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Black Dragon River: A Journey Down the Amur River at the Borderlands of Empires

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Steve West

14 Hours 7 Minutes

Brilliance Audio

November 2015


Audio Book Summary

The world's ninth-longest river, the Amur serves as a large part of the border between Russia and China. Journalist Dominic Ziegler journeys from the river's top to its bottom, and in weaving together the Amur's history, ecology, and peoples he shows how an apparently empty region is in fact steeped in the past-a region that holds a key to the complex and critical relationship between Russia and China today.

The known story of the river begins with Genghis Khan and the rise of his great Mongol empire a millennium ago; the history of the region has been one of expansion and conquest ever since-especially Russia's push eastward across the Eurasian landmass until it met the Chinese empire. The quest to seize the Amur from China was to be Russia's route to greatness, replacing an oppressive European identity with a vibrant one that faced the Pacific. Russia launched a grab in 1854 and took a chunk of territory nearly equal in size to France and Germany combined. It instantly regretted its decision, and later the region proved to be the site for atrocities meted out on the Russian Far East during the Russian civil war and under Stalin.

Even today, a long shared history on the Amur has conditioned the way China and Russia behave toward each other-and toward the outside world. To understand Vladimir Putin's imperial dreams, we must comprehend Russia's relationship to its Far East and how it still shapes the Russian mind. Not only is the Amur a key to Putinism, its history is also embedded in an ongoing clash of empires with the West.

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