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Ignat Solzhenitsyn At Notre Dame

Welcome to my live blogging from the University of Notre Dame, where scholar Daniel Mahoney is interviewing Ignat Solzhenitsyn [1], the conductor and musician who is the second son of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This is the kickoff event for the university’s Center for Ethics and Culture’s annual Fall Conference.  [2]

I’m going to blog notes and observations from the interview. If you’re just tuning in (it’s 8:26 pm CDT on Thursday night), check out the livestream. I’ll be making notes, though, for those who miss it:

UPDATE: IS reminds the audience that his father wrote “bless you, gulag, for having been in my life” for what his suffering did for him to convert him. IS says that his grandmother — his father’s mother — was devoutly Orthodox, and tried to raise him that way. But by Young Pioneer age, he had been compromised by “the inevitable” — that is, he became a communist.

In the gulag, though, he found he was able to speak freely because he had nothing more to lose. “Without that opportunity to be schooled and to be reminded of the greater truths and the outright lie that dominated — that was the essence of Soviet society — a man like Solzhenitsyn would have still been a writer” but would not have become the man he did.

IS: “For so many people the formative years tend to be the teenage years. Really, for Solzhenitsyn, it was his mid and late 20s. It was that time in prison. All of those aspects of his ignorance, or blindness as he came to see it, were revealed to him at that point — with regard to faith, with regard to Russian history, which by then were really the animating passions of his life.”

“Already at 10 years old, he knew that Russian history had to be dug out somehow. But he didn’t know how.”

UPDATE.2: Mahoney says that The Gulag Archipelago is taught in Russian high schools. There’s a certain difficulty in coming to terms with it. It’s possible for people to interpret it in a too-narrow political sense, e.g., “That’s the past, that’s the Soviet Union, it’s gone.” But it seems to me that George Kennan was right in 1975 when he said that TGA is the greatest indictment of a political regime ever written. But Solzhenitsyn says, “If you think that this book is a mere political indictment, slam the covers shut.” Both, says Mahoney, are true.

Mahoney quotes the famous passage in which AS says the line between good and evil passes through the heart of every human being, and who wants to cut out part of his own heart? The author’s point is that anybody is capable of being the creators of the gulag, and the imprisoners. Mahoney also adds that AS’s widow says TGA is “an epic poem” of the human soul.

IS: “What Solzhenitsyn is interested in primarily is who we are, and how it can be that we perpetrate such acts upon each other. And yes, not that the bad people do it and the good people suffer, but that each one of us has that capability. His experience taught him that it did not take very much to push a person into that darker side. It did not have to be unspeakable torture, which was routine and commonplace in certain Soviet periods. It did not have to be too much in terms of loss — loss of position, loss of family, and so forth — to see what man is capable of. If only it were just the communists. Communism is a specific evil that’s a subspecies of something larger, and that’s what interested him.”

UPDATE.3: Mahoney asks IS to address the belief many in the West have that his father was anti-Western. This, from his famous Harvard speech in 1974 1978, in which he criticized the West, though AS said he was criticizing the West as a friend to it.

IS: “First of all, what is the weakness of the West? Primarily at that moment it was the domino effect of the communist red wave sweeping across the world. So much of the focus in the Cold War was on Europe, but it wasn’t only Europe. It was Africa, Vietnam, Latin America, and so forth. In Europe, Portugal and Greece on the brink. It was very much up for grabs how quickly communism would spread, and indeed [if] if would win. Plus there was a time of what is universally recognized now, in America, was ‘malaise.’ … It was not a time of Western confidence in its own civilization. … In one sense this was a warning to the West: ‘Wake up! You don’t know what you’re dealing with. Too many of you are asleep at the switch.'”

“Another aspect was his sense that the Russian path had, already for a thousand years, let’s not say messianic, let’s not say unique, but the point is it was its own path He wanted to open some space for Russia to develop as it survived communism, and to build some kind of post-communist future. That Russia should not blindly imitate what comes from the West.”

