In This Review

Russia Under Western Eyes: From the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum
Russia Under Western Eyes: From the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum
By Martin Malia
Harvard University Press, 1999, 480 pp

If the great unanswered question for Russia is whether to join the West, the reader will find no better book to explain the issues at stake. This is not because the author's controversial thesis -- that Russia has been part of the West since Peter the Great and has nowhere else to go -- is self-evidently correct. Instead, the book's merit is the brilliance with which Malia explores the intellectual and cultural links between Europe and Russia, from Voltaire to Nietzsche to Thomas Mann to Jean-Paul Sartre. When the West has gotten Russia wrong, as he believes it usually has, the reason resides less in Russia's mysteriousness and more in the emotional and intellectual needs of Western thinkers. Much of the book reintroduces the key currents in European thought, from the Enlightenment through twentieth-century fascism, viewed through the looking glass of Russia. Every page shimmers with compressed and polished insight. His analysis towers over the conventional wisdoms about Russia, including both those spun by Russians seeking solace in the uniqueness of Russia and those propagated by others who see Russia as alien to the West.