From the Kiev princes to Politburo rule, from the atrocities of the forced Europeanisation introduced by Peter the Great to Stalin’s Sovietisation, and from the Polish invasion of Moscow in the early 17th century to Moscow’s imposition of martial law on Poland in 1980, the so-called Russian soul has swung between enlightenment and barbarism, humanism and cruelty. Russia’s tragedy is that it finds both the European and the Asian ways of life alien: it has never been able to comprehend them as two different civilisations, but has tended to identify ‘European’ as ‘civilised’ and ‘Asian’ as ‘barbarian’, while wagging from one extreme to another, or trying to combine them in some paradoxical unity. For all I know, this may be one aspect of the ‘mysterious’ Russian soul.
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