europe during the Age of Reason, when coffeehouses became centers of intellectual exchange. And hundreds of years after the Chinese began drinking tea, it became especially popular in Britain, with far-reaching effects on British foreign policy. Finally, though carbonated drinks were invented in 18th-century Europe they became a 20th-century phenomenon, and Coca-Cola in particular is the leading symbol of globalization.

For Tom Standage, each drink is a kind of technology, a catalyst for advancing culture by which he demonstrates the intricate interplay of different civilizations. You may never look at your favorite drink the same way again.
... Read more

11. China Marches West : The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia,
by Peter C. Perdue
list price: $35.00
our price: $23.10
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 067401684X
Catlog: Book (2005-04-30)
Publisher: Belknap Press
Sales Rank: 45075
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Book Description

From about 1600 to 1800, the Qing empire of China expanded to unprecedented size. Through astute diplomacy, economic investment, and a series of ambitious military campaigns into the heart of Central Eurasia, the Manchu rulers defeated the Zunghar Mongols, and brought all of modern Xinjiang and Mongolia under their control, while gaining dominant influence in Tibet. The China we know is a product of these vast conquests.

Peter C. Perdue chronicles this little-known story of China's expansion into the northwestern frontier. Unlike previous Chinese dynasties, the Qing achieved lasting domination over the eastern half of the Eurasian continent. Rulers used forcible repression when faced with resistance, but also aimed to win over subject peoples by peaceful means. They invested heavily in the economic and administrative development of the frontier, promoted trade networks, and adapted ceremonies to the distinct regional cultures.

Perdue thus illuminates how China came to rule Central Eurasia and how it justifies that control, what holds the Chinese nation together, and how its relations with the Islamic world and Mongolia developed. He offers valuable comparisons to other colonial empires and discusses the legacy left by China's frontier expansion. The Beijing government today faces unrest on its frontiers from peoples who reject its autocratic rule. At the same time, China has launched an ambitious development program in its interior that in many ways echoes the old Qing policies.

China Marches West is a tour de force that will fundamentally alter the way we understand Central Eurasia.

... Read more

12. A History of Russia
by Nicholas Valentine Riasanovsky
list price: $61.95
our price: $61.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0195121791
Catlog: Book (1999-10-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 37781
Average Customer Review: 4.12 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Drawing on both primary sources and major interpretive works, the sixth edition of A History of Russia updates its extensive coverage of the social, economic, cultural, political, and military events of Russia's past. It includes a new chapter on the post-Gorbachev era as well as helpful updated bibliographies and reading source lists. Examining the rise of Yeltsin, the nationalities question, and Russia's attempts to adapt to market capitalism, this sixth edition takes the study of Russia straight into the new milennium, continuing the book's nearly forty-year track record as the leader in the field. ... Read more

Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Solid history textbook - 4.5 stars
I couldn't help but address the comments of the reader that gave this work 1 star. It's interesting that he cites the territories annexed by Russia as Chinese / Japanese / etc. Where do you think Japan / China / etc. got those territories? Did he ever stop to think that at one point in time Japan, China, and any other country didn't have statehood, and the latter is always achieved through a painful process of unification by both doplomatic and military means? If same logic of denying a country its legitimacy based on forceful means of expansion is used consistently, then our great country of the USA should also be considered an illegitimate occupant of native American lands. Please let us adhere to commonly accepted methods of historical research and exposition, instead of expressing one's ill attitude toward a country using flawed reasoning.

The book at hand does indeed present a comprehensive coverage of Russian history, albeit in a somewhat dry fashion. Do not expect to finish this book and be left with crisp and colorful images of Russia's history. But what you can expect is a comprehensive coverage of every period of Russian history, complete with dates, names, and places. After a once-over, this book can be used as a reference, or a refresher on a particular timeframe in the history of the country. I am still looking for a more captivating work on Russian history, so anyone knows of any - please recommend.

5-0 out of 5 stars This history is a necessary read
I just read a "one star review" of this book, and it galled me. So I write this.
This book is a STANDARD history of Russia, used by many, including my, college courses on the subject. It is generally considered a classic.
If you want, or profess, to understand Russian history, this book is a must. Absolutely. First rate. NO, not without the author's personal imput.
But what book is without that imput? NONE.
Buy it, read it, and try to understand. Yes, read others, but read this first.
THIS IS THE STANDARD TEXT.
Take care and God bless your endeavors.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Thorough, No-Frills Text
Do not expect gripping dramatic prose from this detailed history. This is an adequate text and reference but not likely suited for the information-seeking, recreational reader. Despite studying international relations for several years, my knowledge of Russian history exhibited glaring weaknesses. Riasanovsky's work continued to appear as I researched texts with which to fortify my deficiencies. All indications show it to be a classic work of Russian history, used in university courses for decades, and perhaps the most detailed one-volume work suited for a general audience. I found "A History of Russia" (Sixth Edition) to be informative, detailed, and faithfully updated (now encapsulating the fall of the Soviet Union and Russia under Yeltsin). Although a solid text, it is a difficult tome to conquer cover-to-cover as it fails to capture the literary senses of the reader.

Riasanovsky takes the reader mechanically through the development of the Russian state. He begins with the geopolitical landscape as it existed prior to the Russians then examines in detail the flowering of Kiev, the appanage system, and the Muscovite, imperialist, revolutionary, and Soviet eras. Riasanovsky's painstaking attention to detail and thorough familiarity with other historiographies provide the reader with a comprehensive evolutionary picture. For example, his illustration of the early appanage system and the continuation of class disparities well into the 20th century shed ample light on the fertile ground into which Vladimir Lenin was able to sow the communist theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. His verbal portraits of leaders such as Ivan the Terrible and Catherine the Great give meaningful context to the power struggles and political imbroglios which characterized specific reigns. The addenda which have accompanied each new edition are less detailed and necessarily superficial. They provide sufficient material to update the reader on Russia's current state of affairs but beg for additional research by the more serious student.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Overview
For those interested in Russia and its past, this is not a bad place to start. It is as comprehensive as a 600 page volume can be. I read the Fourth Edition, so am glad to hear that it has been updated at least to the Gorbochov era. Riasanovsky is particularly adroit at representing early Russian history, with vivid accounts of the numerous invasions (Mongols, Vikings, Tatars, Teutons, etc.). After reading this book, one cannot help but understand the national paranoia and xenophobia that has been so much a part of Russian policy and posture throughout so much of its history. It also becomes clearer why Russia has historically needed a central "father" or "mother" figure to guide it through its tumultuous periods.

As to a reader's criticism, Riasanovsky is indeed somewhat biased, but certainly no more than the typical American historian writing about US History. He gives more than equal blame, for instance, to Nicholas II for getting his country involved in the Crimean War. He certainly never acts as an apologist for any of the Russian rulers at any stage, though his admiration for Peter the Great and Catherine can't be denied.