“The final piece of the puzzle is in the Harvard Address most clearly, and most famously, he studies that common heritage of humanism and communism — two lungs of the same organism. That’s what he suspected, and I think time has proven him correct. Not that they were the same thing, but that they had something in common.”

Mahoney: AS said so many Western intellectuals were sympathetic to Soviet communism because they saw it as a more complete version of anthropomorphic humanism.

UPDATE.4: Mahoney reminds the audience that Solzhenitsyn had a lot of admiration and respect for John Paul II, the Slavic pope.

IS: “For S., and I think for every person from under the communist yoke, his election really was seen as a miracle. To have a man who already had such a track record of strength and courage and unwillingness to compromise on what really mattered.”

“He was a great man, and someone who Solzhenitsyn admired without reservation.”

Mahoney says that AS was upset that so many people in the West believed that the Russian people were the same thing as the Bolsheviks, as the communists. Mahoney says he’s on the board of National Review magazine, and he’s constantly struggling with fellow US conservatives to have some sympathy for Russia, and not to see contemporary Russia as simply a new version of the Soviet Union. Mahoney says few people in the West really understand the good things that have happened and are happening in Russia. Why is that?

IS: “It’s a profoundly vexing question, to which I don’t have an answer, but it does lead one to ask in turn whether the enemy really was communism. Now, on the left, I think it’s a different conversation. … But on the right, American conservatives and centrists — anyone who wasn’t a fellow traveler of communism — one thought stood against communism, stood against militant atheism, and so on. The lack of free markets, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, etc, etc. If that was the case, why has almost nothing changed since the Cold War? Either that means Russia hasn’t changed, which is manifestly not true, or it means that the real enemy was always Russia — the geopolitical space.”

Mahoney: Part of it is the cultural divide. Russia today is worried about transgenderism, gay marriage, all the things that are seen as the advance edge of postmodernity and progress.

IS: “I can’t resist saying that President Obama was against all those things in 2013.”

IS goes on to say that while it’s true that AS believed that Russians were in a sense the first victim of communism, but he also believed that Russians were also the first perpetrators of communism. The great shame of Russians of Solzhenitsyn’s generation was Budapest 1954 1956 and Prague 1968. “He felt profound guilt as a Russian for the evil we’ve brought to all these people in Europe, and for that matter in Asia and elsewhere. But he also thought that we Russians have the right to say that we’ve suffered — yes, from ourselves, we did this to ourselves, but don’t deny us.”

UPDATE.5: Now questions and answers from the audience.

A Chilean professor asks about an AS passage about the cowardice of the West, “that people don’t dare say the truth.” He goes on to ask in Ignat’s opinion, “Which truths are being suppressed today, and that we are being cowards not to tell the truth?”

IS: “Truths about who we are. The nature of humanity, the nature of the human condition. How, I suppose he would say, how little we change, even as our history involves, and our technology moves forward, and we supposedly live better and better.”

[Note from Rod: He totally dodged that question! Which is pretty interesting, if you think about it.]

New question: What advice would AS give to young Russians today?

IS: “Don’t be so quick to cast off entirely this patrimony that, through this whole nightmare of the Soviet years, somehow you still inherited. Don’t assume that everything that comes from the West is worthy of imitation. … Allow some room for an original Russian way, modest as it might be.”

New question: What about your father’s dealings with Gorbachev?

IS: “He did not think much of Gorbachev, it’s not secret. Although history gives all of us perspective as we live on. In certain ways, Gorbachev has looked better to Russians. He’s always looked great in the West. … I don’t think they ever met. Certainly there was no substantive meeting. Gorbachev actively resisted not just the return to Solzhenitsyn’s citizenship and right to return, but most importantly to him the publication of his books. He fought tooth and nail for that not to happen, until finally, as in so many things, he gave in to the enormous pressure.”

