Books in Brief

Russian Conservatism, by Paul Robinson (Northern Illinois University Press; 300 pp., $39.95). Canadian historian Paul Robinson has written a highly accessible study of Russian conservatism that extends from the early 19th century down to the present time.

According to Robinson, defenses of the Russian homeland as a spiritual entity and the accompanying rejection of Western late modernity did not start the day before yesterday. These positions are deeply rooted in Russian reactions to Westernization. In fact, much of what has fueled Russian traditionalism derives from this confrontation with a Western world that shows certain cultural and religious links to Russia, but which is also perceived as being different. It is the traditional Russian right that has emphasized this difference in order to preserve what it considers to be the unique character of its country.

One feature of Russian conservatism, which Robinson illustrates by showing all the strains of this movement, is its remarkable variety. Robinson begins his analysis by focusing on beliefs shared by all Russian conservatives. These unifying elements would include some degree of ethnic nationalism, devotion to the Orthodox Church as an uncorrupted form of Christianity, and resistance to the West as a source of dangerous liberal ideas. Robinson examines how these foundational principles have shaped every instantiation of Russian conservatism, from the rule of...

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