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Review: My Russia

Ruth Acker (reviewer) — October 1984

By Peter Ustinov, Macmillan, London, Eng” 1983; Can, distributor: Gage-Macmillan; 224 pages, $27.95 (hardcover).

Peter Ustinov, born in London in 1921 of Russian and French parentage, has deep roots in both the East and the West. He is also widely known and greatly loved on all sides of the world stage as an actor, playwright and producer.

He is in a unique position to contribute to a better understanding between the West and the East. In his view the real problem is not simply one of a lack of understanding between Soviet Russia and the West, but “worse, a lack of a wish to understand.”

However, he became convined that the “public sense of morality had become more acute with the awful potential of nuclear power,” and that more and more people were ready to listen and try to understand. It was in this certainty that he began to write My Russia. He addresses himself to all who have the “generosity?to preserve an open mind.”

Ustinov believes that the lack of understanding began, not with the Russian Revolution but in the early history of Russia, where from the beginning there was prejudice against the Russians. He therefore set out to write “a detective story to the roots of a national character which often frightens and often mystifies.’ ,

The book, then; is a capsule history of Russia from her beginnings to the present day, constantly illuminated by Ustinov’s humanity, and by his insight as one who is proud to claim the heritage of both the East and the West. It is beautifully illustrated with many full-colour plates, and numerous black and white photos and other materials.

Not surprisingly, the book is a delight to read, highly informative, balanced, witty, civilized. Above all, perhaps, it is refreshing, Ustinov’s great warmth and compassion and sanity remain with the reader throughout the book.

Ustinov, in sharing his understanding of Russia, is bridging the gap and giving us added hope that the nuclear clock can be held back.