Said that as late as 1989 Gorbachev was still saying that Solzhenitsyn has no place in Russian society.

New question: “Theology, history and literature are important to any culture. Which of those three would your father say is most important in rebuilding a Russian cultural identity in the wake of communism?”

IS: “I think for a writer, the language was always first and foremost. He writes about that in several essays: so much of what defines a person, despite protestations to the contrary, is nationhood. What defines nationhood is not blood, but is identity. Actually Solzhenitsyn believed strongly that being Russian, or Jewish, or American, or anything, was more than anything self-identification. Who do I love? Where do I belong? Language, literature … he was no theologian, but of course he recognized the importance of theology. On history, he was a historian by default. I doubt he would agree to removing any of those three.”

Mahoney said that we Christians see the Christian themes in AS’s work, but he was really reticent to lay out theological beliefs. He was “a partisan of the soul, but not a theologian.”

New question: “Do you think your father would see the East and the West as fundamentally reconcilable in theology and culture?”

IS: “Absolutely, yes. Two sides of the same being, two lungs of the same organism. Unlike Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn didn’t see this unrelated path for Russia, that ‘everybody leave us alone, and we’ll leave everybody else alone.’ No.” Said Solzhenitsyn would have thought about a “partnership” with the West. A 1994 Forbes interview in which AS spoke of “the coming realignment of the world” as it seemed to him, in which the West may need Russia as an ally in the face of other rising forces in the world.

“Russia and the West have a shared, if not a fused, destiny. At least I would like to think so.”

 

 

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26 Comments (Open | Close)

26 Comments To "Ignat Solzhenitsyn At Notre Dame"

#1 Comment By Furor On November 1, 2018 @ 11:15 pm

I don’t get why people treat Solzhenitsyn with such reverence

Bolshevism happened in Russia because of its despotic traditions, tolerance for violence, indifference to tradition kickstarted by Peter the Great and radical modes of thinking, some think bolshevism was a secularized radical russian theology

People look at Russia as if it was God knows what. It’s just a country, an empire, which you can analyze and describe but people look at Russia as some magical forest

Russia isn’t anything particularly special, it’s philosophical tradition is certainly poorer than that of Western Europe

#2 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 1, 2018 @ 11:33 pm

Imagine if Solzhenitsyn had remained in the Young Communist League and became one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s leading assistants. Imagine that he had put sufficient steel and backbone into Gorbachev to pull off successful reforms in the Communist Party instead of flubbing it and succumbing to an opportunistic alcoholic facilitator of kleptocracy like Boris Yelstsin. The possibilities are endless…

[NFR: Communism was evil. — RD]

#3 Comment By Seoulite On November 1, 2018 @ 11:39 pm

Interesting discussion. A couple of points:

Don’t assume that everything that comes from the West is worthy of imitation

Actually I think it is Western Europeans and Americans who need to learn that lesson.

Do you think your father would see the East and the West as fundamentally reconcilable in theology and culture?”

Regarding Russia as the “East” seems remarkably Eurocentric. The Russian civilisation is far more similar to the Western European civilisation than it is different.

I think Westerners are going to have a real shock when the real East finally takes the stage again, of course China being first among them. They are radically different from us, with entirely different concepts of self and government. They carry no baggage from the colonial period nor the two European civil wars in 1914 and 1939. There is no original sin for them.

The world will look very different once there is a true meeting of East and West, and all the handwringing over Russia will seem as nothing when a truly distinct civilisation is once again sailing the high seas or roaming across the steppe.

#4 Comment By charles cosimano On November 2, 2018 @ 1:32 am

Siarlys, the odds that Solzhenitsyn would have ever risen in the ranks of the USSR Communist Party are about the same as being struck by lightning, inside, at the same time as winning the Powerball jackpot. He would have remained the same, hectoring annoyance and in that organization he would not have survived.

