In This Review

How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism
How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism
By Steven G. Marks
Princeton University Press, 2003, 384 pp
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A number of books have explored the West's long and controversial influence on Russia. Few, however, have explored the reverse flow of ideas, and none better than this concise, graceful, amazingly wide-ranging book. As the title says, it is not just Russia's great writers, artists, and actors -- such as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Diaghilev, Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Kandinsky, and Malevich -- who have shaped the world far beyond Russia. So too did the fathers of modern terrorism, Mikhail Bakunin and Sergey Nechayev, not to mention the far-ranging impact of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. And between there was the wellspring of antisemitism, the Black Hundreds. Whether to happy or unhappy effect, the rivulets of their influence seeped into far and unexpected corners. The impact of the nineteenth-century anarchist Pyotr Kropotkin, for example, extended not only to early environmentalism but even to the design of Mission furniture. The thread linking the magnificent to the malevolent, argues Marks, was a hypertrophied revulsion of modernity and its excesses.