Poles, Ukranians, Lithuanians, etc. are not going to be won over by this book, but it is to the author's credit that the reader understands why they wont be. But winning anyone's approval is hardly Riasnovsky's object. He's primarily trying to tell the story of a people, and he succeeds on that level, quite brilliantly. The story he tells is complex and fascinating, to say the least. So many colorful and unforgettable characters advanced across Russia's historical stage, that any other country would be hard put to come up with such a cast or a saga.

1-0 out of 5 stars Very biased
Riasanovsky's History of Russia is written from an unapologetically imperialistic and outdated perspective. It belongs to Victorian times when armies traveled overseas to take control of weaker and less well armed territories and peoples. Except that in the Russian case, no overseas risks were taken. Instead, the Russians preferred contiguous conquest of non-Russian territories which were renamed "Russia" as soon as they came under Cossack control. A prime example of this type of conquest is Siberia and "the Russian Far East" which remain the only parts of Asia presently controlled by a non-Asian military power. Even the voracious British did not call India "Britain."

Riasanovsky's book contains countless omissions, inaccuracies, distortions, and plain untruths which together create an image of Russia as a nation state rather than a colonial empire; a benign power that subjugated those in need of tutelage. Nowhere in this book is there a mention of the unspeakable destruction wrought on peoples and territories by the centralized Moscow government which robbed, stole, or burned whatever could not be stolen as soon as it conquered, and left behind a network of spies comparable to those of the Mongol Khans. Nowhere does Riasanovsky explain why and by what means the kingdom of Muscovy conquered territory hundreds of times its size, and then claimed bogus origins in Kiev.

Ask any Chinese, and he will rattle off names of territories taken away by force from their original Asian inhabitants and annexed by Moscow. Ask a Japanese what he thinks of what resembles a robbery in plain view (see Riasanovsky euphemistic description of this robbery which, he says, cost the Russians "considerable casualties, for the Japanese did resist." In her book, Kalpana Sahni tells a terrifying story of what the Russian empire did to the Central Asian and Caucasus peoples. Has anyone ever asked why the fertile territories near the Black Sea were so deprived of human settlements that Chichikov could plan to settle his "dead souls" there? Has anyone read the history of those peoples written from THEIR point of view?

In our own time, the killings and torture of tens of thousands of Chechens (a small nation that still resists Russian aggression) testify to a nearly total absence in Russian culture of resistance to Russia's relentless aggression against those neighbors who are weaker, less numerous, or located in economically advantageous areas.

There is no reflection in Riasanovsky's book on this imperialistic past and present. The story might have been told by Father Christmas: Russia was born, then it grew, and grew, and grew.
This kind of story belongs to imperialism's heyday in the nineteenth century. Only a shortage of histories of Russia written by unbiased scholars makes this extremely biased, not to say propagandistic, volume pass for a good introduction to Russian history for American students. ... Read more


13. Mathematical Circles: Russian Experience (Mathematical World, Vol. 7)
by Dmitri Fomin, Sergey Genkin, Ilia V. Itenberg
list price: $34.00
our price: $34.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0821804308
Catlog: Book (1996-07-01)
Publisher: American Mathematical Society
Sales Rank: 332198
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"This is a sample of rich Russian mathematical culture written by professional mathematicians with great experience in working with high school students ... Problems are on very simple levels, but building to more complex and advanced work ... [contains] solutions to almost all problems; methodological notes for the teacher ... developed for a peculiarly Russian institution (the mathematical circle), but easily adapted to American teachers' needs, both inside and outside the classroom."

--from the Translator's notes

What kind of book is this? It is a book produced by a remarkable cultural circumstance in the former Soviet Union which fostered the creation of groups of students, teachers, and mathematicians called "mathematical circles". The work is predicated on the idea that studying mathematics can generate the same enthusiasm as playing a team sport--without necessarily being competitive.

This book is intended for both students and teachers who love mathematics and want to study its various branches beyond the limits of school curriculum. It is also a book of mathematical recreations and, at the same time, a book containing vast theoretical and problem material in main areas of what authors consider to be "extracurricular mathematics". The book is based on a unique experience gained by several generations of Russian educators and scholars. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars A great book for young students.
I bought this book to help me learn how to solve problems. However, when it arrived, I realised it was destined as a book for 12 to 14 year old students. Still, I gave it a try ( I am 19 years old). The problems are well stated, easy to do, and methodologicaly sound. I found the problems too easy, but my little brother ( 9 years old ) had trouble. It's great for some young students who would like to learn the basics of problem solving.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Russians do Math Right
In sharp contrast to standard US math education, which
is generally a death march from algebra to calculus, this
book suggests a wonderful new way to organize the ideas
of elementary mathematics. The organizational principle
here is around fundamental ideas that underlie
every mathematical proof ever conceived: parity, the
pigeonhole principle, induction, counting (combinatorics),
etc. Each section starts off with easy problems that anyone
can get, and leads you through to more and more challenging
illustrations of that section's principle; the last problems
of each section are often quite sophisticated and rewarding.
Do the problems in this book, and you can't help but just
be smarter for it.

When I was a kid, I was mystified by puzzle problems that I
had no idea how to tackle, and intimidated by kids who could
solve those types of problems. Had this book been available
back then, it would have de-mystified those problems for me,
and I would have acquired the kinds of skills and insights
that make a real mathematician. Whatever your age, if you
are interested in developing your core competencies in math,
I can't think of a better endeavor than to do all the problems
in this book. If I were the US Secretary of Education, I would
make solving all the problems in this book a mandatory
requirement for all math teachers, and all graduating high
school students. Even a partial implementation of such a
policy would make this country mathematically literate in a
way that we can't even conceive of today. It would de-mistify
mathematical "genius" on a global scale. ... Read more


14. Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan
by ROBERT D. KAPLAN
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400030250
Catlog: Book (2001-11)
Publisher: Vintage Books
Sales Rank: 18574
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

First time in paperback, with a new Introduction and final chapter

World affairs expert and intrepid travel journalist Robert D. Kaplan braved the dangers of war-ravaged Afghanistan in the 1980s, living among the mujahidin—the “soldiers of god”—whose unwavering devotion to Islam fueled their mission to oust the formidable Soviet invaders. In Soldiers of God we follow Kaplan’s extraordinary journey and learn how the thwarted Soviet invasion gave rise to the ruthless Taliban and the defining international conflagration of the twenty-first century.

