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Times Literary Supplement
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I WAS RECENTLY INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN A CONFERENCE in Italy on the problems of Russia today: perestroika, post-perestroika, democracy, totalitarianism, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, the Russian intelligentsia, and the roots of all this. When I began thinking about the past ten years, I suddenly realized that these had been the bitterest years of my life, for nothing is more bitter than unfulfilled hopes and lost illusions.
Before perestroika, I had a wonderful life. The Soviet regime seemed unshakable. It was possible to clash with it and to end up in prison, as had happened to me. It was possible to thumb one's nose at it behind its back, as many intellectuals did. It was possible to adapt to itand even to love it. In a purely abstract sense, I understood that at some point it would collapse, perhaps in a hundred or two hundred years, but I did not think I would live to see that. There was no hope of that, nor could there have been any such hope. Instead, there was stability.
In the nineteenth century, the intelligentsia was very cautious in its attitude toward power. Traditionally, an intellectual who flattered the czar or groveled before him automatically ceased to be an intellectual. It is with good reason that Pushkin wrote "No, I am not a flatterer of the czar." The intellectual's attitude must be very sensitive. He must not succumb to temptation, and he should not become part of power; rather, he should observe power from the outside.
There are many definitions of the intelligentsia. For example, a definition ascribed to the writer Boborykin states that an intellectual isa person who, first, has been expelled from university, and, second, who loves the people. But in the nineteenth century many people said that an intelligent, even if he was absolutely wrong in his thinking, was a critically thinking personality. Why do we say that the intelligentsia had a difficult time under Stalin? Not only because people were sent to prison and shot but also because the intelligentsia was disappearing as critically thinking individuals. If a person repeats all the obvious truisms of his leaders and his czars, how can you call him a critically thinking being?
Concepts regarding the Soviet intelligentsia were rather simple and clear. I, too, paid my dues to these concepts which, in short, stated that after the Revolution the intelligentsia was viciously attacked by the "victorious class," the Bolshevik Party, for its instability and inconsistency. An enormous list of sins was ascribed to it: individualism, humanism, flabbiness, excessive compromise, and failure to join the party. The major sin, of course, was freedom of thought, for while sympathizing with the Revolution, the intelligentsia wanted to think and reflect independently, not merely repeat the party's instructions.
An attempt to reeducate people's thinking lay behind all the vicious attacks on the intelligentsia. The "victorious class" had to free itself from that universal human morality, which it contemptuously labeled abstract humanism, and from any doubts regarding the infallibility of party policy. The spirit of intellectual, moral, and spiritual inquiry, those questions that live in each human souland not only in those of intellectualsbecame a threat to the new society. This spirit was incarnated in the image of the unstable intellectual, whom Soviet literature attacked from the outset. In fact, Soviet literature attacked humanity and itself, as well as the remains of those intellectual elements that are an integral part of literary creative work. Soviet literature intimidated its readersand itselfwith the bogeyman of treachery. Show pity toward an enemy, and you're a traitor. Stand aside from the class struggle, and you're a traitor. Start championing the right not to join the party, or the independence of the individual, and you're a traitor.
The intelligentsia could not long resist such attacks. All interesting and useful work, all access to science, art, publishing, and education were in the hands of the state. The choice was either death or adapting to the demands of authority. Adaptation was chosen for the most sincere of reasonsa wish to serve the people. At the same time, this led to the decline of the Russian intelligentsia.
Ideas about the people were more complex and varied. One notion favored by some emigres and dissidents postulated that since Russia was an occupied country whose people hated the Bolsheviks, once the Communist party was eliminated, the people would immediately become democratic. Another theory was that of the God-bearing people: once the Communist party is destroyed the people will return to their Russian Orthodox roots. Others theorized that the whole problem was one of self-government, that every cook must be able to learn how to run the state, but without the Communists. The overwhelming concern of the intellectuals who produced these ideas seemed to be the welfare of the people.
Suddenly perestroika appeared! Its beginning was so amazing that it was impossible not to believe in it. When the first perestroika issues of Moskovskie novosti (Moscow News) appeared in Paris, the emigre newspapers wrote that these were fake issues deliberately published for people in foreign countries in order to pull the wool over the eyes of the West. Soviet friends told us that the day Moscow News came out they would go to the newspaper kiosk at six in the morning to get a copy before the paper sold out.
Each day brought the intelligentsia a new piece of freedom: first free-thinking articles, then the publication of previously banned books, then Sakharov's return from exile, and even the release of political prisoners.
Gorbachev showered the intelligentsia with gifts, and at first it paid him back with gratitude. People joked that Gorbachev had simply read his fill of samizdat and was fulfilling the dream of Soviet dissidents by becoming the first dissident in his own Politburo. He was both the first Bolshevik reformer and the destroyer of the system.
