RUSSIA: The Land and People of the Soviet Union. Photographs by Dieter Blum, text by Nikolai Nikolaevich Mikhailov, comments and captions by Natalya Shemiatenkova (Abrams, $45). In this album by West German photographer Dieter Blum, two color plates stand out. One is a view from the air of the onion domes, all 20 of them, of a 260-year-old wooden church erected to the glory of God (without a single nail) on an island in the lake country east of Leningrad. The other looks out over the crumbling roof of the Winter Palace, with its Dutch chimneys, across the Neva toward the needle spire of the Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul. Taken together, the two panoramas evoke the sweep of Russian history, a torrent of much suffering and much hope. Blum's talent is able to capture on film the puniness of man's efforts on a heroic landscape. The introduction and commentary that accompany his photographs unfortunately are crude essays in official propaganda. GALAPAGOS: Islands Lost in Time, by Tui De Roy Moore with an introduction by Peter Matthiessen (Vikingm, $25). Darwin studied them, Herman Melville called them Las Encantadas -- the enchanted isles. While most imformed persons know there is something special about the Galapagos Islands, they may not be prepared for the spectacular reality of the strange and beautiful archipelago that erupts out of a turquoise Pacific in a dazzle of golden beach, emerald highland, black mountains and fabulous wildlife. Photojournalist Moore has lived since girlhood in the Galapagos and knows them as no off-islander can. We are lucky to have her pictures of gorgeous tidal inlets and inland valleys and her portraits of the frigate birds, iguanas, sea lions -- and most rare and wonderful -- the giant tortoises. The informative text will delight the amateur naturalist and birder. Austrailian Dreaming: 40,000 Years of Aboriginal History, compiled and edited by Jennifer Isaacs (Lansdown, $35). This a most impressive book. The editor is the Austrailisn civil servant changed with overseeing Aboriginal cultural programs, one of which was this compilation of the stories and legends of Australia's first inhabitants. For them history did not begin with the coming of Captain James Cook in 1770; it began with the Ancestors of the Dreamtime, from whom all life, all creation, derive. The narrative connecting the stories is blessedly free of social-science jargon. The beautiful photographs, all in color and evidently chosen with care, are oddly haunting, conveying as they do a sense of the immensity of the land and the antiquity of the Aborigines. The photograph of a naked bushman contemplating a cliff might well be a photogrpah of Adam. A book to treasure and ponder. THE ALPS, by Shiro Shirahata (Rizzoli, $75). Cold Alpine air practically wafts out of this picture book when it is opened. Perhaps it ought only to be opened on a hot August day. Here are the spectacular ranges, peaks and valleys and Europe's highest mountains -- the Mont Blanc Massif, the Wallis, the Bernese Oberland, the Matterhorn, the Jungfrau, the Engadin, the Dolomites, where we all want to go. Shirahata's photographs manage to capture them in all their moods and delicate shadings of color. If the net effect is a trifle monotonous, what of it? Clearly, Heidi had a good thing.