What Is Russia?

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By Vadim Nikitin

This week was the Russian Orthodox Christmas. Twenty years after Communism and somewhat at odds with the newfound Christian ardour of Russia’s elites, it’s not a big stand alone holiday, falling relatively quietly in the middle of the 10 day vacation starting with the big Soviet milestone of New Year’s.

Yet at the same time, Russians are also not celebrating the centeniary of Leo Tolstoy’s death partly because, according to Luke Harding in The Guardian, “the writer’s criticisms of Orthodox religion and authority make him a dangerous figure for those in power – both in Tsarist Russia and also today."

The question of what to celebrate and why exposes a crucial open sore: After a decade of Yeltsin and a decade of Putin, Russia is still struggling to find an identity.

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