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Response to Review no. 890

Let me begin by thanking Geoffrey Hosking for his fair-minded, indeed, generous, review of A Companion to Russian History. Let me in addition respond briefly to his comments, none of which, in my opinion, is really wide of the mark. First of all, Hosking is quite right that I gave the contributors a great deal of latitude to write what they wished to write on the broad themes I gave them. Such consistency of interpretation as I can muster resides in the scholars I chose. Having selected them, it seemed wise to me to give them their heads, within very wide limits. It may be that Hosking slightly exaggerates the methodological differences between the wide-ranging and the merely conscientious. At different moments he seems to place the late Richard Hellie in both camps.

He is certainly correct to point out two of the volume’s significant lacunae: the absence of an essay on Russia’s military history and tradition and the absence of a thorough treatment of Soviet nationality policy. On the former, I can only plead that my cultural orientation (Hosking omits mention of either my general inclination toward cultural subjects or Ilia Dorontchenkov’s substantial essay on Russian art, which is an important stand on it) led me to make other choices for essay topics. I agree that the gap is obvious, if not actually yawning. On the matter of Soviet nationality policy I did commission an essay, which in the end I was unable to bring to the barn.

Professor Hosking is one of the very few notable generalists among the top Russianists of his generation and he has a long view of his subject, which makes him an ideal reviewer for this volume, which largely occupied me for several years as a substitution for a single-authored account which I initially attempted to write.