Distant friends : the United States and Russia, 1763-1867 /
Norman E. Saul.
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, c1991.
xvi, 448 p. : ill., ports.; 24 cm.
0700604383 (alk. paper)
More Details
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, c1991.
0700604383 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 407-430) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1991-11:
Saul (University of Kansas) has written the first of three volumes on the history of US-Russian relations. Promising a "comprehensive treatment that is both monographic and synthetic," he comes close to that goal. The book begins with the arrival of the first "American" vessel at Kronstadt in 1863 and ends with the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia. Saul uses an array of European, American, and Russian archival materials and primary and secondary sources. He does not simply rework the diplomatic history made so familiar by the works of George F. Kennan and others. Instead, he adds depth and perspective by touching on areas not usually included in histories of US-Russian relations: Russia in the American mind; their common Enlightenment; and their early contact and relations in the Pacific, to name a few. This is a monograph that young historians of both countries should read and is a promising harbinger of the subsequent volumes. College and university libraries.-G. E. Snow, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
This item was reviewed in:
University Press Book News, September 1991
Choice, November 1991
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Main Description
We began as friends. Then followed nearly a century of suspicion and hostility. Now, thanks to glasnost and a thaw in the Cold War, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union have nearly come full circle--were almost friends again. In the initial volume of a three-volume series, historian Norman Saul presents the first comprehensive survey of early Russian-American relations by an American scholar. Drawing upon secondary and documentary publications as well as archival materials from the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain, he reveals a wealth of new detail about contacts between the two countries between the American Revolutionary War and the purchase of Alaska in 1867. By weaving personal experiences into analysis of the basic trends, Saul provides a fuller understanding of Soviet-American experience. His conclusion? That the early relationships--diplomatic, cultural, scientific, economic, and personal--between the two countries were more extensive than had been reported before, more important, and more congenial. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the U.S. and Russia had a lot in common, Saul notes, and many of those similarities persist today. Both countries, in part because of geographic size, faced problems in developing their natural resources. Both countries were economically dependent on systems of forced labor--slavery in the U.S. and serfdom in Russia. Reform resulted in freedom without land for American slaves, and land without freedom for the serfs. Then, as now, Russia looked to the U.S. for help with technology. Saul shows that differences also persist. The United States was geographically isolated and developed in relative peace, while Russia developed within the reach of the European powers and, consequently, worried more about defense. As is still the case, Russian government seemed apallingly autocratic to those whose rights were guaranteed by the U.S. constitution, and deal-making between citizens of the two countries was hampered by the Russians belief that Americans were materialistic and deceitful, and by Americans notion that Russians were slow, bureaucratic, and expected to be bribed. At a time when United States-Soviet relations have taken yet another dramatic turn, it is more important than ever to trace--and to understand--the history of the relationship of these two countries. As Saul shows clearly, parallel developments of the late eighteenth to mid nineteenth centuries in some ways foreshadow parallel development into the two superpowers in the mid twentieth. "This book will be the standard--one is tempted to say classic--reference for U.S.-Russian relations between the 1770s and the late 1860s. It is encyclopedic. Sauls research is awesome. This will simply become the standard reference from which every other scholar studying the subject will have to begin. It is a publication of great importance in American and Russian history."--Walter LaFeber, Noll Professor of History at Cornell University and author of The American Age: U.S. Foreign Policy Abroad and at Home Since 1750, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America, and numerous books on relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. "A highly valuable contribution on important, but neglected aspects of the histories of both countries. . . . Provides missing pages from both Russian and American history. . . . Complements, updates, and synthesizes very effectively all the existing literature on the subject."--Allison Blakely, professor of European history and comparative history at Howard University and author of Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought.

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