The Evolution of United States-Russian Relations, 1763-1867
Norman E. Saul
Byron Caldwell Smith Award
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—we're almost friends again.
“Saul combines a vivid description of commercial intercourse and cultural exchange with an insightful analysis of international politics and diplomacy.”
—Journal of American History
“Deserves to be the first work consulted by anyone interested in the opening century of Russo-American relations.”
—American Studies InternationalSee all reviews...
“Saul offers us the most comprehensively written and thoroughly researched study of the first century of Russian-American relations ever presented and a fundamental resource for anyone pursuing research in the field.”
—American Historical Review
“A valuable contribution to the historiography of Russo-American relations.”
“Here is the single most comprehensive, synthetic and judicious account of Russian-American relations covering the period from the beginning of contacts to the purchase of Alaska.”
“The breadth of Saul’s approach, the patience with which every allusion has been investigated and every trail followed make this an unusually solid and sophisticated work.”
“Very rich in details drawn from extensive research, the book explores the relations between the two countries on many levels: the official dealings, wide-ranging commercial ties, visits by delegations and prominent individuals, and the flow of information within each society.”
—Perspectives on Political Science
“Although Norman E. Saul modestly claims that he has written a work that 'is not exhaustive,' he has, in fact brought together American and Russian scholarship to produce a study that is comprehensive—covering every incident, issue, and person involved in any way in the first century of the relationship between the two nations.”
“Coming to this topic as an area specialist with previous books on Russian diplomatic and military history, Norman E. Saul has researched exhaustively in both English and Russian sources, has given incisive and essentially equivalent attention to both national perspectives, and has gone beyond narrowly diplomatic issues to incorporate economic, social, and intellectual interactions. . . . provides unprecedented research and richness of detail.”
—International History Review
“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. Saul’s 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
“This long-awaited and keenly-anticipated book will confirm Norman Saul’s reputation as the pre-eminent American historian of Russian-American relations prior to the Russian Revolution. . . . Together with its forthcoming companion volumes, it will be the standard work on this subject for years to come.”
—John Lewis Gaddis, author of The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War and Russia, the Soviet Union, and the United States: An Interpretive History
“This is the fullest account available of RussianAmerican relations from the beginning through the purchase of Alaska. . . . Exhaustive and judicious. . . . A remarkable contribution.”
—Alexander Dallin, author of The Soviet Union at the United Nations and Black Box: KAL 007 and the Superpowers
“Edifying and enjoyable. . . . Both good history and good reading.”
—Raymond L. Garthoff, author of Detente and ConfrontationSee fewer reviews...
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 appallingly 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.