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Muscovy's vulnerable position on the flat lands of Eurasia moved its rulers to form a centralised state at a very early stage in its history, long before its institutions had evolved as far as had those of many of its European and Asian rivals. For that reason Russia needed to develop powerful symbols of independent sovereign authority, and also to rely on hierarchical personal bonds to enforce that authority. One consequence was serfdom as a means of mobilising the resources of the mass of the population. Another was the dominance of the patron-client relationships in the power structure: one can trace them in different forms, from Ivan the Terrible through Peter the Great, the later Tsars and the Soviet nomenklatura hierarchy. In some respects Putin has tried to 'regularise' the state as institution, but has also continued to rely on patron-client networks. This evolution will be explored, with examples from different periods of history.

In 1984 Geoffrey Hosking succeeded Hugh Seton-Watson as the Senior Professor of Russian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (now part of University College London) - a Chair that he was to occupy with immense distinction for virtually a quarter of a century, until his official retirement at the end of 2007. Professor Hosking is one of the western world's most outstanding historians of Russia. Exceptionally gifted, an elegant writer, with a vast hinterland of Russian culture, Geoffrey Hosking is the author of more than 12 major works, several of which have won international awards. These include The History of the Soviet Union (3rd edition, 1992), Russia: People & Empire 1552-1917 (1997), and Russia & the Russians: from Rus to the Russian Federation (2001). He delivered the Reith Lectures in 1988 and was appointed Leverhulme Personal Research Professor from 1999 until 2004. Professor Hosking enjoys the unique distinction of being the only British Russian historian to be made an Honorary Doctor of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 

This is a GB Russia event and tickets at £7/£5 are only available from the GB Russia Society website