In this “lucid primer of Russian thought” (The Times Literary Supplement), Lesley Chamberlain finds that during the last two centuries Russian intellectuals have asked two fundamental questions, “what makes a good man?” and “what is the right way to live?”

The nineteenth-century ideal of a happy man living in a just society became, in Russia, a quest to effect the wholesale transformation of society. Chamberlain shows how this moral passion, manifesting itself in philosophy and literature, existed in both pre- and post-revolutionary Russia. She reveals that 1917 did not represent the watershed we once thought, and shows how the dreams of a plain and simple life reached its negative apotheosis under Lenin. In Motherland, Lesley Chamberlain has produced a radical new interpretation of Russian intellectual history that, finally, gives a glimpse in to the soul of that singular country.