A. N. Wilson, from his biography of Tolstoy (1988):
Being Russian, unless you are preternaturally stupid or wicked, produces violent inner tensions and conflicts, reflected in nearly all the great imaginative geniuses to emerge from Russia in the last two centuries. On the one hand, you know that you have been born into a “God-bearing” nation, whose destiny is to keep burning the flame of truth while the other nations languish in decadence. (The truth may be Orthodox Christianity or the creeds of Marxist-Leninism, but the feeling is the same.) You know that the Russians are best at everything from poetry to gymnastics, and that they invented everything: ballet, bicycles, the internal combustion engine. You know that Russia has more soul than any other country — that its birch avenues, its snows, its ice, its summers are all the more glorious than the manifestations of nature in more benighted countries. There is only one drawback, which is that it is completely horrible to live there.
How can it be that the country chosen by God, or by the destiny which moves nations, or by the unseen inevitability of dialectical materialism, should have produced, in each succeeding generation, a political system which made life hell for the majority of inhabitants and which, every so often, threw up tyrants of truly horrifying stature? These are questions which have haunted in particular those few Russians who have ever been in Tolstoy’s fortunate position of being able to choose whether to stay in Russia or to take the money and run. Today, we read precisely similar tensions in the utterances and writings of Soviet dissidents, and in particular Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose hatred of his country’s Government seems almost equally balanced by a fervent patriotism, a tragic knowledge that a Russian can only be himself when he is on his native soil.