I agree with Furor. The Gulag Archipelago contained nothing that was not familiar to anyone who had read Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror. Solzhenitsyn always struck me as just a self-righteous old windbag, sort of a bearded David Brooks, who was canonized by the American media for holding the holy position of “Soviet Dissident” and when they found out what they really had acquired uncanonized him just as quickly and could not wait to ship him back.

Oh, and calling this event the “kick off” would seem highly appropriate to the location.

#5 Comment By AnnaH On November 2, 2018 @ 2:29 am

A typo: Budapest 1956 (not 1954).

#6 Comment By pilgrim On November 2, 2018 @ 2:51 am

Thanks.

I had gotten the feelibg that his children were wishy-washed and Westernized from documentaries and this seems to go along with that.

Already Plato said that great men’s sons didn’t necessarily become great.

#7 Comment By John Spragge On November 2, 2018 @ 6:15 am

For at least the majority of the past thirty years, throughout most of the lives of the millennial generation, the United States has held a higher proportion of its population in correctional institutions than Leonid Brezhnev’s Soviet Union ever did. I’ll say that again: you have more people locked up, on average, than Brezhnev did.

“Communism”, or more properly Marxist Leninism (as opposed to, Monastic society or the community described in Acts) may be evil in ways Malthusian capitalism is not. But if the basis for that judgement is the Gulag Archipelago, then the United States has a long past due moral reckoning of its own.

#8 Comment By Susan On November 2, 2018 @ 6:43 am

The Russian legacy is fraught with not having had to undergo is own Nuremberg trials.

#9 Comment By Stephen Hoffmann On November 2, 2018 @ 8:40 am

Siarlys—John Lennon is calling you . . .

#10 Comment By Jeremy On November 2, 2018 @ 9:03 am

A correction, Rod. Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address was 1978, not 1974, making this the 40th anniversary.

#11 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 2, 2018 @ 9:58 am

[NFR: Communism was evil. — RD]

Rod,

I know you feel that way: Siarlys and I think differently, and it seems clearly false to me. We’ve had these arguments back and forth in the past: as far as I can tell you’ve never really engaged with the arguments we’ve presented back to you (or even on some occasions, people who say they lived under communist regimes and that they weren’t that ‘evil’). There are, after all, lots of people out there who would say that “Christianity is evil”, with about as little justification. Most type of social order have costs and benefits and have been used for both good and evil- communism no less than any other, and certainly Christian social orders are among them. When you come right down to it, I think that central planning and distribution is going to be a better hope for the future than the vagaries of the market, and I also think that collective ownership of the means of production, and “from each according to his ability, etc.” are better alternatives, at least morally, than what capitalism has to put forward.

No doubt you think the same of Siarlys and me (that we’re missing something big, or not sufficiently responding to your arguments). I don’t think we’re going to settle this here and now, but I couldn’t let your lapidary statement pass unchallenged or treat it as an inarguable fact.

On a more important note though: you’re three hours away from me right now. Are you free this evening and would you like me to take you to dinner up in South Bend, or would you be able to come down here? It would be great to meet up after all this time!

[NFR: Thanks for the invitation. I’m not free, actually — tied up with conference stuff all weekend. Alas! — RD]

#12 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 2, 2018 @ 10:02 am

Imagine if Solzhenitsyn had remained in the Young Communist League and became one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s leading assistants

This was never in the cards, but it’s quite possible, in an alternate history, that the communist world or some parts of it might have survived into the present day. I’ve had a fairly detailed plan for a novel that I’ve been working on for some time now (involving, uh, gray magic and the supernatural among many other things), and among other things it’s set in a world where the Warsaw Pact, in some form, still exists.

#13 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 2, 2018 @ 10:12 am

Regarding Russia as the “East” seems remarkably Eurocentric. The Russian civilisation is far more similar to the Western European civilisation than it is different.

