Bibliography for GURPS Russia
Any good library has dozens of books on Russia, but the overwhelming majority are on such arcana as Soviet economics or the poets of the 1917 revolution. Once the remaining books on the latter tsars and the life of Catherine the Great have been discounted, the eager reader is lucky if he finds a single book about the periods covered here. These remaining few are likely biographies of Ivan the Terrible or Peter the Great. Students of the Kievan Era have been warned.
Most primary sources have no standard edition currently in print. Works such as The Primary Chronicle, the Giles Fletcher journals, and the observations of ibn Rusteh, Olearius and others are all valuable reading, and several translations can be found. On a similar note, many of the modern authors listed below have written dozens of useful works not listed here, some of which were consulted when preparing GURPS Russia.
The works on this list were selected on the basis of their usefulness and readability; any listed are valuable to GMs or players interested in further reading. Titles marked with an asterisk (*) are particularly rich, and are especially useful for expanding the detail and flavor of a Russian campaign. GMs wishing even further research should look for the many scholarly periodicals dedicated to Russian studies; most college libraries have collections of the Slavic Review and others.
*Afanas'ev, Aleksandr (trans. Norbert Guterman): Russian Fairy Tales (Pantheon Books, 1973). An entertaining collection of Russian fables and folk stories, with a fascinating historical essay included.
Alexander, Alex: Russian Folklore: An Anthology in English Translation (Nordland Publishing, 1975).
Bater, James and French, R.A. (eds.): Studies In Russian Historical Geography (Academic Press Inc., 1983). Two volumes.
*Billington, James H: The Icon And The Axe (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1966). Only the first part of this work discusses Old Russia, but this is an invaluable source for understanding Russian cultural trends throughout the country's history. Vintage Press has an affordable paperback edition currently in print.
Blinoff, Marthe: Life and Thought in Old Russia (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1961).
Cross, Samuel Hazzard (ed.): The Russian Primary Chronicle, Laurentian Text (The Mediæval Academy Of America, 1953).
Crummey, Robert O. and Berry, Lloyd E. (eds.): Rude & Barbarous Kingdom (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1968). A good general collection of western European reports on Russia in the 16th century.
Dmytryshyn, Basil (ed.): Medieval Russia, A Source Book, 900-1700 (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967). A collection of excerpts from the most common sources for medieval Russian history; a good general overview for the casual student.
Farman, Christopher: Light in the East (Time-Life Books, Inc., 1988). A volume in the "TimeFrame" series, this book includes a rather general chapter on the Kievan years. Its primary value lies in the comparison between Russia and other major cultures of the time.
*Fedotov, George: The Russian Religious Mind (Harvard University Press, 1946). One of the definitive works on Kievan Christianity.
Fennel, John: A History of the Russian Church to 1448 (Longman, 1995).
Hubbs, Joanna: Mother Russia: The Feminine Myth in Russian Culture (Indiana University Press, 1988).
Kravchenko, Maria: The World of the Russian Fairy Tale (Peter Lang Publishers, 1987). This book is a detailed overview of Russian mythology, drawing from many of the other sources in this list.
Lawrence, John: A History of Russia (Meridian, 1978), seventh revised edition.
Longworth, Philip: The Cossacks (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970).
Martin, Janet: Treasure of the Land of Darkness (The fur trade and its significance for medieval Russia) (Cambridge University Press, 1986).
Martin, John Stewart (ed.): A Picture History of Russia (Crown Publishers, 1945). Far from the children's book the title suggests, this is a 376-page book that reads like a mammoth magazine feature on the history of Russia.
Masse, Robert K.: Peter The Great: His Life and World (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1980). Of the many works consulted in preparing GURPS Russia, this had the best details on the world of 17th-century Russia, as well as a complete (if slanted) portrayal of Peter.
Matthews, W.K.: Russian Historical Grammar (The Althone/University of London Press, 1960).
Mirov, N.T.: Geography of Russia (John Wiley & Sons, 1951). While this book focuses on the Soviet Union, it leaves the usual detailed economic examinations aside, and an excellent look at the climate and layout of Russia remains.
