Beginning in the 18th century with the building of St. Petersburg & culminating with the Soviet regime, professor of history & prizewinning author Orlando Figes examines how writers, artists, & musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself -- its character, spiritual essence, & destiny. Skillfully interweaving the great works -- by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, & Chagall -- with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, & all the customs of daily life, Figes reveals the spirit of ''Russianness'' as rich & uplifting, complex & contradictory -- & more lasting than any Russian ruler or state. ''Scintillating . . . an exceptional history of Russian culture & a joy to read.'' Full-color illustrations.