The most reliable interpreters of Russian culture are their own novelists and philosophers and one of the most celebrated Russian philosopher is Nikolai Berdyaev. When you witness diverse Russians from Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot and Putin himself both appealing to Berdyav to support their points, you realize that he deserves a thorough reading.
I have studied Berdyaev and he is indeed a first rate philosopher but not well known. He wrote this interesting article on The Soul of Russia.:
Russia -- is the least statelike, the most anarchistic land in the world. And the Russian people -- is the most apolitical of peoples, never having managed to set its land right. All the genuinely Russian, our national writers, thinkers, publicists -- all were non-statists, all were uniquely anarchists. Anarchism -- is a phenomenon of the Russian spirit, and it has variously been present both in our extreme left, and in our extreme right. The Slavophils and Dostoevsky -- were anarchists essentially the same, as were Mikhail Bakunin or Kropotkin. And this anarchistic Russian nature also found itself typical expression in the religious anarchism of Lev Tolstoy. The Russian intelligentsia, though infected with a superficial positivism, has been purely Russian in its non-statism. In its best, its heroic part, it struggled for an absolute freedom and truth, unrestricted by any sort of state aspects. Our Populism -- is a characteristically Russian phenomenon, with its like unknown to Western Europe, -- the manifestation of a non-statist spirit. And the Russian liberals have always been moreso humanists, than statists. No one has wanted the power to rule, all were afraid of the power to rule, as something impure...
The Russian people does not want to be a masculine builder, its nature defines itself as feminine, passive and submissive in matters of state, it always awaits a bridegroom, a man, a ruler. Russia -- is a land submissive and feminine. The passive, the receptive femininity in regard to the state power -- is so characteristic for both the Russian people and for Russian history...
The feminine aspect of the Slavs makes them mystically sensitive, capable of hearkening to the inner voices. But the exceptional dominance by the feminine element hinders them from fulfilling their calling in the world. Russian messianism has need of a masculine spirit, without which ever again and again there will be a stumbling back into this alluring and constraining primordial element of the Russian earth, which awaits its own enlightenment and form.
Putin with his hyper-masuclinity, his appeal to physical exercise, his personal hunting and exercise embodies this masculine yearning and embodies the Russian body politic. This combintation of passivity combined with masculine agression makes him truly enigmatic. But, as Churchill said years ago, Russians can always be counted on to act in their national interest and therein lies the key. Crimea is now in the Russian orbit and the Ukraine will remain in a limbo neither needed by Russia nor desired by the EU.
PS: In case anybody is wondering what the quotes from Berdyaev that Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot and Putin appealed to, it was this:
Humility, is now commonly understood not as a path towards the perception, fortification, and ultimate liberation of Man, but on the contrary as an instrument for his enslavement. To quote [Russian philosopher] Nikolai Berdyaev, one could say that "the ontology of humility is the ontology of the slaves of God, and not the sons of God."
Society falls apart without these values. Clearly, we must come back to them, understand their importance and move forward on the basis of these values.
I want to reiterate something I said in the Address to the Federal Assembly: yes, this is a conservative approach, but let me remind you of Berdyaev's words that the point of conservatism is not that it obstructs movement forward and upward, but that it prevents the movement backward and downward. That, in my opinion, is a very good formula, and it is the formula that I propose.