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In many ways Russia is the touchstone of the twentieth century. Most of the main features of our troubled age have impinged on it more heavily than any other single country.
The war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia remains a subject of great fascination. The campaign clearly had a vital effect on the outcome of the Second World War as a whole. It was an historical drama with unpredictable turning points. And it was fought on an vast scale and with a correspondingly vast scale of casualties.
Russian historiography has been richly endowed with numerous topics of enduring interest such as the founding of the Kievan Russian State in the ninth century and its later demise, the Mongol conquest in 1236-40 and its consequences, the rise of the Muscovite state between 1300 and 1514, serfdom, Ivan the Terrible and his Oprichnina, Peter the Great and Westernization, the revolutions of 1
In the last twenty years or so there have been great transformations in the historiography of modern South Asia. It would not be too crude an exaggeration to say that no western historian of much intellectual ambition engaged with the subject from James Mill in the early nineteenth century until after the second world war, while Indian historians were little known outside the subcontinent.
Eric Hobsbawm has recently raised the question ‘Can wewrite the history of the Russian revolution?’. Coming from someone who has written a history of the twentieth century, of which the Russian revolution comprises a rather distant component, the question is somewhat unexpected.
Admiral Eduard Baltin, wrestling in mid-1997 with the consequences of the division of the ex-Soviet navy between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, took a moment to reflect on the creator of the imperial Russian Black Sea fleet: "a loose woman and non-Russian, Empress Catherine the Great was a greater Russian patriot than today's rulers of Russia.