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The Russian tradition

Those who want to claim Russia as western ignore her deep historic ambivalence towards liberalism

In my last few months of renewed Russia-watching, I have come across two assumptions that seem quite wrong—both of which were expressed in these pages last month by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser in the late 1970s. One is the claim that Russia is no longer driven by ideology, only money. The other is that Russia’s heritage is incontestably western. The story of Russia does not support either contention.

Modern Russian ideology has been driven by Russia’s sense of its place in the world. This ideology has no more gone away with the end of communism than has…

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