- The Dutch-Norwegian oil boom town nobody has heard of Matthew Birkhold, Public Domain Review
- A 19th century “ice map” from the American northeast Rebecca Onion, the Vault
- 20th century Soviet hipsters still went to Siberia James Womack, Los Angeles Review of Books
- “In reaction to the neoliberal turn of the Red-Green government…” Adam Tooze, London Review of Books
- Buddhist terrorists and the Zen way of war Brian Victoria, Aeon
- Faith and empire: a realistic view of Tibetan Buddhism Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books
- A history of Soviet Atheism Elena Leontjeva, Law & Liberty
- “It’s now Raimondo’s world, and he’s not living in it” Curt Mills, Spectator USA
- “Buddhists have entered the era of militant tribalism” Hannah Beech, New York Times
- The German problem Samuel Goldman, Modern Age
- The Soviet century Aaron Smith, Harper’s
- Fully automated luxury communism Kristian Niemietz, Quillette
- If Mexicans and Americans could cross the border freely (scroll down just a tad) Jacques Delacroix, Independent Review
- There is a trade-off between citizenship and migration Branko Milanovic, Financial Times
- How the British reshaped India’s caste system Sanjoy Chakravorty, BBC
- Why is the West so suspicious of Russia? Rodric Braithwaite, History Today
I’ll get to Feyerabend, but first Solzhenitsyn:
However, the root destruction of religion in the country, which throughout the twenties and thirties was one of the most important goals of the GPU-NKVD, could be realized only by mass arrests of Orthodox believers. Monks and nuns, whose black habits had been a distinctive feature of Old Russian life, were intensively rounded up on every hand, placed under arrest, and sent into exile. They arrested and sentenced active laymen. The circles kept getting bigger, as they raked in ordinary believers as well, old people, and particularly women, who were the most stubborn believers of all and who, for many long years to come, would be called “nuns” in transit prisons and in camps (37).
It’s true that Christians were viciously persecuted by socialists in the USSR, and what makes matters worse is that few historians, and fewer journalists, point this out. Bishops and patriarchs living in mansions were the official targets of socialist purges, mind you, but mendicants, village priests, and old church ladies were the ones who actually got dragged away and put to work for The Cause. Why? Because they actually believed. They already had a moral compass, so there was no need for a strong state. In socialist countries, alternatives ruin plans. So in socialist countries, alternatives get snuffed out.
As I read through the Gulag Archipelago I can’t help but think of the Russia I hear about on NPR and read about online. Russia is the left’s new boogieman, for obvious reasons. But I wonder, with Solzhenitsyn in mind, just how close the Orthodox Church actually is to Putin and his henchmen. I’m sure the top brass are close to Putin, but what about the village priests and the others? Did socialism wipe out the old, more mystical Christianity that was prevalent in the Russian countryside before the Revolution? Are there any mendicants left in post-socialist Russia? All those decades of violent repression, starvation, ethnic cleansing, and forced labor, and the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church hums along as if nothing ever happened. The actual believers, on the other hand, are gone, along with the unique culture they spread throughout the Russian Empire and, via the mediums of literature and art, the world.
The interrogators did not write up charge sheets because no one needed their papers. And whether or not a [prison] sentence would be pasted on was of very little interest. Only one thing was important: Give up your gold, viper! The state needs gold and you don’t.
This is all from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. There’s more:
If you in fact had no gold, then your situation was hopeless. You would be beaten, burned, tortured, and steamed to the point of death or until they finally came to believe you. But if you had gold, you could determine the extent of your torture, the limits of your endurance, and your own fate.
It’s a good book, so far, but trying to compare the Soviet Union after World War I and a brief civil war to the present-day United States is a bridge too far. The only Americans today who might share the Gulag experience are the black ones, and even then their situation is less of a gulag archipelago and more of a traditional oppressed ethnic minority.