Painted in Blood by Steward Miller is on my short list of recommended/essential reading.
The declared purpose of the book is to explain Europe to Americans, and the heart of the explanation is that centuries of violence is what formed and shaped European values and attitudes. What Miller writes about Europe and Europeans may apply even more to East Europeans and especially Russians, who are less distant from bloody past than their more fortunate western neighbours. Just substitute “Russia” for “Europe”, and most of what Miller says will seem stronger and more dramatic.
Despite the subject the book reads easily.
Thanks to Fred W., I got two versions of it (the original Painted in Blood and shorter Understanding Europeans), and they both are on the shelf in my apartment that’s available for rent for the benefit of the sort of traveller who wants to understand how Russia works.
[photo of the book on the shelf]