- Behind the Iron Curtain: Soviet space art (gallery) Kadish Morris, Guardian
- The year I left the Soviet Union Alex Halberstadt, New Yorker
- Free speech, libel, and privacy rights Mark Hemmingway, RealClearPolitics
- 8 out of 10 Texans already live in cities and metropolitan areas Steven Pedigo, Dallas Morning News
- Pride, prejudice, and Pushkin Donald Rayfield, Literary Review
- A century ago America saved millions of Russians from starvation Economist
- “Nature or nurture?” Yes. Dorsa Amir, Aeon
- When America and Russia were friends RealClearHistory
- When the Soviet Union freed the Arctic from capitalist slavery Bathsheba Demuth, New Yorker
- The East India Company and corporate excess Maya Jasanoff, Guardian
- The relentless rise of the East India Company Jason Burke, Guardian
- The legacy of communism in the Russian Empire’s “-stans” Samuel Goff, Calvert Journal
- Comedy and humor in the Soviet Union Indra Ekmanis, PRI’s The World
- What happened to the children of dictators? Grant Starrett
- The most blasphemous idea in contemporary discourse? Ingrid Robeyns, Crooked Timber
- Are voting ages still democratic? Bill Rein, NOL
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.