Keir Giles
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
Russia and Russian State behaviour tends to puzzle observers in the West, be they policy makers, academics or the general populace. This book lucidly explains the reasons behind both this behaviour and the consequent befuddlement; as well as offering a way forward in dealing with Moscow. It is a concise, accessible, well written and structured exposé of what I like to call the “Muscovite Mindset”. Although ostensibly an academic publication, the style and prose easily lends itself to the average layman with an interest in the subject.

We are predisposed to assess people (and peoples) by our own standards. This is even more so, when such people resemble us and are our neighbours. The author explains why this is a fundamental error in judgement in relation to Russia. He shows us just how much Russian thought processes and viewpoints differ from ours; why they do so and what should be done to avoid mutual misunderstanding.

It has been recent accepted wisdom by many in the West that the Russians are just like us, but have been cruelly deviated by the excesses of a Communist dictatorship and that the fall of this regime was supposed to enable Russia to rejoin “the geopolitical mainstream”. This is not so, the Russian historical experience is substantially different from that of the rest of Europe and it has influenced the development of its view of the world to diverge considerably from what we regard as “normal”.

Russia has shown a steady continuity of internal and external political behaviour since the development of the early Muscovite State under the tutelage of the Mongol Horde, which then aggressively expanded into the Tsardom of all the Russias by devouring the other Russian principalities. The USSR continued and extended well-established Tsarist methods of internal control and external relations as does its current successor state. Nomenclature may change, but the mental processes underpinning the organisation of the state, the relationship of the ruled to the rulers and the view of the outside world from the Kremlin have essentially remained the same.

Despite any international laws, the “Muscovite Mindset” is still prevalent. A belief that there is a constant state of conflict between Russia and other nations. So because (as it believes) Russia is constantly under attack, it must defend itself and is thus entitled to use any method that it assesses it can gain by. This mindset also predisposes that it is a rational and naturally prevalent state of thought and that any entity which does not apply such policies will be consumed by those who do. It is a “dog eat dog” world and Moscow will do anything to come out as “top dog”.

This book is a great introduction to understanding the mentality of Russia and is highly recommended to all those who have any sort of dealings with Russia and the Russians.

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