A Short History of Russia

Can anyone truly understand Russia? Let one of the world’s leading experts show you how, using the fascinating history of a nation to illuminate its future.

Russia is a country with no natural borders, no single culture, no true central identity. At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it is everyone’s ‘other’. And yet it is one of the most powerful nations on earth, a master game-player on the global stage with a rich history of war and peace, poets and revolutionaries.

In this essential whistle-stop tour of the world’s most misunderstood nation, Mark Galeotti takes us behind the myths to the heart of the Russian story: from the formation of a nation to its early legends – including Ivan the Terrible and Catherine the Great – to the rise and fall of the Romanovs, the Russian Revolution, the Cold War, Chernobyl and the end of the Soviet Union – plus the arrival of an obscure politician named Vladimir Putin.



“Russia is little harder to understand than anywhere else. But you need to separate the facts from the myths, as Mark Galeotti does in A Short History of Russia, an informative, perceptive and exhilarating canter through 1,000 tumultuous years.” – Rodric Braithwaite in the Spectator.

“Galeotti’s book is a fantastic read. It is insightful and leaves the reader wanting more in the best of ways. The Russia that comes out of A Short History is vastly more complex and vastly more interesting than the over-simplistic Russia portrayed in the media and that which is often presented to westerners.” – Joshua Huminski in the Diplomatic Courier.

Highly recommended, even if you are no novice when it comes to Russian history. Mark sets the golden standard for engaging prose, too.” – Dimitar Bechev, Fellow of the Atlantic Council Europe Centre

“Experts may balk at Galeotti’s self-acknowledged “broad brush”…, but he often finds clarity through concision and down-to-earth prose. This is an accessible and illuminating summary of how modern Russia came to be.”  – Publishers’ Weekly

“Just finished this glorious, short book by @MarkGaleotti on Russia as a palimpsest, and the use & mis-use of history, myths & geography to legitimise Russian rulers and their rules. From Ryurik to Dmitry Donskoi, Ivan, Peter, Catherine, Joseph, Mikhail & Vladimir. What a treat!” – Rem Koreteweg, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute

“That is why a book like this is necessary. It divides truth from probable fiction while still explaining why the fiction was originally seen as necessary. It explains … how Russia invented itself… in this short history, Galeotti balances depth with breadth” – Jason Park in Medium

“…skilled Russia analyst Mark Galeotti focuses less on unpacking the thematic cycles of Russian history than on packing in an overview of its leaders. And he crams it all into 216 pages—particularly useful for those seeking to dip their toe into Russian political history.” – Theodore Bunzel in Airmail

“If you want a survey of Russian history from alpha to omega, then Galeotti’s is the obvious choice. Its style is also the lightest, making it probably the easiest and most enjoyable read” – Paul Robinson, in Irrusionality.

“[A]n intriguing book … . The Russia expert takes you through the history of Putin’s domain. How he can draw an accessible line in 224 pages between heroes like Vladimir the Great to the Cold War and the rise of Vladimir Putin is impressive. Many such history books get lost in the details, resulting in bulky Bibles. Galeotti excels in keeping his book accessible and small, an achievement of considerable size. Mandatory food for every news junkie.” – Manners magazine [in Dutch, of the Dutch edition]

Fascinating… Galeotti [is] one of the most astute political commentators on Putin and modern Russia… The strengths of Galeotti’s relatively short book lie in the way that he sees patterns in Russian history without overdrawing parallels between distant times and the present day.” – Tony Barber in the Financial Times

Describing the history of such a large country in more than 200 pages is an art. Galeotti understands that art.” – Evert van Vlastuin in Reformatorisch Dagblad [in Dutch, of the Dutch edition]

Delightfully short, but still amazingly helpful” – Greg Satell in Medium

An essential title to understand that extremely complex nation that today is on everyone’s lips and about which almost nobody knows anything… Galeotti knows his stuff about Russia and that he is also a wonderful popularizer, as well as a rigorous one.” – Eduardo Alminana in CulturPlaza [in Spanish, of the Spanish edition]

“All in all, this is a wonderful and easy-to-read book that will enrich our historical knowledge in the most enjoyable way.” – Lefki Sarantinou in Paratiritis [in Greek, of the Greek edition]

Absolutely astounding in its accessibility & organization & further reading suggestions. If you’re looking to strengthen your Russian history knowledge—or just begin to develop it—Mark Galeotti is the scholar to begin with. He is the perfect Virgil through this complex land.” – Gavin Woltjer, Library Director at Billings Public Library

Articles and Interview

A Short History of Russia took the “Page 99 Test” courtesy of the Campaign for the American Reader

I was interviewed about the book and “The Entire History of Russia in One Hour” for the Angry Planet podcast

Foreign Editions

These are the translated editions agreed so far and the respective publishers. I don’t yet know when any will come out. If you’re a publisher and interested, do get in touch with the Penguin Random House rights team!

Bulgarian: Ciela

Chinese (complex characters): Wu-Nan [released]

Czech: Leda [released]

Dutch: Prometheus [released]

Estonian: Eesti Raamat [released]

French: Flammarion [released]

German: Ullstein Buchverlage GmbH [released]

Greek: Patakis [released]

Korean: Miraebook Publishing

Lithuanian: Briedis [released]

Norwegian: Vega Forlag [released]

Romanian: Humanitas [released]

Slovak: Ikar [released]

Spanish: Capitán Swing [released]

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