O'Brien, M.A.: New English-Russian and Russian-English Dictionary (Dover Publications, 1944).
Parker, W.H.: An Historical Geography of Russia (Aldine Publishing Company, 1968).
*Platonov, S.F. (trans. John T. Alexander): The Time Of Troubles (University Press of Kansas, 1970). A must-read for historical games based in the Troubles.
Pushkarev, Sergei: Dictionary of Russian Historical Terms from the Eleventh Century to 1917 (Yale University Press, 1970).
Riasanovsky, Nicholas V: A History Of Russia (Oxford University Press, 1984).
Riha, Thomas: Readings in Russian Civilization (The University of Chicago Press, 1969).
*Soloviev, Sergei M. (trans. John D. Windhausen): History of Russia (Academic International Press, 1979). This is a large, (50 volumes!) series on Russian history, translated into English from Russian. If your local library has even a few of these, you should read them. They go into intimate detail (regarding both everyday life and political/military matters) that would be impossible in a single book.
Spector, Ivar and Marion (eds.): Readings in Russian history and culture (Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1965).
*Thompson, M.W.: Novgorod the Great (Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1967). An astonishingly detailed and entertaining look at the digs at Novgorod. No single book gives a better look at the tiny details of Russian urban life in the Middle Ages. The digs themselves are still proceeding, and archaeological magazines carry updates which would be useful to any GM. A useful article appeared in Scientific American, February 1990.
Tschizewskij, Dmitrij (trans. John C. Osbourne): Russian Intellectual History (Ardis, 1978).
*Vernadsky, George (ed.): A Source Book For Russian History From Early Times to 1917, Volume 1: Early Times to the Late Seventeenth Century (Yale University Press, 1972). A gigantic collection of source miscellany in English, from letters to legal charters to military reports, in chronological order, from the periods of Russian history covered by GURPS Russia.
Vernadsky, George: Medieval Russian Laws (Octagon Press, 1967). A short collection of complete legal charters from the various periods covered by this book. This gives an interesting vantage point from which to view medieval Russian society. This book also includes a section on early currency.
Váňa, Zdeněk (trans. Till Gottheiner): The World of the Ancient Slav (Wayne State University Press, 1983). If this was GURPS Slavic Tribes, this book would rate an asterisk. It is a beautifully visual and well-written look at the Slavic nations before and around the 10th century. Highly recommended for GMs running an early-period Kiev campaign.
Wallace, Robert: Rise of Russia (Time-Life Books, 1967). From Time-Life's "Great Ages Of Man" series, this is an excellent general history.
Zenkovsky, Serge: Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales (E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1963).
Zenkovsky, Serge (ed.): The Nikonian Chronicle (The Kingston Press, Inc., 1984). Two volumes.
Zernov, Nicolas: Moscow The Third Rome (AMS Press, 1971).
Zguta, Russell: Russian Minstrels (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978). An entire book about the history of skomorokhs, with many useful passages about peasant religion.
Medieval Russia in RPGs
Surprisingly, the rich history and folklore of Russia has seldom been presented on the gaming table. Thus far, Baba Yaga has made appearances in fantasy games of all sorts, along with a handful of other Russian spirits and monsters. A Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventure, "Something Rotten In Kislev," takes place in a Russianesque fantasy city, and a few fantasy games focusing on historical play (Ars Magica and others) have included footnote material on Old Russia, or at least neighboring cultures such as Poland and the Byzantine Empire. Apart from this, nothing has appeared from American or British RPG companies.
The only other example known to the author is RUS, produced in Australia. Subtitled "Fantasy Role-Playing in Heathen Russia," the game focuses on monsters-and-evil-wizards style play in the wilderness and villages of northern Russia in the 10th century. While the game is plagued by inaccurate historical/mythological information, poor layout, outdated systems and lack of background detail, the game nevertheless creates an intriguing atmosphere, and the encounter tables are worth adapting. GURPS GMs running Kievan Era campaigns might find this game useful.