Admiral Eduard Baltin, wrestling in mid-1997 with the consequences of the division of the ex-Soviet navy between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, took a moment to reflect on the creator of the imperial Russian Black Sea fleet: "a loose woman and non-Russian, Empress Catherine the Great was a greater Russian patriot than today's rulers of Russia.
In the last twenty years or so there have been great transformations in the historiography of modern South Asia. It would not be too crude an exaggeration to say that no western historian of much intellectual ambition engaged with the subject from James Mill in the early nineteenth century until after the second world war, while Indian historians were little known outside the subcontinent.
The war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia remains a subject of great fascination. The campaign clearly had a vital effect on the outcome of the Second World War as a whole. It was an historical drama with unpredictable turning points. And it was fought on an vast scale and with a correspondingly vast scale of casualties.
In many ways Russia is the touchstone of the twentieth century. Most of the main features of our troubled age have impinged on it more heavily than any other single country.
Japan's experience of defeat and occupation at the end of the Second World War has most commonly been examined from the point of view of the conquerors. It has rarely been tackled as a Japanese experience.
With 'The Korean War' Peter Lowe returns to the subject of the 1950-53 south-east Asian conflict which he argues could have flared up into the third world war of the twentieth century (see also Peter Lowe 1986).
It is one of the unfortunate realities of the twentieth century that the list of defining world political leaders is shared between those whose actions resulted directly in the greatest number of deaths and those who led the defence when their actions impinged on the rest of the world.
Professor Spence is described on the dust-cover of this book as 'perhaps now the leading historian of China in the English-speaking world'. Without doubt he is the most imaginative and the most versatile scholar working in that field. The Gate of Heavenly Peace, first published in 1981, was a history of modern China as seen through the lives of Chinese writers and intellectuals.
For almost half a century, the classic description and analysis of Communist treatment of the nationalities question over the early years of the Bolshevik regime has been Richard Pipes magisterial The Formation of the Soviet Union: Communism and Nationalism, 1917- 1923, published by Harvard University Press in 1954.
This is a wide-ranging collection of sources that aims to cover the whole sweep of Soviet history: Richard Sakwa's work on the politics of the Soviet Union makes him well placed to produce such a volume.