I think the generous thing to do is to attribute thier lying to their impossibly expansive and indefensible frontier — perhaps it led to their valuing strength above all else (even truth).
The less generous, but probably just as accurate, observation is that they are the bastard child of the Golden Horde, and inherited her institution, her mentality, and her crest — a two headed eagle.
A Russian civil servant bragging in 1839: “Russia lies, denies the facts, makes war on the evidence, and wins!”
“Russia is a nation of mutes; some magician has changed sixty million men into automatons.”
“I don’t reproach the Russians for being what they are; what I blame them for is their desire to appear to be what we [Europeans] are…. They are much less interested in being civilized than in making us believe them so… They would be quite content to be in effect more awful and barbaric than they actually are, if only others could thereby be made to believe them better and more civilized.”
“Custine eventually discovered that his knack was for travel writing. He wrote a decently received account of a trip to Spain and was encouraged by Honoré de Balzac to write accounts of other “half-European” parts of Europe, like southern Italy and Russia. . . .
He went to Russia looking for arguments against representative government, but he was appalled by autocracy as practiced in Russia, and equally by the Russian people’s apparent collaboration in their own oppression. . . .
He mocked contemporary Russia for its veneer of European civilization hiding an Asiatic soul. . . .
Most of Custine’s mocking was reserved for the Russian nobility and Nicholas I. Custine said Russia’s aristocracy had “just enough of the gloss of European civilization to be ‘spoiled as savages’ but not enough to become cultivated men. They were like ‘trained bears who made you long for the wild ones.’
Custine criticizes Nicholas for the constant spying he ordered and for repressing Poland. Custine had more than one conversation with the Tsar and concluded it was possible that the Tsar only behaved as he did because he felt he had to. “If the Emperor has no more of mercy in his heart than he reveals in his policies, then I pity Russia; if, on the other hand, his true sentiments are really superior to his acts, then I pity the Emperor.” . . .
describes Russia as a horrible domain of obsequious flattery of the Tsar and spying. Custine said the air felt freer the moment one crossed into Prussia. In the middle 20th century, many saw predictions of Joseph Stalin in Custine’s description of Nicholas I. . . .”
“In Russia, everything you notice, and everything that happens around you, has a terrifying uniformity; and the first thought that comes into the traveler’s mind, as he contemplates this symmetry, is that such entire consistency and regularity, so contrary to the natural inclination of mankind, cannot have been achieved and could not survive without violence. . . . Officially, such brutal tyranny is called respect for unity and love of order; and this bitter fruit of despotism appears so precious to the methodical mind that you are told it cannot be purchased at too high a price.”