Yea, I strongly disagree with that. On the basis of what? That they’re Christians? So are Ethiopians, and for that matter a majority of sub-Saharan Africans today. That their philosophical roots are in Plato? You could say the same of a lot of Islamic thought. That they had a close intercourse with intellectual life in western Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries? You could say the same of, like, post-Meiji Japan. I don’t think that makes you fundamentally part of the same civilization as, say, the Anglo-American world. Incidentally I wouldn’t consider the rest of Slavic Eastern Europe to be ‘western’ either, even the Catholic or mixed Catholic/Protestant nations like Poland or Hungary. (Neither do most Poles, a plurality of them self-define as neither Eastern or Western, according to the last public opinion suvery I saw).

If we stretch civilizational boundaries too broadly, they rapidly become meaningless. Russia and even Poland are “radically different from us” too, due to a very different natural environment, historical background, and demographic makeup. Religion is important but it’s ultimately less important than Rod and a lot of other things, and remains a surface layer over a lot of much deeper things. At the level of issues like the preference for an ‘open’ or ‘closed’ society, Russia and even Poland are every bit as alien to a North American as the Chinese or Japanese ever could be.

Muhammed Ali Jinnah put it pretty well when he said that one of the distinctive defining factors of a civilization is the way you read history: the heroes of the one are the villains of the other. Russia has historically faced enemies from the south and east, but their greatest challenges have always come from the west, which is part of why there’s always been such a deep antipathy between Orthodoxy and Western Christianity. That’s where you get sayings like “better the turban than the mitre”.

#14 Comment By Joe On November 2, 2018 @ 10:51 am

I think that this quote is very important in this post (and the prior one!):

“In the gulag, though, he found he was able to speak freely because he had nothing more to lose. ”

Those of us who have endured great suffering have really lost everything (or what seems to be everything). This makes freedom available (although not guaranteed) and a free man or woman can inspire and lead out of their emptiness, which is where they find God. Certainly JPII knew and wrote about this freedom that comes through great suffering and loss. In a paradoxical way, one becomes more of an individual and, I think, more attentive to the dignity of each person when one has lost so much of one’s Self.

#15 Comment By Al Kawi On November 2, 2018 @ 11:16 am

Furor,

If you are really interested in a serious reply to the question you posed, you should look at Martin Malia’s _The Soviet Tragedy_, and then also perhaps _Russia Under Western Eyes_ .

The argument that Bolshevik Russia was just an updated version of Tsarist tyranny was popularized among others by Trotsky and similar losers of the revolution. Socialists who sought to disavow the Soviet experience also bought into this idea, ignoring the parallels in other socialist states such as China, Cambodia, and North Korea.

Moshe Lewin, among others, has made this sort of argument, namely that Russia’s backwardness made a hash out of Marxism. Trotsky pioneered it in his attempt to delegitimize Stalin as a Communist. Stalin was not only eminently smarter and more clever than Trotsky, he also had the support of more than a million Communist party members who believed that they were building socialism and didn’t need Trotsky to tell them what communism was or was not.

Malia, by contrast, makes a strong case for why ideology, and specifically Marxism, must be put at the center of any analysis of the Soviet experience. Marxism was a quintessentially Western ideology, produced by a German Jew working in a London library. The materialist assumptions and the naive “scientific” aspirations of Marxism were deeply Western.

The argument that Solzhenitsyn made in his letter to the Soviet leadership in the early 1970s warning them against going to war with Communist China was quite prescient. As he put it, Russia had caught a cold from the West and passed it on to China. To speak of Communism then, and in the USSR moreover, as a temporary malady was enormously foresightful as well as courageous. Less than two decades later this would be the conventional wisdom.

Malia’s book on Revolutions as the Locomotives of History takes a deeper dive, tracing how the idea of revolution emerged in the West out of heretical Christian metaphysics. _The Soviet Tragedy_ is a much easier read. It is a polemic, but an insightful one.