Kaplan returns a decade later and brings to life a lawless frontier. What he reveals is astonishing: teeming refugee camps on the deeply contentious Pakistan-Afghanistan border; a war front that combines primitive fighters with the most technologically advanced weapons known to man; rigorous Islamic indoctrination academies; a land of minefields plagued by drought, fierce tribalism, insurmountable ethnic and religious divisions, an abysmal literacy rate, and legions of war orphans who seek stability in military brotherhood. Traveling alongside Islamic guerrilla fighters, sharing their food, observing their piety in the face of deprivation, and witnessing their determination, Kaplan offers a unique opportunity to increase our understanding of a people and a country that are at the center of world events.
... Read more

Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars An invaluable book
Kaplan, D. Robert, Solders of God (Vintage Books, New York, NY, November 2001). xxi+254. 1 map. Index. ISBN 1-4000-3025-0.
In his own personal account, Robert D. Kaplan, international affairs expert and war-time journalist, chronicles his journey with the mujahidin ' 'holy warriors' - through the forbidden and vicious landscape of Afghanistan. In Solders of God Kaplan attempts to unravel the sheer chaos of Afghanistan through an inter-personal level of analysis, first by gaining access to some of the most important tribal/resistance leaders, and then accompanying them on their Jihad ' or 'holy war' ' against the Soviet Union. Kaplan purposely uses his experience with the mujahidin to help explain the chain of events over the past 30 years which left the door open for the fanaticism of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.
In the 80's 'war-time' reporting was largely focused around the civil war in Lebanon or apartheid in South Africa. Rarely was their a first-hand report from the front lines of Afghanistan, which is what makes Kaplan's accounts of what some journalists call, the 'forgotten war', an invaluable tool in understanding present day international affairs.
During his time with the mujahidin, Kaplan details the lives of these mainly young, devote, and incredibly resistant solders who portray almost superhuman like qualities. As the Sherpas of Nepal have essentially evolved to conquer the highest of altitudes, the mujahidin of Afghanistan have evolved to become some of the world's best guerrilla fighters. Insidious and intolerant as the mujahidin might seem, Kaplan exposes a fissure between the modern day authoritarian Islam of the Arabic world and the more introverted democratic, and egalitarian Islam of the Afghani tribes, specifically the Pathans in the north. Kaplan finds that while they were fanatical, many Afghani Moslems were incredibly tolerant of 'non-believers' and women journalist (who many times felt safest with the mujahidin).
Some of the most shocking pieces of Kaplan's account shows the ferociousness, relentlessness, and brutality of the Soviet invasion. Kaplan describes how the miscalculated and misguided Soviet war of attrition has left the 'footprint' of war on Afghanistan to this very day. Riddled with Soviet landmines, Afghanistan has become a country of amputees, disabling a majority of an already diseased population.
Kaplan's relationship with renowned leaders such as Abdul Haq (Pathan leader; known as the 'Lion of Afghanistan'), Ahmad Shah Massoud (Tajik leader; known as the 'Panshir Lion'), and Hamid Karzi (current Afghan interim leader), allows the reader to better understand the incoherence and complexity of the ethnic and tribal codes that rule Afghani politics.
Because of his intimacy with the Mujahidin, one might criticize Kaplan for romanticizing the bravado and machismo of these Afghan guerrillas. However, rather than romanticize, Kaplan delivers a telling and respectful account of a people and a country 'orphaned by war'.
In Kaplan's final analysis he shifts focus to neighboring Pakistan where the majority of Afghani refugees reside. Combined with past support (financial and political) for the Taliban and a fevering wave of fundamental Islam, seen coming directly from the Saudi sponsored Madrassas (religious schools); an explosive cocktail of factionalism is predicted on the horizon. In a chilling conclusion Kaplan warns of potential Balkanization in Pakistan. However unlike Yugoslavia, Pakistan has a Nuclear Arsenal.

Scott Shadian

5-0 out of 5 stars I hope my Senator has read this book
Kaplan's book should be mandatory reading for every single elected official in the Executive and Legislative branch as well as all of our military leaders. Kaplan's understanding of the forces at play in Afghanistan and Pakistan (which are inextricably linked) is second-to-none. As an Infantry Officer with 6+ months experience in Afghanistan, I can say that reading Kaplan's book gave me great insight into the enemy we are fighting and the relationship that exists between them and their Pakistani neighbors who routinely provide them safe haven outside the reach of the Coalition Forces.
Chock-full of insight that few Westerners have ever been exposed to, Kaplan delivers a phenomenal account of the Mujahideen from the inside-out. I highly recommend this book.

3-0 out of 5 stars The author missed the most important point
Even though Mr. Kaplan goes deeper into the recent Afghan history, he missed the most important point. He does not understand the profound meaning of the life of Ahmad Shah Massoud and the impact of this great leader, with great spirituality and a great vision, in the 23 years of Afghan Resistance. But who does? Very few as always when an important event happens in the world. Good book. Not a great book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting, if biased, account of what was up pre 9/11
As an American living in several parts of the world in which Islam has a strong influence, I have always had a bit of a problem with the mainstream categorization of Islam as a fanatical approach to solving normal human problems.

Kaplan, once again, gets beneath the surface of things to discover that all is not what it seems. As he himself freely admits in the new introduction to this edition, he was somewhat biased by his visceral experiences on the front lines in 1980s Afghanistan, in which he shared life and death with the mujahidin. His square placement of blame on the US for its blind reliance on Pakistan to provide intelligence and diplomacy on the war in Afghanistan is probably a bit short-sighted.

Nevertheless, if anyone has any curiosity about how Bin Laden and his ilk came to find Afghanistan a safe-have, they should read this book. The updated intro and new last chapter are good additions in light of the prescience which lies beneath the surface of the original prose.

5-0 out of 5 stars Superb Account of a Forgotten War
The title of Robert Kaplan's Soldiers of God made me pick this book up and buy it and I was not sure exactly what to expect from it. What I did not expect was a magnificent account of the mujahedeens' long battle against the Soviets, a clearer picture of the geography of Afghanistan, its relationship with Pakistan and the dark years of Soviet invasion.
Kaplan's description and stories about the Mujaheedeen commanders as well as warlords and pro-Soviet leaders of Afghanistan brings the reader into a tumultuous period of the country's past. His proximity and access to some of them makes me feel like I know something about them that readers of newspapers or articles on Afghanistan don't.
His trips into Afghanistan and how he crossed the tough terrain made me marvel. Anecdotes of fellow travellers, photographers, translators, and hosts of the camps where they stopped at pulled me further into this riveting book. Superb work by Kaplan, he shares with us the face of a war that many did not bother to cover. ... Read more


15. City on Fire : The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle
by Bill Minutaglio
list price: $24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060185414
Catlog: Book (2003-01)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Sales Rank: 359074
Average Customer Review: 3.63 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

On a day that dawned with brisk breezes, a clear sky, and perfect temperatures, the small town of Texas City suddenly found itself facing the greatest industrial disaster in the most industrialized nation on the planet. And, in time, the survivors of that all-American city found themselves wondering if their own government had delivered them into this hell on earth.

