This introduction to the Soviet world by one of the first “dissidents” may help in understanding its post-Soviet version and now, in 2014, the turnaround to I’m afraid to say what.
Very readable and available in excellent translation.
I think this book is based on Sinyavsky’s lectures in the Sorbonne, thus very little of the brain-paralizing academic style.
See my background reading section. Marerials that pile up there may appear vague and pointless to some. To others they will perhaps help identify principles and algorithms that explain a plethora of specifics.