A Short History of Russia: How the World’s Largest Country Invented Itself, from the Pagans to Putin by Mark Galeotti

It is impossible to understand Putin, or modern Russia’s prickly interaction with the rest of the world, without understanding his predecessors. In A Short History of Russia, a solid, if occasionally workmanlike, recitation of the full sweep of Russian history, skilled Russia analyst Mark Galeotti focuses less on unpacking the thematic cycles of Russian history than on packing in an overview of its leaders. And he crams it all into 216 pages—particularly useful for those seeking to dip their toe into Russian political history.

Galeotti begins, well, at the beginning.