In 1947, Texas City was experiencing boom times, bristling with chemical and oil plants, built to fuel Europe's seemingly endless appetite for the raw materials needed to rebuild its ruined cities. When an explosion ripped through its docks, the effect was cataclysmic. Thousands of people were wounded or killed, the fire department was decimated, planes were shot out of the sky, and massive ocean-bound freighters disintegrated. The blast knocked people to their knees in Galveston, ten miles away; broke windows in Houston, forty miles away; and rattled a seismograph in Denver, Colorado. Chaos reigned, the military was scrambled, the FBI launched investigations -- and ordinary citizens turned into heroes.

For months on end, the brave residents of what had once been an average American town struggled to restore their families, their homes, their lives. And they also struggled to confront another welling nightmare-the possibility that the tragedy that almost erased their city from existence might have been caused by the very government they thought would protect them.

City on Fire is a painstakingly researched saga of one of the most profound but forgotten disasters in American history. The Texas City Disaster was a searing, apocalyptic event that had an enormous ripple effect for millions of people around the world.

It changed the way Americans respond to disasters and the way people viewed the American government -- the Texas City Disaster opened the door for average Americans to confront their government and its leaders in the nation's courts of law. It was the first time that the United States of America was named as a defendant in a case that, after a series of dizzying twists and turns, would end up in the nation's highest court.

Ultimately, the story of Texas City is a story of courage, humanity, bravery, and a painful quest for justice. It is the story of ordinary Americans behaving in extraordinary ways -- and serving as role models for dignity and grace.

... Read more

Reviews (19)

2-0 out of 5 stars One Flaw Spoils Almost All of It
If you're not interested reading a story that is absolutely factual or at least as factual as someone's research can make it, this book is probably one you want to read. After all, it is a dramatic telling of the cataclysmic explosion in Texas City in 1947.

Yet if you are a fussy reader like me, something is going to bother you about the narrative. It's very simple. In the case of at least one of the major figures of the book, Father Bill Roach, the author puts words in his mouth; tells us what he is thinking; and frequently informs us in detail of his routine actions. This is despite the fact that Father Roach died in the explosion, and unless the author knows the secret of time travel or can speak with the dead, this means there is a large amount of fiction in the book.

To me, this wrecks the credibility of the narrative. The enormous amount of research Mr. Minutaglio did almost becomes moot. He doesn't even give us footnotes, endnotes, or chapter notes, so we can pick out what amounts to pure speculation on his part and ignore it.

His only sop to the readers is italicizing some passages. These he coyly describes as "external and internal dialogue" that he "built" from what is known as fact. In the end, I find myself wondering why he didn't just stick to the facts like most other writers of non-fiction do or simply write a novel about the explosion. He writes very well, and I bet such a book would have sold.

2-0 out of 5 stars Could have been much better
"City on Fire" is a book that had to be written, for it's the shocking true story about the industrial port city of Texas City, Texas, that was devastated by a pair of ammonium nitrate explosions in April 1947. It's an event that was largely forgotten about until Bill Minutaglio's book came along.

That said, "City on Fire" was a disappointment for me. The first third of it dwells on Father Bill Roach, the Catholic priest who crusades for the city's underclass. This is the worst part of the book, for much of it seems utterly made-up. As another reviewer pointed out, there's no way all of this could be factual; how could Minutaglio possibly know what Roach is seeing, thinking and saying? Other characters are treated in similar fashion.

While the book is full of florid characterizations, it has precious little about ammonium nitrate, such as how it is handled, why it is explosive, how it is manufactured and so forth. A map of the city prior to the event would have been helpful, too, as would a diagram of the Grandcamp, the ship that was the first to explode.

Minutaglio writes as if he's writing the screenplay for a low-budget TV movie. Another complaint -- far too much italic type, much of which is put there for no apparent reason.

5-0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for the movie
I recently read in Variety that Tom Cruise might be making a movie of this book so I thought I would check it out. Turns out it's an incredible story -- made even more so by the fact that it really happened and hardly anyone knows about it. Once I started I couldn't put it down. This is one powerful book -- and so visually written. I'll be the first one at the theatre when it comes out as a film....

1-0 out of 5 stars A waste of money
Sometimes a small book about a local tragedy can be a great find -- a good action narrative worth the money. Unfortunately, this book isn't.

I bought this book on the recommendation of a bookstore clerk, who said it hadn't sold well but promised an appealing story. As it turned out, the story is pretty predictable and lacks a writer's skill in the telling. The author deserves credit for attempting to present an ensemble of interesting characters, but mostly they are caricatures. The writing is fairly clunky and the promise of the subtitle -- that the horrific 1947 explosion in Texas City produced a landmark legal ruling -- turns out to be something of an overstatement. The death of 600 people is no small event, but the long-ago events of Texas City have been eclipsed by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

As a regional book, City on Fire might kindle the interest of Texas historians and descendants of those who died in the disaster. But for those who like good active narratives, this one falls short.

A reader Houston, TX

5-0 out of 5 stars Exciting Read
I read a terrific review of this book in The Washington Post a while back and was eager to check it out. Turns out the reviewer was quite right, this book SHOULD be turned into a movie. The Texas City Disaster was a horrific event not caused by nature but by greed, negligence and misguided efforts. In hindsight there was much to be learned from it that was -- for various reasons -- mostly covered over.

Author Bill Minutaglio has taken a complex story and made it visual and energetic. The characters of Father Roach and Curtis Trahan are deeply drawn and riveting, and Minutaglio weaves together the cultural, social and political currents of the time to create a fascinating backdrop.

This one's highly recommended. ... Read more


16. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943
by Antony Beevor
list price: $16.95
our price: $11.53
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140284583
Catlog: Book (1999-05-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 6844
Average Customer Review: 4.23 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This gripping history is the definitive account of the battle that shifted the tide of World War II.

Historians and reviewers worldwide have hailed Antony Beevor's magisterial Stalingrad as the definitive account of World War II's most harrowing battle. In August 1942, Hitler's huge Sixth Army reached the city that bore Stalin's name. In the five month siege that followed, the Russians fought to hold Stalingrad at any cost, then caught their Nazi enemy in an astonishing reversal.

