How was it that one of the most isolated, illiterate societies in Europe produced, in the 19th century, so many giants of literature, science, music, and the arts? Why is it that such a conservative, deeply religious, and agrarian-feudalist society so eagerly embraced the revolutionary, atheistic, and industrial ideology of Communism, and then, 80 years later, with equal vigor, cast this ideology aside in favor of the previously despised “bourgeois capitalism”? Why has Russia so often embraced dictators and so readily destroyed its geniuses? How is it that Russians, who in friendship will bare their souls and willingly and warmly offer aid, are such masters of obfuscation and obduracy in public and official life?
There are no easy answers. And that is what fascinates so many people, often for a lifetime. For once you have visited Russia, have tasted its rich history and culture, there is no turning back. Russia will be with you forever, setting up its myriad paradoxes, posing unanswerable questions, and beckoning you to return.
This extended feature seeks to excite and incite interest in Russia.
Of course, we could not stop with just 100 Things to Know (a casual tabulation counts over 300 items), and this is not intended as some sort of cultural checklist, the mastery of which will allow one to finally and fully to grasp the full mystery of the Russian Soul. Instead, this feature is designed to be a launching-off point for future inquiry, an assortment of thought-provoking bits of information that scratch the surface of this 1000-year-old culture, posing new questions, suggesting new paradoxes, urging you on in your lifelong quest to understand this rich and complex culture.
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Russian Life is a 29-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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Montpelier VT 05601-0567