The Corner


Understanding Russia

Like other readers around the world, NR readers are familiar with David Satter, the authority on Russia. His latest book — arresting title — is The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep. And he is the latest guest on my Q&A podcast (here).

Chicago-born, he is a lifelong student of Russia. Why? What sparked his interest? For one thing, his father was on the Left, and sympathized with the Soviet Union (as did millions around the globe). David wanted to find out what it was all about. And he did.

He is a bold writer about Russia — un-punch-pulling. Over the years, Arabs have come up to David Pryce-Jones and said, “Why do you care about us so much that you should write so honestly about us?” This is the spirit I’m talking about.

With Satter, I explore a host of issues, including Putin, of course, and democracy, and the diaspora, and Trump, and so on. We end on a little literature: Tolstoy and the boys (and some less well-known names).

One point, Satter makes repeatedly: Westerners get Russia wrong when they project their own values and priorities on that country. You have to slip into another person’s skin, or another people’s skin. This, Satter has done, and listening to him is an education, I think.

Again, our podcast is here.