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The Return of the Russian Leviathan

Hardback By Sergei Medvedev
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Winner of the 2020 Pushkin House Book Prize

Russia’s relationship with its neighbours and with the West has worsened dramatically in recent years. Under Vladimir Putin's leadership, the country has annexed Crimea, begun a war in Eastern Ukraine, used chemical weapons on the streets of the UK and created an army of Internet trolls to meddle in the US presidential elections. How should we understand this apparent relapse into aggressive imperialism and militarism?

In this book, Sergei Medvedev argues that this new wave of Russian nationalism is the result of mentalities that have long been embedded within the Russian psyche. Whereas in the West, the turbulent social changes of the 1960s and a rising awareness of the legacy of colonialism have modernized attitudes, Russia has been stymied by an enduring sense of superiority over its neighbours alongside a painful nostalgia for empire. It is this infantilized and irrational worldview that Putin and others have exploited, as seen most clearly in Russia’s recent foreign policy decisions, including the annexation of Crimea.

This sharp and insightful book, full of irony and humour, shows how the archaic forces of imperial revanchism have been brought back to life, shaking Russian society and threatening the outside world. It will be of great interest to anyone trying to understand the forces shaping Russian politics and society today.

Product Details

Format: Hardback, 250 pages Language: English
Dimension: 22.61cm x 15.24cm x 2.54cm ISBN10: 1509536043
Weight: 567g ISBN13: 9781509536047
Publication Date: 01 Nov 2019 Publisher: Polity Press

About Author

Sergei Medvedev is Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.


Product Reviews


‘This is the best treatise on contemporary Russia since John Reed’s pamphlet that shook the world one hundred years ago. Moving from the endangered Arctic to the occupied Crimea and from the politics of the body to memory wars, Medvedev reveals a political machine based on vanity, manipulation and fear of its own people. Broad-ranging in scope and mind-blowing in details, this book is a must for everyone who is concerned about Russia’s present and future.

’Alexander Etkind, author of Internal Colonization: Russia’s Imperial Experience‘Is Putin’s regime a Russian peculiarity or is it simply the Russian version of a global trend? Was it inevitable or was it accidental? If you are worried by these questions, read this passionately analytical book.

’Ivan Krastev, Chairman, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia‘While there are many books about President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, there are few that nail its realities with the same combination of academic precision, acerbic wit and anger as this. Well-researched analysis might be expected of a professor of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, but not necessarily the humour and passion that run through the striking work.

’The Financial Times‘Medvedev's portrait of Russia is brilliant, wry and minutely observed -- and, like its title, often bitterly ironic.

’Times Literary Supplement‘acerbic and splendidly argumentative.


. dazzling.

’New Internationalist"As a portrait of the cultural moment and debunking of the Kremlin’s talking points, [this] book is brilliant."Los Angeles Review of Books"A more astute, knowledgeable and eloquent guide is hard to imagine. Steeped in Russian culture and history, Mr. Medvedev is witty and sardonic in the laughter-through-tears (smekh skvoz slyozy) tradition of Russian literature. He draws on political sociology, linguistics and social psychology, yet his prose, even in translation, is sparkling."The Wall Street Journal"Professor Medvedev’s analyses will interest scholars of Russia, comparativists and international relations scholars, policy specialists, and laypersons."Terrorism and Political Violence“This book provides an explicit and composite picture of a society; the mindset of the leaders and the led; and an intimation of the future for the nation, should its governance continue its present path.”The Naval Review"[A]n illuminating and at times brilliant series of short essays on different aspects on Russian life."PRISM“a tour de force that leaves the reader open-mouthed at its sweep”Rights in Russia"darkly absorbing"The Tangential"a fascinating


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