In This Review

Reinventing Russia: Russian Nationalism and the Soviet State, 1953-1991
Reinventing Russia: Russian Nationalism and the Soviet State, 1953-1991
By Yitzhak M. Brudny
Harvard University Press, 1999, 352 pp

If readers think that today's anti-Western, antimarket, antisemitic variety of Russian nationalism is simply the fallout from the country's current misery, they should think again. With care and intelligence, Brudny traces its lineage back to the Khrushchev years. What began among the so-called village prose writers as a lament for a rural past ravaged by Stalin's experimentation gradually accumulated further grievances: the devastation of Russian culture and monuments, the infiltration of "corrupting" Western values, and ultimately under Gorbachev the "criminal" destruction of Russian power. Much of the book concentrates on how Khrushchev and Brezhnev tried -- but ultimately failed -- to harness this discontent for their own purposes. Almost in passing, Brudny also introduces two other portentous themes. First, he shows convincingly how Gennady Zyuganov and the Russian Communist Party of today are much more the offspring of this nationalist current than of Gorbachev's Communist Party. Second, he ends by noting that the Yeltsin regime's basic indifference to the problem of national identity has handed a gift to the nationalists.