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HomeThe Journal of Power Institutions...Issue 10Book Reviews - General (3 titles)Leonid Peven’,Demokraticheskii gr...

Book Reviews - General (3 titles)

Leonid Peven’,Demokraticheskii grazhdanskii kontrol’ nad vooruzhennymi silami

Moscow, Izdatel’stvo, 2008, 235 s.
Dale Herspring
Bibliographical reference

Leonid V. Peven’, Demokraticheskii grazhdanskii kontrol’ nad vooruzhennymi silami, Moscow, Izdatel’stvo, 2008, 235 s.

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Research Fields:

Military Sociology
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1For many years, scholars working in the field of civil-military relations have lamented the fact that little or nothing has been done in Russia on the topic. Recently, this writer has come across several books that show that the Russians have done considerable work in this area, and rather than being ideological tracts, they provide useful insight into both the Russian military as well as how at least one leading Russian sociologist views the field of civil-military relations.

2The Peven’ book is unlike anything this writer has ever seen published in Russia. To begin with, it is a literary gold mine for anyone interested in the topic. While I cannot speak with certainty, I suspect that everyone who has written on the topic in Russia is listed in the Literature section. This in itself makes the book worth purchasing.

3What really makes this book invaluable is the author’s approach to civil-military relations. He begins by dealing with conceptual and methodological questions – something I have not seen a Russian military sociologist do previously. Having followed the Soviet and Russian military for at least 40 years, it was exciting to read a book by a Russian social scientist

4who does not come up with a simple solution to the question of civil-military relations. If anything, this puts him in the same boat those of us in the West who work on the topic.

5The remainder of the book is divided into three sections dealing with civilian control. First, he discusses the basis of civilian control. This includes topics such as the goals, purpose, and special forms of civilian control. Section 3 deals with the forms of civilian control over the military. This is a particularly interesting chapter. Here Peven’ goes into traditional forms as well as state and social forms of civilian control. The final chapter deals with the Russian system – indeed, this section will probably be of greatest interest for readers of this journal.

6If anything, this reviewer came away from reading this book with the feeling that it is high past time that Russian and Western, and particularly American specialists in the field of civil-military relations, started working together as we try to understand this critical component of politics. For example, this reviewer only learned to the existence of this and other books in Russian on the Russian military by chance (the normal book services seem to skip by such books). We need a better way to learn of what is out there so we will understand what the Russians are thinking. In addition, it would seem in both sides interest to have more of the Russian material available in English. There are very few working on the subject in the West who can speak Russian. Similarly, I am not aware how many Western books are available in Russia, but the Peven’ book would have been even more useful if he had been more aware of Western works in the area. He mentions Hungtinton and Janowitz once in the beginning, and while they are both important, the field in the West has advanced considerably beyond them since they wrote their pioneering books.

7In short, the Peven’ book is invaluable. It is equally critical for Western specialists who want to understand how this field is developing in Russia. I suspect, for example, that this book will be used in introductory courses as a text book. If so, then it will have a major impact on how younger Russians interested in the field view civil-military relations for the immediate future.

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Electronic reference

Dale Herspring, “Leonid Peven’,Demokraticheskii grazhdanskii kontrol’ nad vooruzhennymi silami”The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 10 | 2009, Online since 07 December 2009, connection on 06 December 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Dale Herspring

Kansas State University

By this author

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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