Archive for the ‘Russia’ Tag

How Solzhenitsyn defeated the USSR   2 comments

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008

What do you do when murderous psychopaths who wield the power of life and death begin to threaten you with a permanent vacation to Siberia where you will enjoy making clay bricks with your bare hands while feasting on a starvation-diet? Do you shut up, keep your head down, and burn all your manuscripts? If you’re Solzhenitsyn, you actually create a plan of action that is quite the opposite. Here, in a few easy (frighteningly death-defying) steps, is how to take down a repressive authoritarian government with the power of your art.

  1. Samizdat

So, corrupt Neanderthalish government officials want to censor your work? No problem, just distribute full copies of the manuscript via samizdat! This time-honored, entirely illegal form of publication under repressive regimes that prefer to control the written word never fails to gather a reading public. Soon enough you will have enough notoriety that publishers in the “Capitalist Pig” areas of the world will begin printing your work for you. Solzhenitsyn eventually began using this form of publication preemptively to ensure that if his novels ever were published, the editors would not be able to selectively remove what they perceived to be offensive passages.

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  1. Public letters of complaint to literati and journalists

On May 16, Solzhenitsyn wrote to a gathering of fellow Russian writers to complain about, “The no longer tolerable oppression, in the form of censorship, which our literature has endured for decades.” He went on, “Works…are proscribed or distorted by censorship on the basis of considerations that are petty, egotistical, and…shortsighted.” The response of the powers-that-be? They basically did that thing where a petulant child sticks his fingers in his ears and pretends not to hear when you tell him to brush his teeth. Solzhenitsyn wouldn’t let them off the hook, though, and penned another letter: “Does the Secretariat believe that my novel will disappear as a result of these endless delays, that I will cease to exist…?” After being told that the answer was essentially, Yes, yes we do hope that you cease to exist, he reminded them that the novel was actually already being read in samizdat form (because, preemption). He went on to note that his work was not so much a political work as it was a look at “universal and eternal questions.” Of course, this very concept of universal truth is precisely what Marxists refuse to admit exists since everything falls under the rubric of class struggle. So to them the mere fact of an artist talking about universal truth is very much a political attack.

  1. Public attacks on the KGB

Is your public feud with the entirety of your professional class not dangerous enough? Why not up the stakes and make a run at the secret police too? Solzhenitsyn, after having already been in the Gulag for 8 years and actually seeing it effect him spiritually for the better, wasn’t afraid of returning if need be*. After having half a dozen of his speaking engagements cancelled due to, as he discovered upon his arrival to speak, “Author’s Indisposition,” he finally managed to overcome his imaginary illnesses and arrive at a speaking engagement at which the audience hadn’t been warned away. He took his chance. To a crowd of five-hundred, he proclaimed, “There is a certain organization that has no obvious claim to tutelage over the arts, that you may think has no business at all supervising literature–but that does these things. This organization took away my novel and my archive…Even so, I said nothing, but went on working quietly…What can I do about it? Only defend myself! So here I am!”

 In fact, he could do much more than he imagined, because as the KGB understood well enough, his literature was powerful beyond words, communicating a depth of despair and truth that had sunk into the hearts of the Russian people and would never be extracted by any amount of force or propaganda. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch had become a day in the life of all Russians. They’d all been touched by the pain of the Gulag in some form or another. Up until this moment, the secret had been kept, a sort of conspiracy between abuser and abused. But Solzhenitsyn, in speaking so boldly, finally broke the spell. At grave risk to himself (the KGB attempted to assassinate him in a ricin attack), he created one of the first chinks in the armor of the Communist Party.

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The Gulag photo

  1. Soak up the Slander

If you can’t censor a writer, you can at least slander him mercilessly. According to Joseph Pearce’s biography A Soul In Exile, the editor of Pravda gave a speech in which he called Solzhenitsyn, “A psychologically unbalanced person, a schizophrenic.” He goes on to declare, “Of course we cannot publish his works.” This was but one of many slanderous accusations that he was a traitor and a capitalist pig. A few years later at a meeting of the Writer’s Union, he was systematically attacked, labeled “anti-social,” and finally kicked out of the Union. It was this final act of anti-free speech behavior that finally caused international sympathizers with the Soviet experiment to finally break ranks. Soon enough, criticism from intellectuals such as Jean Paul Sartre, Arthur Miller, and Kurt Vonnegut were made public. Now, as Pearce writes, Solzhenitsyn was, “a living symbol of the struggle for human rights in the face of state censorship.” This point was driven home triumphantly when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. Solzhenitsyn was unable to retrieve his Nobel for fear of never being let back into Russia, so he sent a printed speech. In it, he reveals the reason that a mere writer could cause so much discomfort among the political powers.

