Russia -- in the period that corresponded to our pioneer expansion era- when Moscow was a mere trading post, back in the 13th century, on through to the late 18th century, when Alaska was discovered and colonized. The ""Golden Hordes"", the Tartars, overran what was then known as Rus, set up occupation zones, demanded tribute. Here and there towns and cities rebelled and suffered the consequences- but Moscow, an unimportant town on a river, collaborated, like Vichy in our day, and gave more than lip service to the enemy. She grew and prospered and became the Great Mother of the Russians, and is really the focal point of Lamb's story, though Ivan the Terrible is its central human figure. From a welter of dates, a confusion of difficult names, an unending succession of wars and expeditions of marauders, migration and colonization, the ""march of Muscovy"" takes form and substance. Here is the conception, the long period of gestation; an event here emerges, a personality there; there's birth and infancy, a formless childhood, a stormy undisciplined adolescence, and finally the full grown creation of the Russian bear. Lamb somehow in this book fails to inform his story with the pace and drama and color and glamor that are usually characteristic of his work. Always, his scholarship tends to make his story bog down, but the end result is rewarding and enriching. This seemed somehow ponderous. Russia's history is a hard one, even for Lamb who is an authority on the Middle East.