Last updated 31 July 2011: added link to R H Bruce Lockhart’s Memoirs of a British Agent.
I've always been fascinated by Russia, both pre-Revolutionary and Soviet (and now post-Soviet) since the early days of the space program and reading the war fiction of Sven Hassel as a youth. One British writer wrote during the Seventies that the history of Russia was a simultaneous flowering of its literature and its secret police, and certainly up to the glasnost period that observation, admittedly over-simplified, could be held to be true.
Russia offers both some of the world's finest literature from the last 200 years and a panoply of great tomes discussing her complex and rich history, sometimes bewildering or dark but never less than fascinating. In addition, while there have been historically some deplorable aspects of the Russian Orthodox Church or some of its representatives (drunkenness and anti-Semitism most notably), the church has also been a treasure house of spirituality and certainly in this century earned the right to wear the martyr's crown. In fact the ancient Byzantine Christianity outlived the outwardly more dynamic secular religion of Lenin, Marx and Engels which had been supposed to supplant and destroy it, and today even finds adherents in the West.
The path that Russia will now take looks uncertain. While she
is unlikely to
revert to full-blown Communism, there is no doubt that for many
way of Western capitalism has not apparently delivered much other than
uncertainty and the Mafia. It is to be hoped that this great people
the fatal temptations of xenophobic nationalism or Stalinism and keep a
head into the twenty-first century.