In this history of Russia from 1917 to the present, Chubarov teases out themes developed in his previous book on tsarist Russia, "The Fragile Empire" (Continuum, 2000). One of the key factors in Russia's distinctiveness is its halfway location in the centre of the Eurasian landmass. This lends an inevitability to the traditional cultural schism between Westernizing reformers and Slavophiles. Neither approach, says Chubarov, will work on its own. Without ever minimizing the brutalities of the Soviet period - State terror, the collectivizations, the labour camps, the deportations of whole peoples - Chubarov demonstrates much continuity between tsarist and Soviet Russia, with the latter often repeating the former's mistakes. Russia, says Chubarov, cannot turn its back on its Soviet experience. Far from being a blind alley or "abstract phase", the Soviet period was an organic part of Russia's history and "was largely successful in turning Russia and most of the other Soviet republics into modern states".