#16 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 2, 2018 @ 11:43 am

The argument that Bolshevik Russia was just an updated version of Tsarist tyranny was popularized among others by Trotsky and similar losers of the revolution.

Al Kawi,

You’re placing an overly polemical gloss on the argument in order to discredit it. The argument that Communism was deeply rooted in Russian and Eastern European culture isn’t just something that Trotskyists or critics of communism made up, it has also been put forward by some defenders of communism or neo-communism. Grigory Ioffe, for example, who’s fairly supportive of the modern neo-communist regime in Belarus, argues that with the exception of atheism, many of the other aspects of Soviet official culture had roots in, specifically, the typical outlook of the Russian peasant. I have the document saved, but I can’t access it right now: I’ll link to it when I can.

#17 Comment By Elijah On November 2, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

“I’ll say that again: you have more people locked up, on average, than Brezhnev did.”

Great point. Let’s institute an inhuman gulag system that routinely tortures and murders its own people based on quotas.

This may well be the stupidest comment I’ve ever read here.

#18 Comment By Will Harrington On November 2, 2018 @ 1:36 pm

Furor

What does any of what you said about Russia have to do with Solzhenitsyn? Your comment is an example of a category error. You questioned a man and then criticized other peoples perception of a nation. Have you read The Gulag Archipelago?

#19 Comment By Some guy what posts here occasionally On November 2, 2018 @ 1:44 pm

My regards to Dan Mahoney, whose apartment I moved into once he left graduate school many years ago. Dan was by far the most engaging, articulate and thoroughly involved students of politics I ever met, and one of the few “conservative” academics I know who have made quite a career over the past three decades. In fact, I would bet that there was nothing that had to do with political philosophy that he hadn’t read by the time I knew him, and that he has thoroughly devoured everything since, and that whether or not you agree with him, he has actually read cover to cover whatever book you’re debating. He read all three volumes of the Gulag Archipelago back when, pretty much all Solzhenitsyn in English translation and much of what was published only in French to that point. You could not have had a better host for the event.

#20 Comment By Will Harrington On November 2, 2018 @ 1:47 pm

Charles Cosimano

Your take on Solzhenitsyn vs Robert Conquest ignores the fact that, like you, Conquest did not have to fear publishing “The Great Terror”. Like you, and unlike SA, he enjoyed the benefits of free speech and only had to fear harsh critics who might have hurt his feelings. This is not a criticism of Conquest, you must understand. It is, in fact, a criticism of your own supposed insight. Your criticism of SA as a self righteous old windbag seems more like a case of projection than an actual case of cogent criticism.

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 2, 2018 @ 2:12 pm

NFR: Communism was evil. — RD

A non sequitir if I ever saw one. But I see Hector has elaborated in some detail.

Siarlys—John Lennon is calling you . . .

Why? One thing he was NOT is a communist, whatever the John Birch Society may have suspected.

I’m a bit curious whether Solzhenitysn fis>/i> is being claimed for Cosimanion Orthodoxy, or whether the Cosimanians were secretly in control of the KGB all along.

#22 Comment By Susan On November 2, 2018 @ 3:32 pm

East vs west is about as fake as Sino soviet split as dem vs repubs. False dialectic. These puppets all serve same master. Read olavo de carvalho.

#23 Comment By Al Kawi On November 2, 2018 @ 8:17 pm

“The argument that Bolshevik Russia was just an updated version of Tsarist tyranny was popularized among others by Trotsky and similar losers of the revolution.

Al Kawi,

You’re placing an overly polemical gloss on the argument in order to discredit it. The argument that Communism was deeply rooted in Russian and Eastern European culture isn’t just something that Trotskyists or critics of communism made up, it has also been put forward by some defenders of communism or neo-communism. Grigory Ioffe, for example, who’s fairly supportive of the modern neo-communist regime in Belarus, argues that with the exception of atheism, many of the other aspects of Soviet official culture had roots in, specifically, the typical outlook of the Russian peasant. I have the document saved, but I can’t access it right now: I’ll link to it when I can.”

