Friday, February 29, 2008

Russia Under Czars, Stalin, Putin: The Once & Future Autocracy

Theodore Dalrymple has the best book about the Decline of the West, called Our Culture, What's Left of It, and perhaps one of the most illuminating chapters concerns Custine's famous monograph La Russie en 1839, an imitation of De Tocqueville's smashing bestseller of 1835 Democracy in America.

The Marquis de Custine arrived in Russia not speaking the language, stayed only three months, but wrote a book Alexander Herzen called the best ever written on the Czar's Empire---simply because the Marquis had lived through the totalitarian catastrophe of the French Revolution, in which his parents perished simply because of their aristocratic background.

Custine reminds me of Peter Fleming, Ian's more talented younger brother, in an amazing book called News From Tartary, in which Fleming and an Austrian female skier traversed China in the late '30s.

How to Read a Society is worth a look on just how the Soviet Union was made possible by Czarist autocracy.

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