I shall not deal here with the services that Gorbachev rendered mankind, for everyone is aware of them. He has already earned his gold or silver monument. Nor do I wish to discuss his mistakes, which were natural, since he was blazing a new trail. I am concerned with another question: why, after the August putsch of 1991 and the shift of power to Yeltsin's hands, did the intelligentsia abandon Gorbachev and go over to the new leader heart and soul? What was thisordinary human ingratitude? The charm of power? Mass hypnosis?
The intelligentsia exulted, and the warnings of individual skeptics were drowned out by enthusiastic cries. For the first time in many years the intelligentsia had gotten a taste of power. The relationship between the intelligentsia and the authorities seemed to follow Mayakovsky's formula: "My militia is protecting me": my power, our power, our union with Yeltsin.
When the first serious test of intellectual integrity and independence of thought came, that is, the implementation of the Gaidar market reforms, which marked the start of a drastic split in the social stratification of the country and led to a situation in which more than 30 percent of the population now lives below the poverty level, the intelligentsia closed its eyes. This reminded me of the beginning of the 1930s when the intelligentsia closed its eyes to the horrendous famines and disasters in the villages and maintained its silence.
I hold this against the intelligentsia and against myself. I had thought too much about the sufferings of the intelligentsia caused by official oppression and almost forgot how the intelligentsia had sold out. I realized that all of this had already happened in the past, that the intelligentsia had then believed that it held power, that it had in fact come close to the corridors of power, and that comrade Stalin himself had gone to have tea with the great writer Maxim Gorky.
The year was 1936. Arrests were in full swing. It looked as though the intelligentsia could get down to its major task of reflection and analysis. But that was not the case. Enthusiasm can be blinding. This is how the Russian intellectual Kornei Chukovsky described in his diary a meeting with Stalin:
Yesterday at the congress I was sitting in the sixth or seventh row. I turned around and saw Boris Pasternak. I went up to him and took him to the front rows, Suddenly Kaganovich, Voroshilov, Andreev, Zhdanov, and Stalin entered. You should see what happened in the hall! And Stalin stood there, slightly tired, pensive, and majestic. You could feel how incredibly used he was to being in power, you could feel strength and at the same time there was something feminine, something gentle about him. I turned around. All of them had gentle, inspired, and laughing faces; those faces were in love. To see him, just to see him, made us all so happy. Each gesture of his was reverently watched. I had never thought I was capable of such feelings. Pasternak kept whispering to me enthusiastically about him. We went home together, intoxicated by our joy.
What strange words and feelings for an intellectual: to be intoxicated with joy on seeing power with your own eyes. Incidentally, a certain intellectual of my generation (who had learned foreign languages as a child and knew the works of Goethe, Rilke, Pasternak, and Tsvetaeva inside out) told us with delight that at a meeting with the intelligentsia Boris Nikolaevich [Yeltsin] himself had come up to him and clinked glasses with him. He didn't clink glasses with just anyone, the narrator hastened to add, in order to stress how exclusive he was. And this was a former dissident and camp inmate.
I have always loved old newspapers, really old ones. For the newspapers that deceived us during the Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev eras just a few years later were transformed into a unique source of information. An aging newspaper packs practically the same punch as cognac.
A few years ago, while working on an anthology of materials about 1937 compiled from old newspapers, we noted with sadness that all our writers had disgraced themselves. Literally every one. Irate articles and articles with artistic twists, by Olesha, Platonov, Zoshchenko, Iashvili, Babel, Tynianov, and so forth, called for the destruction of the vermin, the enemies of the people. The letters signed collectively and published next to these articles also included Zoshchenko, Paustovsky, Antokolsky, and Pasternak among the slew of signatories.
Listen to what they wrote. I have chosen names we hold dear, not those of the official bosses of literature.
Andrei Platonov: "Socialism and evil are incompatible. Today the cruelest form of evil is Trotskyism. This seeping virus of fascism tried to penetrate into the very heart of the Soviet people, to strike them dead at one blow."
Yuri Tynianov: "They are alien to the entire country, rejected by all who breathe its air, work on its land, sing its songs, and read its poetry."
Isaac Babel: "The language of the court transcripts is irrefutable and precise. The unparalleled righteousness of our government is more obvious now than ever, and our devotion to it is righteous and eternal."
Vladimir Lugovskoi: "The bloody dogs of the policy of restoration came crawling on their bellies after their leader Trotsky, that trader in human blood and honor who has no homeland, that
malicious degenerate and prostitute of fascism."
Samuil Marshak: "They wanted to kill the helmsmen and take over the helm, to steer the country and all mankind toward a catastrophe such as has never been seen on this earth."