Hector,

Thank you for your reply. Soviet Russia, of course, necessarily shared continuities with Tsarist Russia. All historical entities exhibit continuities. It can’t be otherwise.

The best argument for the contention that Russia perverted Communism/Marxism rather than the reverse is the reality that Marxism took a different course in the West. Still, I think Malia is correct that one cannot understand the Soviet experience without putting the ideology front and center. The Bolsheviks, including Stalin, were very sincere in their attempt to create an alternative to liberal democratic and capitalist societies. The fact that Marxism created similar disasters in multiple other countries lends further credence to the contention that there was something fundamentally inhumane in Communist ideology.

None of this is to say, of course, that the alternatives are flawless or even desirable except perhaps as alternatives to Soviet Communism. As someone above pointed out, the incarceration rate in the Unites States is staggering, and surely this reflects a deeper dysfunction.

#24 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 3, 2018 @ 6:41 pm

The fact that Marxism created similar disasters in multiple other countries lends further credence to the contention that there was something fundamentally inhumane in Communist ideology

Yes, except I wouldn’t concede your premise here: Communism in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary didn’t actually look that much like it did in the Soviet Union. For example, collectivization of agriculture happened in those three countries without major losses in productivity and without any famines. Communism in north-central Europe was also much less brutal than it was in the Soviet Union as well. For that matter, even the Soviet Union itself looked quite different after Stalin than it did before, which makes it hard to say that something like the Ukrainian famine / genocide was baked into the communist cake. Things are more historically contingent than that.

If your point is that communism automatically tends towards authoritarianism, that’s a more strongly defensible point. But then, there are lots of varying degrees of authoritarianism.

Anyway, I think when Ioffe mentions similarities between the “Russian peasant” worldview and the communist one, he is thinking more about things like messianism, apocalyptic separation between good and evil, fatalism, submissiveness towards authority, distrust of people who rise too high through their own efforts, etc.. (There’s a reason why the famous old joke about the Russian peasant and the genie involves him asking the genie to kill the richer peasant’s cow, rather than asking him to burn down the noble’s manor).

#25 Comment By charles cosimano On November 3, 2018 @ 8:39 pm

Siarlys, who cannot see how hard I am laughing at this and would never believe the reason, said, “I’m a bit curious whether Solzhenitysn fis>/i> is being claimed for Cosimanion Orthodoxy, or whether the Cosimanians were secretly in control of the KGB all along.”

We would be now but the FSB is by no means as effective as the KGB was being just as bumbling as our own, rather embarrassing, FBI and not to be taken very seriously. Of course we would not want to be associated with Solzhenitsyn for fear of being scalded by his hot air (though I’m told he was good for heating the camp barracks. They just got him talking and they saved firewood. That is not my joke. I heard it from an ex KGB man in the early 90s.)

The Cult of Solzhenitsyn was a joke back in the 70s among Sovietologists. He just managed to prove all the jokes true.

One little thing. Solzhenitsyn never feared for his safety. He liked to make people gullible enough to believe that think it, but the Brezhnev regime did not work that way he knew it. He just cozied up to the Western Media and that would protect him. He was not dealing with a Second Stalin. He was in no more danger of disappearing back into Siberia than Boris Pasternak was 20 years before. It just made good PR sense to throw him out of the country and let him bore the West to death. Had he been a minor figure, he would just have been declared a victim of Sluggish Schizophrenia and put in a loony bin somewhere but he was not a minor figure.

It would be nice if people who talk about the Soviet Union in that period of the early 70s actually had some idea of what they were talking about.

#26 Comment By Eliavy On November 18, 2018 @ 6:31 pm

Does anyone know why there aren’t any new physical or ebook editions/printings of the unabridged Gulag Archipelago? All I’ve been able to find is one 70’s edition of books I-II at the library and I’d like to read the rest.