As never before, Stalingrad conveys the experience of soldiers on both sides as they fought in inhuman conditions, and of civilians trapped on an urban battlefield. Antony Beevor has interviewed survivors and discovered completely new material in a wide range of German and Soviet archives, including reports of prisoner interrogations, desertions, and executions. The battle of Stalingrad was the psychological turning point of World War II; as Beevor makes clear, it also changed the face of modern warfare. As a story of cruelty, courage, and human suffering, Stalingrad is unprecedented and unforgettable.
"A fantastic and sobering story . . . fully and authoritatively told." -Richard Bernstein, The New York Times
... Read more

Reviews (197)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Book!
This is, quite simply, one of the finest novels I have ever read. The author chillingly describes the horiffic conditions faced by both the Russians and the 6th Army, and this book occupied my thoughts for weeks afterwards like no other book has ever done. Mr. Beevor is masterful in his description, weaving facts with personal accounts that puts the reader in the trenches. His access to previously closed Russian files on this brutal battle has allowed the author to write the finest story ever on Stalingrad. His story on Winrich Behr (who by the way is still alive today) I have found to be as unforgettable as the rest of the book. He vividly describes how the desperate situation has convinced the top leadership in encircled Stalingrad to fly out Capt. Behr, proud in his black SS Panzer uniform with Knights Cross. Behr is flown to see Hitler, to explain how a breakout from the Kessel must proceed immediately. Behr is warned on how Hitler tries to overwhelm his guests with the "overall" picture, and how his vast knowledge leaves little room for compromise. Behr is prepared when Hitler steps to the map, and shocked when Hitler quits talking and is attentive while Behr further protests the utter hopelessness of fighting on. Field Marshall Keitel, Hitlers sycophantic lackey, angrily shakes his fist at Behr when Hitler looks away, and then Hitler returns to the map, and produces phantom divisions to rescue the trapped 6th Army. It is then when Behr realizes the war is over. The only other book that compares to this in the horrors of battle is "The Forgotten Soldier" the story on a soldier in the Das Reich SS division who sees destrucion and death on the Eastern front, but this autobiography is not nearly as well written. I have read this book twice, and will enjoy it many more times. Superb.

5-0 out of 5 stars Incredibly gripping stuff...
The Battle of Stalingrad is certainly an interesting study. Everything about it is warfare taken to an extreme, from the will of the leaders, to the weather, to the methods of "motivation," make for gripping human drama. Beevor's account, in my opinion, strikes an excellent balance between all of these extremes of human suffering and the actual tactics and movements of the battle.

I thought Beevor did a good job of recounting the suffering of the common soldier without allowing this book to turn into a series of sad stories. The appalling conditions at Stalingrad are certainly one factor which makes the battle such a fascinating subject, but Beevor does not forget that there was a battle fought around Stalingrad with tanks and guns, and that is what ultimately defeated the Germans, not rats and lice. The conditions are kept in context with the greater battle. The reasons for the attrition of the German sixth army and its subsequent encirclement are given at both the tactical and strategic levels, from the viewpoint of both the common soldier and the general staff.

For better or worse, there isn't a lot of mention of the fact that the starving and freezing German army was the same one which had murdered and raped its way through the steppe, nor that the Soviet army would do much the same to the German people when they crossed into Germany. This omission lends a little more human quality to the book, in that these factors aren't considered when the stories of suffering are recounted, and one finds him or herself pitying the combatants probably more than one would otherwise.

The battle for Stalingrad is one of the great stories of life-and-death struggles between nations, and Beevor does it tremendous justice, in my opinion, from the perspective of both the private and the general.

3-0 out of 5 stars The horror permeates the blur of detail
What remains in my mind are the incidental points: German soldiers drowning in latrines, too weak from dysentary to rescue themselves or be rescued by starving comrades. Russians incinerated as they try to flee across the Volga. Mass cruelty mixed with a German clergyman painting a "Fortress Madonna" on the only available paper, the back of a military map. Soviet propagandists blaring "death tango" music across the front. The Russian truce seekers meeting with Germans after Christmas. Those on both sides who desert. Soviet POWs worked to death as human oxen. German letters home from the "kessel." Hitler's gambling with half a million lives and Goebbels' media manipulation. Stalin's NKVD and Hitler's Feldgendarmerie both shooting those terrified to fight. Everywhere, mud, ice, blood.

These poignant and infuriating vignettes rise above the sheer mass of often primary-source material trawled by Beevor. Too often, this army formation goes here and this general goes there, especially in the middle of the narrative, and this weakens the "human" touch which I favor, although to be fair other readers may relish these strategic accounts. I certainly needed the maps to follow the action.

When I was a child, a "Reader's Digest" condensation described Stalingraders eating library paste and boiling leather goods to survive. Surprisingly, the civilian plight gains very little attention; the focus here mixes wide-scale accounts of troop movements with accounts drawn from letters and documents. This is a difficult balancing act to carry off for simplifying a complicated story over a couple of years in four hundred pages, and I commend Beevor's skill while wishing nonetheless that the book was even longer, to allow more space between these two extremes, and more time to relate the dazzling or dreadful individual's story that illuminates the fog of war.

A good companion to his "The Fall of Berlin," and those curious about the punishment batallions of the Soviets, the effect of the loss of the Sixth Army on the Nazi psyche, and the fate of those receiving Russian revenge for Nazi terror will find a logical continuation in his more recent work.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the four best works on Stalingrad ever written
This book by noted writer Antony Beevor joins three others that are essential English language "classics" on Stalingrad. These important books are John Erickson's "The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin's War with Germany" and Joel Hayward's "Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East 1942-1943" and Earl Ziemke and Magna Bauer's "Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East".

Beevor has used all three and produced a work that is the least academic but arguably most exciting of all. He has also used Manfred Kehrig's "Stalingrad: Analyse und Dokumentation einer Schlacht"which is not available in English --- sadly.

Beevor also uses the latest research on the Soviets, including the books by David Glantz. He paid researchers to translate unpublished Soviet documents, which also enrich his text.

The book is clearly an excellent overview of the efforts put into winning at Stalingrad by both sides. As scholars have noted in learned articles, Beevor ignores airpower and only deals sketchily with strategy, but his narrative of the human experience of warfare is more than compensatory.

5-0 out of 5 stars World Class History.
I first read this book during the summer of 1999 and had never heard of the author beforehand. I took to him immediately and experienced considerable difficulty putting Stalingrad down. I usually read three or four books at a time but could not with Stalingrad as it became my sole concern until it was finished. Beevor makes use of outstanding primary source materials and his narrative technique makes one feel as if you have secret access to the innermost recesses of the minds of Chuikov, Paulus, Zhukov, von Manstein, and, of course, Hitler and Stalin. It reminded me of the old PBS documentary,
"Battleground" for the way in which it flowed. Buy it,I guarantee you won't regret it. ... Read more


17. Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis
by Robert F. Kennedy
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393318346
Catlog: Book (1999-11)
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 47003
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The unique, gripping account of the perilous showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union. During the thirteen days in October 1962 when the United States confronted the Soviet Union over its installation of missiles in Cuba, few people shared the behind-the-scenes story as it is told here by the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy. In a clear and simple record, he describes the personalities involved in the crisis, with particular attention to the actions and attitudes of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. He describes the daily, even hourly, exchanges between Russian representatives and American. In firsthand immediacy we see the frightening responsibility of two great nations holding the fate of the world in their hands. ... Read more

