Harrison Salisbury's five-year 1949-1954 sojourn in Russia as the New York Times correspondent provides much food for political commentary in an engrossing, completely readable book. In Moscow at the time of the Doctor's Plot, Stalin's death, Beriya's seventy-five years as master of Moscow, the forming of the junta, he witnessed the changes made by the new regime. His estimates of the present cooperation with Malenkov, Khrushchev and Molotov as first-stringers with Zhukov a power, his interpretations of earlier incidents involving policy and personnel, flow as smoothly as a good detective's work. Mr. Salisbury witnessed many happenings in Red Square; he traveled to the internment camps of Siberia; to the cities of Central Asia, the depositing place of exiles; he met people on the Volga reading classics and not interested in politics; he talked to peasants typifying the endless endurance of Mother Russia, strong and innocent of politics; he met a man in Leningrad in whom the West might find hope. He writes of Kennan, who stayed with him and whose prediction that the ""hard line"" would change he watched develop after Stalin's death. A fine personal view of the Russian scene through the expert eyes of a newspaperman, this sticks to events and their interpretation and does not attempt to deal with the problems of statesmanship and total foreign policy in other terms.