The Volga A History Janet M. Hartley

Publication date:
12 Jan 2021
Yale University Press
400 pages: 235 x 156mm
22 color illus. + 10 maps
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A rich and fascinating exploration of the Volga—the first to fully reveal its vital place in Russian history

“A memorable journey into the heart of Russian social, political, and cultural history.”—Jennifer Eremeeva, Moscow Times

“'Without the Volga, there would be no Russia.' The final words of Janet Hartley's book sound sweeping. But its 400 pages make the case powerfully.”—The Economist

The longest river in Europe, the Volga stretches over three and a half thousand km from the heart of Russia to the Caspian Sea, separating west from east. The river has played a crucial role in the history of the peoples who are now a part of the Russian Federation—and has united and divided the land through which it flows.
Janet Hartley explores the history of Russia through the Volga from the seventh century to the present day. She looks at it as an artery for trade and as a testing ground for the Russian Empire’s control of the borderlands, at how it featured in Russian literature and art, and how it was crucial for the outcome of the Second World War at Stalingrad. This vibrant account unearths what life on the river was really like, telling the story of its diverse people and its vital place in Russian history.

Janet M. Hartley is emeritus professor of international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science and author of Siberia: A History of the People.

“Meticulously researched and sympathetically written...Without the Volga, there would be no Russia. The final words of Janet Hartley's book sound sweeping. But its 400 pages make the case powerfully.”—The Economist

“Well-researched and accessible to general readers...Hartley has a good eye for the significant detail.”—Tony Barber, Financial Times ‘Best Books of the Week’

“A vivid, human-centered story of the great river standing at a crossroad of peoples and cultures...Hartley’s voyage along the serpentine river is magical and full of charm.”—Farah Abdessamad, Asian Review of Books

“Hartley does an excellent job of highlighting the many ethnic and religious groups that have lived in the shadows of Russia’s greatest river [and] creates a vivid picture of this region throughout history, and the powerful river that has shaped so many lives.”—Kit Gillet, Geographical ‘Book of the Month’

“This is a work of masterful condensation, commanding storytelling and an invitation to marvel at the 'gloomy grandeur' of one of the Earth's oldest residents.”—Matthew Janney, Spectator

“Hartley treats the reader to captivating stories of conflict, conversion, trade, famine, migration and myth [and] convincingly shows that any understanding of Russian history requires an understanding of the Volga.”—Andy Bruno, History Today

“A lucid and well-researched book”—Anna Reid, Literary Review

"With clarity and commanding breadth of vision, Hartley chronicles the life of a great river through times of shocking violence and times of tranquillity.”—Rachel Polonsky, author of Molotov’s Magic Lantern

“Taking a majestic sweep through centuries of turbulent history, Hartley traces in vivid detail the significance of a river that has served Russia’s multi-ethnic population as economic lifeline, strategic battleground and symbol of freedom.” —Simon Dixon, author of Catherine the Great

"An impeccably documented and comprehensive history of the Volga region. It pays special attention to the ecological features of the region’s territories, and to the economic, ethnic, religious and cultural characteristics of its peoples.” —Geoffrey Hosking, Russia and the Russians

“Engrossing. In lively prose Hartley tracks the not-always-easy imprint of Russian power on the peoples and environments of this vast river as it snakes through parts of the world little known to an English-speaking audience.” —Valerie A. Kivelson, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor