The American Mission and the "Evil Empire": The Crusade for a Free Russia Since 1881

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The American Mission and the "Evil Empire": The Crusade for a Free Russia Since 1881

By David Foglesong
Cambridge University Press, 2007
362 pp. $35.00
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This timely and trenchant book looks at the cultural and political roots of American attitudes toward Russia from the late nineteenth century through the present day and makes a strong case that these attitudes have helped keep U.S.-Russian relations moving through an unhappy cycle. Americans start by seeing Russia as a backward and barbarous land; they optimistically conclude that American religious and social ideas can transform it; they engage in the process of reform -- and as this engagement ends in failure and disillusion, they revert to stage one. Perhaps the most remarkable and depressing insight of the book is how blindly each U.S. generation repeats the errors of its predecessors. Foglesong is not one of the liveliest writers, but his command of the literature and his sharp eye for detail make reading this book a rewarding experience. The book not only provides useful insight into the current state of U.S.-Russian relations; it also makes a powerful case for why deeper study of American religious, cultural, and intellectual history could lead to more effective U.S. foreign policy in the future.