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The Desperate Soviet Violinist

This monster is not a fashion icon (360b/Shutterstock)

David Mills recalls a youthful tour of the Soviet Union, and a chance meeting on a campground. Excerpt:

The man who slipped into our cabin that night was a violinist, apparently very good, good enough to have been brought to the capital to perform. Only a couple years older than us, he wanted to talk about western music, but none of us knew anything about it at the level he wanted to know. He longed for freedom, but not in the abstract. He chafed under a musical establishment that produced what the bureaucrats wanted and hated innovation, and kept musicians like him from knowing anything about the musical world outside the Soviet Union.

The poor man desperately wanted the freedom to pursue his art and his craft. He couldn’t leave the country, even to go to communist eastern Europe, because he wasn’t married. He didn’t have a family the state could hold hostage to keep him from defecting. Sneaking talks with westerners was the closest he could get to the musical freedom he craved.

Our InTourist guide reported on us every evening, and two security agents followed our group. They looked exactly as you’d expect: Big round-faced unhappy looking men in black suits. Our guide told us to pretend we didn’t see them and we tried, but they knew that we knew who they were. For all we and our guest knew that night, they were watching our cabin. If they had been, the young man would — not could, but would — have been sent to a prison camp.

Read the whole thing. David explains what this tells us about why young Americans who sentimentalize communism or dismiss its horrors are fools.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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