Reviews (25)

5-0 out of 5 stars It is only because of great and humble men we are here today
While I was not yet born when RFK and JFK were alive, I would have to say they are two of the greatest men in American history. Robert Kennedy brings his readers closer to a situtation that is almost beyond the scope of the human mind. His account of the Cuban Missile Crisis makes us realize how close we have come to the end and absolutely shows us that it is only because of great men we are here. This book reminds us how close we came to the end and the critical role Jack and Bobby played in bringing us back. I only hope that current and future leaders of the world read this account and understand what they understood...we are all mortal and we all love our children. Those are the things that will save us, Jack and Bobby knew that and it is obvious in this extrodrinary book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Thirteen Days: A Memoir Of The Cuban Missile Crisis
During the thirteen days in October 1962 when the United States confronted the Soviet Union over its installation of missiles in Cuba, few people shared the behind - the - scenes story as it is told here by the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy. In this unique account, he describes each of the participants during the sometimes hour - to - hour negotiations, with particular attention to the actions and views of his brother, President John F. Kennedy.

In a new foreword for this edition, the distinguished historian and Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., discusses the book's enduring importance and the significance of new information about the crisis that has come to light, especially from the Soviet Union.

As a principle figure in resolving the crisis Robert Kennedy brings to it extraordinary authority, with his own insights, perspectives and very important revelations of the decision - making process at the highest level, on the brink of nuclear holocaust.

5-0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile purchase
While this brief account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, written by Robert Kennedy in 1967, can not be called the most thorough recounting of events between October 16 and October 29, 1962, it has two major selling points:

1.) It is a first person account of a critical moment in American foreign relations, told simply yet compellingly by a key participant.
2.) Personal asides, which could only come from the President's brother, add a dimension to the narrative that can not be found even in Schlesinger's "1000 Days."

Something to keep in mind if you buy this book: it's one of the many things Bob Kennedy left unfinished in his life, and it shows. It is an obvious first draft meant to put the highlights of the Crisis on paper. The last two chapters of commentary are a wonderful preview of the backward glance Kennedy intended, but was never allowed, to apply to one of the most dangerous fortnights in world history.

5-0 out of 5 stars very interessing!
rfk tells us about how jfk and him rescued the world, it's exciting.
this is the best book of the cuban missile crisis.
i advise you to read it.
people who don't like it are odd.
Bobby and Jack Kennedy are two of the greatest men in American history.
Highly recommended for them who are ineressing for history, as well as the intentions of one of America's best-loved martyrs.

5-0 out of 5 stars First Draft History
Bobby's first hand account of the Cuban missile crisis was obviously written with an eye toward his 1968 presidential bid. In fact he was assassinated before compelling it, although the complete story is told. Not surprisingly he pays tribute to his mattered brother and if anything downplays his own role. Quite an interesting device, presenting the author as humble as well as battle hardened. The interpretation it presents, with both Khrushchev and JFK portrayed as being eager for a face saving piece is quite familiar (an easy position to take since Khrushchev was out of power and thus not a potential threat). It is other unnamed powers in Russia that are blamed for the hard line position of the USSR. Interesting to note the demand of the Russians that the US remove the missiles in Turkey and Kennedy's claim that his brother had already ordered it and the order was not carried out to a bureaucratic snafu Well written and easy reading, 13 Days is a quickie, a bit of historical candy for junkies. Highly recommended for its insight into the events, as well as the intentions of one of America's best-loved martyrs. ... Read more


18. Russian Impressionism: Paintings, 1870-1970
by Vladimir Kruglov, Vladimir Lenyashin
list price: $60.00
our price: $37.80
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0810967146
Catlog: Book (2000-11-01)
Publisher: Abrams
Sales Rank: 192532
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Perhaps the most beloved art movement of all time, Impressionism had its roots in France but soon inspired artists around the world. This new book documents that explosion in Russia, unveiling canvases that resonate with the pure color, sparkling light, and lively depictions of everyday life that characterize Impressionism at its best.

Chosen from the holdings of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, the works displayed in this handsome volume focus on a chapter in Russia's rich cultural history that has been too long overlooked. Now, the broad range of Russian Impressionism is made abundantly clear in 340 lush colorplates and in illuminating essays. The superb paintings, most rarely or never published before, make this collection an essential addition to any art lover's library.

VLADIMIR KRUGLOV, an art historian and leading curator at the State Russian Museum, has published extensively on the history of Russian art.

VLADIMIR LENYASHIN is currently head of the late 19th- and early 20th-century painting department at the State Russian Museum and is a professor at the Ilya Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture in St. Petersburg.

340 illustrations in full color, 81/2 x 14" ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Move Over Monet!!!!
I was fortunate enough to have purchased this magnificent volume for its original retail price -- but now feel it may be the most priceless item I have ever owned! As a person who loves to paint (notice I don't call myself "artist" or even "painter") I'm inspired to move forward in capturing something -- ANYTHING of what these artists did. Every time I look through this book and its gorgeous plates, I learn something new about color and light and using paint to sculpture a scene. Having been happily saturated with French and American Impressionists (and we still love them!) it is like entering a parallel universe where all is familiar yet new, and somehow more robust than you can imagine. These works are simply luscious. I pray I live long enough to see a major retrospective. Until then -- this book is my bible, my solace and inspiration. If you can afford it -- or find a deal -- I suggest creating a place of honor in your home -- for the Russians have arrived!!

5-0 out of 5 stars Privlikatel'no! Molodyets!
Wonderful! Well-done!

This is about all I can think to say about this book. Superb text and many, many beautiful illustrations. Russian art wasn't even touched on in my American university art history courses, except for a few important 20th century avant-garde artists...explore this little-known world of Russian impressionist painting with this book. I'm happy I paid the retail price, not the prices asked by the used booksellers now that it is out of print. ... Read more


19. Stalin : The Court of the Red Tsar
by Simon Sebag Montefiore
list price: $30.00
our price: $18.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400042305
Catlog: Book (2004-04-13)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 1414
Average Customer Review: 4.37 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars An Excellent and Comprehensive Biography
This is a well-written biography by the British journalist Simon Montefiore covering Stalin's life from 1878 to 1953. Photos on the book cover depict Stalin with his associates (the magnates) but it is mainly about him in the period 1932 to 1945. The author attended Cambridge University and has written one previous historical book "Prince of Princes" plus he has written two novels, and contributed many articles on Russia and those regions of the old USSR to the Sunday Times, the New York Times, and created various other written and TV works. He is very well qualified and does an impressive job examining original Russian sources such as letters and diaries, interviewing survivor's relatives or consulting with scholars, etc. From the book, one must conclude that it must have taken a long period of time to pull all the facts together and write the book - since the book is lengthy - is almost 800 pages long with the introduction, photos, maps, notes, lengthy index, etc. Plus it has many references and comments. In short it is not a quick read.