The task of an artist is to sense more keenly than others the harmony of the world, the beauty and the outrage of what man has done to it, and poignantly to let people know…By means of art we are sometimes sent—dimly, briefly—revelations unattainable by reason. Like that little mirror in the fairy tales—look into it, and you will see not yourself but, for a moment, that which passeth understanding, a realm to which no man can ride or fly. And for which the soul begins to ache…

Truly, an artist who reveals truth through beauty is stronger than any government and any artificially constructed set of beliefs that would lay claim upon us. Art reveals to us who we are, and such a truth cannot be silenced. Cheers to Alexander Solzhenitsyn for his bravery, his wit, his perseverance, and most of all for his poignant, honest, heartbreaking art.

*This reminds me of the legend of St. John Chrysostom, who had become such a thorn in the side of the Emperor that government leaders wanted to throw him in jail. Upon being advised that he would actually like that because it would allow him more uninterrupted time to pray, they decided to make him Patriarch of Constantinople instead.

All the credit for sourcing this essay goes to Joseph Pearce and his excellent biography, Solzhenitsyn: A Soul In Exile.

Soviet Censorship of Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Solzhenitsyn’s 10 Ways Ideological Regimes Destroy You
Man Has Forgotten God, Again
One Man’s Education is Another Man’s Marxist Brainwash
The Black Book of Communism

Vladimir Putin on Barack Obama   23 comments

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President Vladimir Putin of Russia

Dreams from the LORD 2011-2014
18 May 2014

Last night I had a dream where I was talking with Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia.  We spoke for quite some time.  In a nutshell, Putin said that Obama was put in power to destroy the United States.

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Barack Obama
Betrayal
Barack Obama and the Media
A Vision about George Washington and America
A Gift from Russia
Even Vladimir Putin says USA is doomed without its Christian Faith
The Greatest Cultural Victory of the Left Has Been to Disregard the Nazi-Soviet Pact
Vladimir Putin’s Christian Faith
Mark Taylor’s Prophetic Word on Russia and the United States (10-30-16)
Breaking New:  Iran ousted from Syria in Trump-Putin safe zones deal
A Dream about Donald Trump
Thomas Sowell Brilliantly Dismantles Obama’s Presidency

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“Russia was a slave in Europe, but would be a master in Asia.”

–Fyodor Dostoyevsky

[As quoted in “Dilemmas of Empire 1850-1918: Power, Territory, Identity” by Dominic Livien in Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 34, No.2 (April 1999), pp. 180.]

Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky   22 comments

Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910

Dreams from the LORD 2007-2010
16 August 2010

An excerpt from The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey:

Pages 140-142: “A.N. Wilson, a biographer of Tolstoy, remarks that Tolstoy suffered from a ‘fundamental theological inability to understand the Incarnation. His religion was ultimately a thing of Law rather than of Grace, a scheme for human betterment rather than a vision of God penetrating a fallen world.’ With crystalline clarity Tolstoy could see his own inadequacy in the light of God’s Ideal. But he could not take the further step of trusting God’s grace to overcome that inadequacy.

“Shortly after reading Tolstoy I discovered his countryman Fyodor Dostoyevsky. These two, the most famous and accomplished of all Russian writers, lived and worked during the same period of history. Oddly, they never met, and perhaps it was just as well—they were opposites in every way. Where Tolstoy wrote bright, sunny novels, Dostoyevsky wrote dark and brooding ones. Where Tolstoy worked out ascetic schemes for self-improvement, Dostoyevsky periodically squandered his health and fortune on alcohol and gambling. Dostoyevsky got many things wrong, but he got one thing right: His novels communicate grace and forgiveness with a Tolstoyan force.

“Early in his life, Dostoyevsky underwent a virtual resurrection. He had been arrested for belonging to a group judged treasonous by Tsar Nicholas I, who, to impress upon the young parlor radicals the gravity of their errors, sentenced them to death and staged a mock execution. The conspirators were dressed in white death gowns and led to a public square where a firing squad awaited them. Blindfolded, robed in white burial shrouds, hands bound tightly behind them, they were paraded before a gawking crowd and then tied to posts. At the very last instant, as the order, ‘Ready, aim!’ was heard and rifles were cocked and lifted upward, a horseman galloped up with a pre-arranged message from the tsar: he would mercifully commute their sentence to hard labor.

“Dostoyevsky never recovered from this experience. He had peered into the jaws of death, and from that moment life became for him precious beyond all calculation. ‘Now my life will change,’ he said; ‘I shall be born again in a new form.’ As he boarded the convict train toward Siberia, a devout woman handed him a New Testament, the only book allowed in prison. Believing that God had given him a second chance to fulfill his calling, Dostoyevsky pored over that New Testament during his confinement. After ten years he emerged from exile with unshakeable Christian convictions, as expressed in one famous passage, ‘If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside the truth . . . then I would prefer to remain with Christ than with the truth.’

“Prison offered Dostoyevsky another opportunity as well. It forced him to live at close quarters with thieves, murderers, and drunken peasants. His shared life with these people later led to unmatched characterizations in his novels, such as that of the murderer Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. Dostoyevsky’s liberal view of the inherent goodness in humanity shattered in collision with the granitic evil he found in his cellmates. Yet over time he also glimpsed the image of God in even the lowest of prisoners. He came to believe that only through being loved is a human being capable of love; ‘We love because he [God] first loved us,’ as the apostle John says.

