When examining the role that Soviet Communism had in the West it is necessary first to define the “West.” This is not as straightforward as it might at first seem. West signifies a geographical orientation. Yet in terms of geography Russia itself is part of the West—well, at least part of it is part of the West, for it straddles across nine time zones from Europe through the Ural Mountains to Pacific Asia (hence the idea of Russia as a special Eurasian entity). Although the bulk of Russian territory is east of the Urals, the bulk of its population has always been to the west, in the European part. In a continual expansion of the empire/state Russians sought to impose their own (western) customs and traditions and culture on newly incorporated territories, whether in the Far East, Central Asia, or the Caucasus. For not only is Russia physically part of the West, it is at a very deep level also part of the West in cultural terms. From Alexander Pushkin to Boris Pasternak to the present, Russian literary figures have been part of a wider western canon, which is true of the arts more generally. Orthodox religion in Russia, although often used with the prefix “eastern,” derives from western Christianity. The first step Russia took in adopting the religion of the Eastern Roman Empire was in Kieven Rus’ at the end of the tenth century. The Russian Orthodox Church would come to see itself as the rightful successor to Constantinople, with Moscow as the “Third Rome.” During the course of the nineteenth century and the earlier part of the twentieth century, political ideologies replaced religious doctrines as sources of individual morality and group affiliation, especially in the West.
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