There are many things that one can say about the story and Stalin but I will try and limit my comments. Needless to say I recommend the book. It holds your attention and in many ways is quite fascinating. In any case, what really brings this book to life are two things, i.e.: the author uses a lot of quotes or accurate summaries from primary sources that are conversations or communications either written or spoken by Stalin or received by Stalin, so we get the feeling that we are back in the USSR on some chilly Moscow night at the Kremlin or on the warm Baltic coast at his dacha listening to the conversations as observers, plus the author inserts four sets of black and white photos that show all the main characters including Stalin's second wife Nadya, different associates (the magnates) such as Beria, and it gives the reader some perspective as one proceeds through the book. Without these photos and good writing I think this would be a much more difficult read for the average person to keep an interest in the book - and to follow while wading through the many pages of Russian names and relationships. So the author has done excellent background research job for the book and then he does a good job at presenting the material to keep our interest. Also there is a certain degree of drama in the book during the loss of Stalin's second wife and the invasion of the USSR by Germany.

In the book the author tells us that he is attempting to provide an accurate and complete biography of the man and his politics, not just the one-dimensional evil genius that is the normal perception of the man. We learn that Stalin enjoys his family life, and endless parties and dinners, hunting trips, billiards, visits by his children, comments by his mother, and his reading from an extensive personal library, singing and dancing, etc. His personal life is not all rosy and you will see that when you read the book. The author reveals these human sides to his complex personality and it works to a point in the book. Also, he gives the reader many details on the war, and the near destruction of Moscow, Stalin living in the subway, meetings with Churchill, Mao, Tito, endless diplomatic and business dinners, drinking binges with many including Churchill, and meetings with his associates to plan the war or the next purge, etc. But in the end it is a story about a ruthless killer that seized control of large country and retains power through the use of a terrifying secret police, bands of armed thugs, mind boggling torture techniques, firing squads, rigged courts, random killings, party purges, killing off of millions of independent farmers and business people, labor camps, and all the mayhem that this entails. But the author for the most part manages to keep the book an interesting read and an educational historical experience.

Overall this is an excellent and well-written book that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the man and European history. I read it cover to cover and enjoyed the book. Also, I read many of the notes and comments. As a follow up I would suggest "Khrushchev" by William Taubman. It is a highly acclaimed best seller. The same author Taubman has written other books on the Soviet Union and Stalin's foreign policy.

Jack in Toronto

3-0 out of 5 stars OK book but not for beginners
Mr. Montefiore certainly worked hard to get this book right and his intimate look at Stalin and his inner circle certainly is worth reading if you are already knowledgable about Stalin and the happenings of the Soviet Union under his rule. THis book goes to a level where we almost know what Stalin had for dinner every night. It spends much time on his relations with his family, friends and comrades. I am sure this will enlighten some.

On the other hand this book is not recommended for non-Stalin scholars. Important external details (like much of WW2) are omitted so it is hard to figure out exactly what is happening at times. The onset of the Cold War is even less well explained, although some events, like the meetings with Churchill and FDR are explained in detail.

I would say the greatest plus of this book is its description of a tyrant going mad, eliminating every person around him who might be a threat and creating new threats out of an overwhelming imagination. I would say the greatest flaw is the picture much of the book draws of Stalin as some sort of intellectual who likes to eat with friends and party with women. WHile this is going on millions are dieing, but hte focus remains on the fete of the evening and not the atrocities.

Finally, while I understand Mr. Montefiore is Jewish, his focus on who is and is not jewish was quite off=putting. If somebody did not tell me he was jewish I would have guessed he was leading to some sweeping anti-semitic conclusions. I was not sure through the whole book why I needed to know who was Jewish and who was not. Maybe in England the word "Jew" is used as an adjective before a name like the Jew, Leon Trotsky, but it is not common in the U.S. and as I just said, it turned me off tremendously.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Most Compelling Book I've Ever Read About Stalin
"Stalin: The Court of The Red Tsar" is simply the most compelling book I've ever read about Stalin, and I've read a few (from Martin Amis to Solzhenitsyn to Robert Tucker to Volkogonov.) Montefiore has the skills of a novelist with narrative drive, smooth prose, and psychological portraiture. He also has ransacked a treasure-trove of freshly available documents like personal correspondence, newly published memoirs, and in-depth interviews with family members of the Soviet elite. The result is the most gripping picture yet of this time and place in world history.

Interestingly enough, the Soviet leaders were like a small town where everyone knew and lived in close proximitity with each other. Add to this the murderous habits of the Bolsheviks and you get something which looks amazingly like "The Sopranos": family men who were also monsters. (I guess David Chase just has great instincts for this kind of material.) There's also a resemblance to "I, Claudius" in the mixture of power, family banality, and horror. For example secret police chief Beria was a loving husband, father and grandfather who also personally tortured, raped, and killed his victims. (Human bones were recently found in the basement of his old mansion, according to Montefiore.)

The author also has a sure grasp on the moral and intellectual issues raised by Stalin's life. He says that the Communists were a fanatical sect and compares them to the "Islamo-fascists" that we face today. He also gives an amazingly rounded portrait of the human side of the dictator and the people around him. We learn about Stalin's mistresses; that the secret policeman Yezov's flighty, doomed wife slept with the great writer Isaac Babel; that Stalin ordered the destruction of his wife Nadya's entire family (including one woman who had an affair with him.) This is an absolutely essential book which you must purchase immediately.

5-0 out of 5 stars At Last, a Stalin Study Free of Cold War Hyperbole!
Montefiore's study of Stalin is truly the first, comprehensive, academic study of Stalin WITHOUT the ubiquitious Cold War rhetoric and moral grandstanding of so many previous English language biographies. Unlike Payne, Ulam, Tucker, and Lacquer, for example, Montefiore provides readers with an exhaustive examination of Stalin and his close associates for what they really were: Human beings who loved, hated, gossiped, told bawdy jokes, back-stabbed, got drunk, went on picnics, struggled with self doubt, cried, worried about their careers, enjoyed singing folk songs, spent long hours at the office, played with their children, endured personal health problems, and grieved for lost family members. This book does NOT focus on geopolitics or diplomacy but rather the million-and-one seemingly day-to-day activities that make up the thing we call Existence. Based on many interviews and newly-opened Russian archives, Montefiore presents a fascinating, lively, and well written study for both the scholar and the general reader. Stalin and all of his lieutenants -- including Molotov, Kagonovitch, Mikoyan, Beria, Zhukov, and dozens of others -- are portrayed not as two-dimensional robots mindlessly spouting-off Marxist-Leninist slogans, but rather as ordinary persons struggling with the mundane pettiness of Life. As a result, this tome leaves nothing sacred, and makes no apology for the horrific crimes committed by the Stalin regime. Nevertheless, because of the everyday banality of these individuals, it only makes the reader think of the hatred and destruction ordinary humans are potentially capable of....

