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We Shall Be Masters

Russian Pivots to East Asia from Peter the Great to Putin

Chris Miller



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Harvard Uni.Press Academi
08 June 2021
An illuminating account of Russia's attempts-and failures-to achieve great power status in Asia.

Since Peter the Great, Russian leaders have been lured by opportunity to the East. Under the tsars, Russians colonized Alaska, California, and Hawaii. The Trans-Siberian Railway linked Moscow to Vladivostok. And Stalin looked to Asia as a sphere of influence, hospitable to the spread of Soviet Communism. In Asia and the Pacific lay territory, markets, security, and glory.

But all these expansionist dreams amounted to little. In We Shall Be Masters, Chris Miller explores why, arguing that Russia's ambitions have repeatedly outstripped its capacity. With the core of the nation concentrated thousands of miles away in the European borderlands, Russia's would-be pioneers have always struggled to project power into Asia and to maintain public and elite interest in their far-flung pursuits. Even when the wider population professed faith in Asia's promise, few Russians were willing to pay the steep price. Among leaders, too, dreams of empire have always been tempered by fears of cost. Most of Russia's pivots to Asia have therefore been halfhearted and fleeting.

Today the Kremlin talks up the importance of strategic partnership with Xi Jinping's China, and Vladimir Putin's government is at pains to emphasize Russian activities across Eurasia. But while distance is covered with relative ease in the age of air travel and digital communication, the East remains far off in the ways that matter most. Miller finds that Russia's Asian dreams are still restrained by the country's firm rooting in Europe.
Imprint:   Harvard Uni.Press Academi
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm,  Spine: 15mm
Weight:   666g
ISBN:   9780674916449
ISBN 10:   0674916441
Pages:   384
Publication Date:  
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Chris Miller is author of Putinomics: Power and Money in Resurgent Russia and The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy. An Assistant Professor of International History at Tufts University, he writes for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy.

Reviews for We Shall Be Masters: Russian Pivots to East Asia from Peter the Great to Putin

In a panoramic account of three hundred years of Russian history, Miller presents a Russia little known in the West: a Eurasian power that treats its eastern calling as seriously as it does its western one. Exceptionally well written and argued, We Shall Be Masters helps us understand Russia on its own terms and offers historical insight into the future of its relations with China, its main rival and occasional ally in the region and the world.--Serhii Plokhy, author of Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis Few historians have probed as deeply into the complex history of Russia's imperial engagements in East Asia as Miller has done here. He weaves a subtle theme through a sweep of events, as Russian tsars, officials, diplomats, and explorers are lured east in various 'spasms of enthusiasm, ' only for these various pivots to peter out owing to military failure, excessive cost, or simple exhaustion. A supple, well-written, and important work.--Sean McMeekin, author of Stalin's War: A New History of World War II A sweeping overview of Russia's long-running pattern of aspiring to yet often falling short of securing lasting influence over Asian affairs. Engaging and impressively researched, Miller's book offers an insightful historical perspective on contemporary Russian-Asian relations.--Willard Sunderland, author of The Baron's Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution

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