Russian Conservatism and Its Critics


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A Study in Political Culture

Richard Pipes

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Why have Russians chosen unlimited autocracy throughout their history? Why is democracy unable to flourish in Russia??

Russian Conservatism and Its Critics provides the first account of Russia’s immemorial commitment to the theory and practice of autocracy, the most formative and powerful idea in Russia’s political history. Richard Pipes considers why Russian thinkers, statesmen, and publicists have historically always argued that Russia could prosper only under an autocratic regime. Beginning with an insightful study of the origins of Russian statehood in the Middle Ages, when the state grew out of the princely domain but was not distinguished from it, Russian Conservatism and Its Critics includes a masterful survey of Russia’s major conservative thinkers and demonstrates how conservatism is the dominant intellectual legacy of Russia. Pipes examines the geographical, historical, political, military, and social realities of the Russian empire—fundamentally unchanged by the Revolution of 1917—that have traditionally convinced its rulers and opinion leaders that decentralizing political authority would inevitably result in the country’s disintegration. Pipes has written a brilliant thesis and analysis of a hitherto overlooked aspect of the Russian intellectual tradition that continues to have significance to this day.

Richard Pipes is Baird Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University.  

"This is a major contribution not only to our understanding of Russian history but to the forces that are shaping Russian political culture today."—Michael J. Bonafield, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Richard Pipes’s valuable book, besides being a sweeping and learned historical survey, may help us to understand better some of the unhappy anomalies of post-Gorbachev Russia.”—Joseph Frank, New Republic



"This is a very topical read. Tracing back to the foundations of Russia's paternalistic, autocratic state, Pipes sets out a concise and thorough treatise that offers plenty of food for thought on contemporary events."—Russian Life

“[Pipes’s] insightful study reminds us that Russian intellectual history is by no means merely a playground for left-wingers.” - John Keep, Times Literary Supplement

"An important contribution to the historical literature that also sheds light on current problems. The slim volume provides much more than it title suggests, presenting the social and institutional context for an important facet of Russian political thought while summarizing Pipes broader interpretation of Russian history."—William Anthony Hay, University Bookman

“Professor Richard Pipes [is] the world-famous authority on Russian history, [and this is] his latest masterpiece… This short book is not only flawlessly written, but it is full of penetrating insights and brilliant analysis. It will be a standard work for future generations.” - Daniel Salbstein, East-West Review

"Pipe's concise treatment of the ideas of the individuals he does mention is well done."—Walter G. Moss, The Russian Review

"Worth reading for the author's trademark erudition, clarity of mind, and forcefulness."—G.M. Hamburg, American Historical Review

"A valuable survey of five hundred years of Russian ideas and five hundred years of Russian hopes for authority."—Adrian Jones, The Historian

"This book fills a blank space in the English language literature on Russia, and it is also a summation of Pipes's own views on the course of Russian history."—Professor Marc Raeff, Columbia University, Emeritus

“This taut, elegant essay, compresses five centuries of ‘conservative ideology’ into a deft portrait of adherents.”

"...a disturbing lesson in the ineradicable nature of tyranny." - Donald Rayfield, Literary Review

'...Pipes has done us a service...' - Philip Longworth, The Spectator

“Pipes operates within a liberal interpretive framework [which] is in fact one of his strengths. It means that he clearly has something to say, and it gives him a way of integrating a large body of material.” - Philip Boobbyer, Reviews in History

Selected as a Foreign Affairs Best Book about Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Republics for September 2006
ISBN: 9780300122695
Publication Date: June 28, 2007
240 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4

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