5-0 out of 5 stars Horrifyingly Fascinating Account of Stalin
I must admit that I feel a bit of guilt for the compulsive manner in which I read this highly personal account of life in the court of Stalin. This well-told story is horrible, but fascinating.

Montefiore makes no effort to dissect the big geopolitical issues of the Stalin era, except to use them as a backdrop to the backstabbing, denunciations, groveling, and horror in which the senior leadership of the Soviet Union operated from the early 30s until the early 50s. Using in-depth interviews and newly-available archival information, including much of the correspondence between and among the senior leadership, Montefiore fleshes out what was going on under the surface, in particular the complex love-hate (mostly hate) relationship of Stalin to his court.

It's a wonderful account of a country run by leaders who viewed their role more as mafiosi than as leaders of a legitimate government. In a real sense, they were gangsters and that's the way they ran the country--including the way Stalin required the leadership to all participate in the Great Terror (he wanted all them to have blood on their hands and thus share in the collective guilt).

The author's behind-the-scenes view of the Great Terror is the centerpiece of the book. His portraits of Yeshov and Beria, the two most malignant monsters after Stalin, will now be etched into my memory.

But in the end, the book is a portrait of Stalin, a man who could turn on the charm, perform an act of kindness for an old comrade, then in the next moment sign the death warrants of hundreds of innocent victims. I disagree with other reviewers who criticize the author for treating Stalin too kindly. There's no question where Montefiore stands: he views Stalin was a monster, and Stalin's occasional human touches makes him even more so.

I've had long-term interest in 20th century Russian history, particularly trying to understand how a country could find itself in the hands of the personification of evil. This book helps answer the question.

A final point. Montefiore is an excellent story teller. I don't pretend to be in position to judge all his conclusions, but they have the ring of truth to them, and the author is good about telling the reader when he's departed from evidence into speculation.

I recommend this book. I only wish that in reading it, I lacked the guilty fascination that comes from watching an entire nation turned into a train wreck by a single evil man. ... Read more


20. Memoirs (George F. Kennan Memoirs)
by GEORGE F. KENNAN
list price: $25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0394716248
Catlog: Book (1983-08-12)
Publisher: Pantheon
Sales Rank: 380448
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars A must-read for anyone involved in foreign affairs
In a very different period of time, I have travelled to (or lived in) almost all the places described in these memoirs. Furthermore, I have confronted - a generation or so removed - many similar anecdotes, characters and bureaucratic missteps. This book has a ring of authenticity that is striking. It describes the ordinary and then shifts smoothly to the momentous. I have not found anything else quite like it. (Leigh White's 'The Long Balkan Night' has this similar feature, but it's the story of a journalist).

With all of that said, I was nonetheless struck by Kennan's essential desire to survive by avoiding any personal risk. He was a successful bureaucrat. During his life, he derived his status entirely from his position, or membership in an organization, and not from any personal endeavour.

How many today would naively do as Kennan and, during a whole career, derive status from membership? There are too many other things on offer. And the bureaucracy now is, well, too bureaucratic. Thank God.

1-0 out of 5 stars kennan's filth
His writing lacks coherency and he seems as though he genuinely has no knowledge of the subject, a thoroughly challenging book with no discernable benefit. The conclusion is inadequate and unjust, perhaps he should learn the facts first.

5-0 out of 5 stars Historically Significant and Equally Sensitive - Rare Combo
It is extremely rare that the memoirs of someone who played a truly significant role in his country's history are also beautifully and sensitively written. They candidly reveal the shy and introspective man who also happen to have been a critical player in the U.S. relationship with the Soviet Union from the 1940s through the 1980s (from the late 1920s thorugh the 1950s in his governmental role and as historian and critic since then). Kennan is candid, brilliant, critical, and happens to have a wonderful writing style. This is personal history at its best. If you've read this one (which won the Pulitzer Prize), be sure to read the sequel.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Life, a Penetrating Look
"Experience had convinced us that far more could be learned by careful, scholarly analysis of information legitimately available concerning any great nation than by the fanciest arrangements of clandestine intelligence."(p48)

"In the face of this knowledge, [of the inevitable Russion domination of Poland] I could only feel that there was something frivolous about our whole action in this Polish question. I reflected on the lightheartedness with which great powers offer advice to smaller ones in matters affecting the vital interests of the latter. I was sorry to find myself, for the moment, a part of this. And I wished that instead of mumbling words of official optimism we had had the judgment and the good taste to bow our heads in silence before the tragedy of a people who have been our allies, whom we have helped to save from our enemies, and whom we cannot save from our friends."(pp209/10)

"The strength of the Kremlin lies largely in the fact that it knows how to wait. But the strength of the Russian people lies in the fact that they know how to wait longer."(p511)

[On the German war crime trials] "I have already mentioned my aversion to our proceeding jointly with the Russians in matters of this nature. I should not like to be misunderstood on this subject. The crimes of the Nazi leaders were immeasurable. These men had placed themselves in a position where a further personal existence on this earth could have had no positive meaning for them or for anyone else. I personally considered that it would have been best if the Allied commanders had had standing instructions that if any of these men fell into the hands of Allied forces they should, once their identity had been established beyond doubt, be executed forthwith.

"But to hold these Nazi leader for public trial was another matter. This procedure could not expiate or undo the crimes they had committed. It could have been justified only as a means for conveying to the world public the repudiation, by the conscience of those peoples and governments conducting the trial, of mass crimes of every sort. To admit to such a procedure a Soviet judge as the representative of a regime which had on its conscience not only the vast cruelties of the Russian Revolution,of collectivization, and of the Russian purges of the 1930s, as well as the manifold brutalities and atrocities perpetrated against the Poles and the peoples of the Baltic countries during the wartime period, was to make a mockery of the only purpose the trials could conceivably serve, and to assume, by association, a share of the responsibility for these Stalinist crimes themselves."(pp260/1)

This is a great book. It shows the progress of a fine mind possessed of a practical scholarship and a moral voice in what were often excrutiatingly ambiguous circumstances.

Kennan was in Moscow in 1935 when Stalin began the purges; he was in Prague in 1938 when Germany invaded the Sudetenland; he was in Berlin when Germany declared war on the U.S.; he was the chief architect of the Marshall plan. Of course, he is associated with our Cold War policy of "containment" of the Soviet Union, an association that he regrets, since very little of it reflects his thinking. The book is a fascinating look at modern power politics from a bemused, but acute, inside observer. ... Read more


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