Christopher A. Lawrence contests the claim that Russians have had a particularly difficult history. I was shocked when I read his claim. How could this be?
As a graduate student one of my areas of specialization was Russian history (Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union). Therefore, I had to read a lot about the history of the Russian people in preparation for my comprehensive exams. One of the things that struck me was the constant stream of misfortunes endured by Russians. They never seemed to catch a break.
I thought maybe I mis-remembered their history when I saw this article by a supposedly credible historian. But upon reading the essay I realized that it wasn’t my memory that was the problem, it was Lawrence’s argument. His argument focuses on their many political revolutions, the last of which he highlights as “fundamentally peaceful.” Now where does he discuss the actual suffering or explain why it wasn’t actually suffering. In fact his argument works by actually ignoring the real suffering of the Russian people (wars, famines, political oppression, purges, etc.). He only mentioned one, World War I, which he points out was short-lived and entailed fewer deaths than other nations. He forgets to mention that they left only to fight a civil war that killed millions, followed by famine, political purges, terror, and crushing poverty. And that was all before the Second World War!
It’s easy to make an argument that the Russians are not long-suffering, if you ignore the actual suffering!