**For young and adult guessers and squinters behind the Iron Curtain this readable, clearly-visioned history of Russia should be required reading. Avoiding over-stuffed topic sentences, forbidding footnotes, economical or political side issues, and the usual bloodless textbook treatment of the post-World War I period, the author has supplied a detailed, unbiased account of the revolution of 1917 and pre-revolution events. What to most Americans seem dim, rootless phenomena--the rise of Lenin, the soviet (council) system (a democratic organization paradoxically coupled with the autocratic Communist party), progress and purges under Stalin--are rounded out here as characterizing a peculiarly national movement arising from the poverty and despair of the majority of a stoically proud people. The author traces the pre-revolution pseudo-feudalistic society from its earliest beginnings in the misty legends of an 11th century chronicle to the siege of Stalingrad in World War II--the early Viking rulers, founding of Novogrod and Kiev and the mingling of many peoples; wars, trading and quarrels of the Grand Princes under the shadow of the Holy City of Byzantium; the horrors of the savage rule of the Golden Horde of Jenghis Khan; the great Tears--Ivan the Great, Boris Godunoff, Ivan the Terrible, Catherine, and enigmatic Alexander; the terrible retreat of Napoleon. Then the events preceding the October revolution--the exile and murders of the reforming Intelligentsia, the deposition of the Tar, the brief bourgeois ""Congress"", and, finally, Lenin. This is a history of great personalities--Leaders life-size and legendary and a people, suspicious and cynical of a Western culture from which they have been isolated for so long, but brave, hardened by suffering and devoted to their land.