Motherland: A Philosophical History of Russia.
Overlook, 352 pages, $35
Western critics display an endless fascination with the Russian soul, the spirit of Russia, or what Lesley Chamberlain, the author of Motherland: A Philosophical History of Russia, calls Russia as Motherland and Otherland. Whenever Western intellectuals seem disillusioned by our bourgeois values, by technological progress, or individualist pursuit of personal goals with no overarching moral imperative for society as a whole, they turn to Russia as an alternative. The horrors of the twentieth century, of course, make such an alternative more than a bit suspect. Communism was a disaster, and post-Communist Russia, as Gary Kasparov has observed, is now little more than Thugland, the best guide to which is the novels of Mario Puzo.
In fact, there is a great deal to...