Native Soil and the Yearning for Identity

Before the country’s Revolution and subsequent decades under communism, Russian intellectuals were known for heading off into the countryside and monasteries in search of the “pure Russian soul”—a thing that they believed existed, and they were sure resided within the minds of the repressed and recently enslaved peasantry. They believed that if Russian peasants could be truly free, in mind and soul as well as body, the spirit of Russia would come into flower and thrive. Orlando Figes, author of

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