In This Review
Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation
Basic Books, 2017, 432 pp.
The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past
Oxford University Press, 2018, 288 pp.
The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia
Riverhead Books, 2017, 528 pp.
In 1839, the French aristocrat Astolphe Louis Léonor, better known as the Marquis de Custine, traveled to Russia to understand “the empire of the Czar.” Competing with his compatriot Alexis de Tocqueville’s study of American democracy, Custine produced a travelogue that was also an analysis of “eternal Russia.” Russians excelled at submission, Custine believed. Dissidents were dispatched to Siberia, “that indispensable auxiliary of Muscovite civilization.” Despotism at home kindled the desire for empire abroad. “The idea of conquest,” Custine wrote, “forms the secret aspiration of Russia.”
More than anything, Custine was overwhelmed by the artificiality of imperial Russia. “The
Source URL: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/2018-06-14/peoples-authoritarian