The article offers a methodological reflection on the practical work of reading race in Russian literary texts, especially from the nineteenth century. It makes four key arguments. First, “racialization,” in the sense of an interactive process, is a more productive lens than an essentially static concept of race. Second, race is not only, and not always, a question of perception or meaning-making, but also ideology. Third, the concept of race typically engages notions of class, gender, and sexuality, an intersectionality that merits particular attention. Fourth, critiquing race can be productively furthered by paying attention to anxieties and insecurities that underlie racial hierarchies and biases, which can be revealed through readings against the grain. As we cast new light on Russia's engagement with race, it is essential that the culture of the Russian nineteen-century become part of this reappraisal.