Robert Conquest's review of Geoffrey Hosking on an all too familiar Russia:
The Russian State, as it emerged after the defeat of the Mongols, had an intensely Christian and national character, but was firmly set in the political ways it had learnt from the khans. Thereafter, the Great Russians lived in an almost permanent state of mobilization, as the frontier against the continual menace from the steppe. As Pavel Miliukov wrote, "Compelling national need resulted in the creation of an omnipotent State on the most meagre material foundation; this very meagreness constrained it to exert all the energies of its population -- and in order to have full control over these energies it had to be omnipotent". There is nothing, or nothing much, "ethnic" in such descriptions of the Russian past. The merchant cities of Novgorod and Pskov, which had emerged beyond the Mongol reach, were regarded by the Hanseatic cities as particularly creditworthy. This trait disappeared on their annexation to Muscovy. The Hanse now forbade all credit to Russians. It was observed that cheating became endemic. This was a commonplace in report after report over the centuries. A British ambassador to St Petersburg in Catherine the Great?s time remarked more broadly: "The form of government certainly is and will always be the principal cause of want of virtue and genius in the country, as making the motive of one and the reward of the other both depend upon accident and caprice".