“I encountered grace in the novels of Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment portrays a despicable human being who commits a despicable crime. Yet grace enters Raskolnikov’s life as well, through the person of the converted prostitute Sonia, who follows him all the way to Siberia and leads him to redemption. The Brothers Karamazov, perhaps the greatest novel ever written, draws a contrast between Ivan the brilliant agnostic and his devout brother Alyosha. Ivan can critique the failures of humankind and every political system devised to deal with those failures, but he can offer no solutions. Alyosha has no solutions for the intellectual problems Ivan raises, but he has a solution for humanity: love. ‘I do not know the answer to the problem of evil,’ said Alyosha, ‘but I do know love.’ Finally, in the magical novel The Idiot, Dostoyevsky presents a Christ figure in the form of an epileptic prince. Quietly, mysteriously, Prince Myshkin moves among the circles of Russia’s upper class, exposing their hypocrisy while also illuminating their lives with goodness and truth.

“Taken together, these two Russians became for me, at a crucial time in my Christian pilgrimage, spiritual directors. They helped me come to terms with a central paradox of the Christian life. From Tolstoy I learned the need to look inside, to the kingdom of God that is within me. I saw how miserably I had failed the high ideals of the gospel. But from Dostoyevsky I learned the full extent of grace. Not only the kingdom of God is within me; Christ himself dwells there. ‘Where sin increased, grace increased all the more,’ is how Paul expressed it in Romans.

“There is only one way for any of us to resolve the tension between the high ideals of the gospel and the grim reality of ourselves: to accept that we will never measure up, but that we do not have to. We are judged by the righteousness of the Christ who lives within, not our own. Tolstoy got it halfway right: anything that makes me feel comfort with God’s moral standard, anything that makes me feel, ‘At last I have arrived,’ is a cruel deception. But Dostoyevsky got the other half right: anything that makes me feel discomfort with God’s forgiving love is also a cruel deception. ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’: that message, Leo Tolstoy never fully grasped.”

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1821-1881

Fyodor Dostoyevsky—The Mantle of the Prophet
The Prophet by A.S. Pushkin
A Single Story of Soviet Russia
The Three Hermits
The Brothers Karamazov
Anna and Raskolnikov
Crime and Punishment: A Film by Piotr Dumala
Vintage Footage of Leo Tolstoy
The Daily Blini—Exploring Russian Culture
A Prophet’s Eyes
Russian Universe
Yasnaya Polyana // Ясная поляна
The rebirth of Christianity in post-Soviet Russia
You Should Read Some Dostoyevsky . . .Here Are Some Tips!
Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov Strikingly Illustrated by Expressionist Painter Alice Neel (1938)
The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (animated film)
The Idiot by Dostoyevsky
The Importance of the Prophetic
A Dark Road and a Bright Light
A Gift from Russia
Soviet Censorship of Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Mark Taylor’s Prophetic Word:  Russia and the United States
Dostoyevsky in Europe
How Solzhenitsyn defeated the USSR

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“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”
–Leo Tolstoy

“Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man.”

–Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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The New Testament that Dostoyevsky took with him to prison in Siberia

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“Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist, more than Gauss.”
–Albert Einstein

“The real 19th century prophet was Dostoevsky, not Karl Marx.”
–Albert Camus

“The Darker the night, the brighter the stars, the deeper the grief, the closer is God.”
–Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

Hitchhiking. Moscow – Sakhalin. Part 1.   3 comments

Road Map of Russia

A video of hitchhiking in Russia:

Автостоп. Москва – Сахалин. Часть 1. (Hitchhiking. Moscow – Sakhalin. Part 1.)

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Here are a couple more videos of hitchhiking in Russia:

Hitchhiking. Moscow – Sakhalin. Part 2.
Hitchhiking. Moscow – Sakhalin. Part 3.

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A Single Story of Soviet Russia
Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky
Crazy Russian Drivers
[Video] Vintage:  Rare 1908 Film Footage of Leo Tolstoy During His Final Days
Hitchhiking in Russia
Shortly in St. Petersburg
Russian Universe
Russian Propaganda
Revisionist History:  How Russia Defeated Napoleon
Moscow // Москва
Zinaida Serebriakova
Hitchhiking Stories from Digihitch
A Gift from Russia
Stalingrad
Hitchhiking from Moscow to Vladivostok across Russia
Putin and the Monk
Patriarch Kirill:  “DeChristianization”
Mark Taylor’s Prophetic Word on Russia and the United States (10-30-16)

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“He that travels far knows much.”
–Russian Proverb

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”
–Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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“Neskuchnoye–Plowing” (1908) by Zinaida Serebriakova

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“The Shoots of Autumn Crops” (1908) by Zinaida Serebriakova

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Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910 (charcoal sketch by Keith Fitton)

Leo Tolstoy–architect of the soul