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Russia has long fascinated the Western imagination, with its huge land mass, its culture walled off from the European Renaissance by two centuries of Tartar occupation and then, after another two centuries, forcibly and imperfectly harnessed to European models by Peter the Great. In the nineteenth century this autocratic society astonished the world by producing several generations of brilliant novelists, playwrights and poets whose art, broadly accessible and profoundly democratic, touched depths of human experience seldom plumbed before. Here is endlessly fascinating material for students of human nature, political theory and practice, history, economics, high culture and mass culture—and it is available for first-hand exploration through an incomparably rich and expressive language that, once acquired, can be used to open new doors throughout a lifetime.