Norman Davies, as a history professor, does nothing to help us in "Understanding Russia," but he does enhance "Our Perilous Ignorance." He obviously belongs to that "army of Western Sovietologists and Slavicists" who nowadays are clearly divided between those who don't know how the Soviet world works and those who can't explain it. He claims that Moscow's "attitudes are archetypally right wing and ultraconservative." By such a twisted definition, our President becomes a Communist.
The professor indirectly but definitely implies that communism includes "a glorification of war." As I saw it when I was in the Soviet Union three years ago, the Soviets glorified those who fought and died in the most heroic and successful defense of their homeland against the mightiest military force the world has ever seen. That defense cost them around 20 million or so dead and massive human suffering, and denied Hitler military domination of all of Europe and, incidentally, probably saved upwards of a million American lives. For this colossal accomplishment the professor shows no appreciation.
Included in the professor's diatribe is this tortuous comparison: (Moscow's attitude includes an) "ideology reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition and an approach to law and order that makes South African pass laws look like a paragon of tolerance." That will bear no resemblance to reality even when South Africa promulgates free universal health care, compulsory free education and optional remunerated employment for all who need it--all of which is available to Soviet citizens.
A willful misunderstanding and ignorance of Russia have pervaded the Western world for 67 years, and that could be the root cause of the current sad state of human affairs.
MARION WILLIAM HAWKS