Yes, Russia is part of me. It is all due to being in the band in high school. We had to practice Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture until it became part of our genetic makeup. Thus, I have long had a need to read a history of Russia and this was provided with Librivox's recording of The Empire of Russia from the Remotest Periods to the Present Time, by John Abbott (1805-1877). I am only about 10% of the way into this work.
What I have learned so far is that my path to becoming Russian is much less brutal than what the Russian people experienced. The challenge for the ruler of this nation was to be both cunning and ruthless in dealing with the threats that were constantly falling onto the nation, yet tender and wise in managing the people through good Christian leadership. A short coming in the first area would result in a short reign, while a short coming in the second would be a catastrophe for the people. Sadly few leaders were able to accomplish this impossible mix. But it perhaps reflects a bit on Putin and his position as a Russian leader, which is considerably less severe than his ancestors.
And so we have a ruler early on named Sviatoslaf whose mother encouraged him to be a Christian, but he refused until later in life. His goal was to conquer. Thus, it says of him: "He accustomed his body, Spartan-like, to all the fatigues and exposures of war. He indulged in no luxury of tents or carriages, and ate the flesh of horses and wild beats, which he roasted himself, over the coals. In his campaigns the ground was his bed, the sky his curtain, his horse blanket his covering, and the saddle his pillow; and he seemed equally regardless of both heat and cold." Ah, the good old days, when leaders led by example.
For amusement, here is a link to a youth band doing Marche Slave.