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Russia in 1913
“Dowler does a great service to the profession with his assessment and compilation of relevant historiographic trends and arguments that often challenge the traditional narrative . . . The volume provides a solid overview of the various elements of pre-war Russian society, emphasizing cohesion and cooperation over revolution and providing a sense of the complexity of Imperial Russia on the eve of its transformation.” —Canadian-American Slavic Studies
"A stimulating synthesis of a wide range of material pertaining to Russia on the eve of World War I. Uses newspaper reportage of events and incidents in 1913, not only to add the flavor of the times, but also to give evidence of the complexity of the country, a complexity that many conventional generalizations ignore.”—Joseph Bradley, University of Tulsa
"Superbly crafted and magisterial. Dowler’s challenging of the myths of Russia’s economic and social backwardness, its peasantry’s savagery and brutality, and a homogeneous state in opposition to society at large is empirically and historiographically based. So much happened in 1913 that it is surprising that no historian before Dowler thought to do such a study!”—Christine Worobec, author of Possessed: Women, Witches, and Demons in Imperial Russia
A pivotal year in the history of the Russian Empire, 1913 marks the tercentennial celebration of the Romanov Dynasty, the infamous anti-Semitic Beilis Trial, Russia’s first celebration of International Women’s Day, the ministerial boycott of the Duma, and the amnestying of numerous prisoners and political exiles, among many other important events. A vibrant public sphere existed in Russia’s last full year of peace before war and revolution, evidenced by a host of voluntary associations, a lively and relatively free press, the rise of progressive municipal governments, the growth of legal consciousness, the advance of market relations and new concepts of property tenure in the countryside, and the spread of literacy.
Relations both within and among social groups in Russia were by 1913 more nuanced and less polarized than is often thought. Dowler’s authoritative work captures the complexity of the economy and society in the brief period between the revolution of 1905 and the outbreak of war in 1914 and shows how the widely accepted narrative about pre-war late Imperial Russia has failed in significant ways. Examining the trends of development in the years before World War I, Dowler succeeds in demonstrating that Russia was not polarized to the extent that is often thought and was not necessarily on a path that would inevitably end in a socialist revolution.
Presenting a unique synthesis of the scholarship on late imperial Russia, Dowler also uses reportage from two major newspapers to create a vivid impression of the times. This lively account weaves together the separate strands of political, economic, social, and cultural history to create a fascinating narrative that will appeal both to Russian studies scholars and to serious readers of history.
Wayne Dowler is an intellectual and cultural historian of Imperial Russia and is Professor in the Department of Humanities (History) at the University of Toronto Scarborough.
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