Nikolai Tikhonov: "They had short slogans: Kill! Lie! Be vile! Sell out! Pretend!"
Viktor Shklovsky: "These people are the incarnation of vileness. Their down payment to the fascists is the blood shed by workers injured in railroad accidents. They sell to the enemy the air our people breathe in the mines."
Note the style: "Look at them: puny, bald, wearing specshenchmen of Trotsky." Or: "Slimy people who give you the creeps."
"This is stunning material, but very frightening," said Yefim Etkind, my partner in many emigre undertakings, as he was sorting through these newspaper clippings. A few minutes later, when he found a horrendous article written by an older man who had long been his friend, he added: "This stuff shouldn't be published." Nevertheless, we left in the material by his friend Fyodor Levin, who was a well-known literary critic, and writings by Marshak and Vsevolod Ivanov. We spared only one intellectual; for we removed the Jewish poet Perets Markish and his gory verses from that collection. We felt sorry for his son, Simon Markish, a friend from university days who is now a professor at the University of Geneva.
With the victory of Yeltsin, the "democrat" from Sverdlovsk, history has repeated itself. Once again the flower of the Russian intelligentsia went over to the authorities, supporting Gaidar's looting and Yeltsin's firing on the white House, chanting: "Right on, Boria! Give it to them, Boria, go to it, Boria! Crush our enemies!"The marvelous Russian actress, Nonna Mordiukova, practically shed tears at one meeting with Yeltsin: "You're getting so tired, dear Boris Nikolaevich! Come see us and take a break."
No one thinks of what our children and grandchildren will say or whether they will be ashamed of us. Our times are interesting because they are so ironically congruent with our unhappy past.
But the final disagreement between me and the Russian intelligentsia was over the firing on the White House in Moscow in October 1993, which was supported by a great part of the intelligentsiaand by its most outstanding members. It was unbearably painful and shameful to see, at the bottom of those "collective letters," the signatures of cultural figuresSergei Averintsev, Bella Akhmadulina, Bulat Okudzhava, Marietta Chudakovawho on numerous occasions had written letters demanding that the adored president take harsh repressive measures against his political opponents and even indicated who should be sent to prison, which groups should be disbanded, which newspapers and TV programs should be banned.
What does the flower of our culture want from Yeltsin? What are these people writing to him?
The Communist and national-demagogic ringleaders are continuing openly and publicly to make threats on television.... They are counting on their ability to assert their impunity and their importance through bloodshed in the streets. They are hoping either to provoke a response showing the weakness of the administration (which has happened), or to produce "heroic" victims in their own right. They are looking for a Soviet Horst Wessel.
What should the president do?
All the political provocateurs who are trying to provoke rebels and hooligans, and who do not have immunity as deputies, such as Zyuganov, should be detained for their role in the May Day riots, and their organizations should be disbanded. The hooligan-deputies such as Anpilov and others should be deprived of their immunity. If President Yeltsin and the executive and judicial authorities do not react harshly and quickly they will bear the political responsibility for the situation.
The president heeded this call and gave the intellectuals the tanks and the shelling of the White House. But the intelligentsia did not quiet down. Two days after the firing they wrote a new letter:
What is there to say? Enough talk. Time to learn to act. These dumb bastards respect only force. Isn't it time to show that force to our young, butas we (to our surprise) have been joyfully convincedrather strong democracy? This time we need to make clear demands of the government and the president to do what they should have done a long time ago, but didn't. All Communist and nationalist parties, fronts, and associations must be disbanded and banned by presidential decree. Publications such as Den, Pravda, Sovetskaya Rossiya, Literaturnaya Rossiya, and others must be closed pending judicial investigations. History once again has provided us with an opportunity to take a big step toward democracy and civilization. Let us not let this opportunity slip, as has so often happened in the past! Appeals to the president from the intellectuals continued throughout 1993, both before and after the firing on the white House. Among the names of people whom I cherish, there suddenly appeared one that was nearly sacred, that of Academician Likhachev. But those shots were fired at the people ...
This became a sticking point in my disagreements with some dear friends. One of my opponents' arguments was that if Yeltsin had not fired on the White House the Communists and fascists would have come to power, and a civil war would have broken out in Russia.
A group of my friends gathered at the house of an Izvestia journalist to prove to me, whom they saw as an old man abroad who was not keeping abreast of Russian reality, that their view was right. They showed me videocassettes of the crowds surrounding the White House, the people carrying red flags at the May Day demonstrations, and some other crowds. A very close friend of ours, a poet, teacher, wife of a priest, a sweet, kind, and religious woman lamented: "Just look at those horrible faces!" It was written on her face that shooting those horrible faces would be no sin. Those excited and aging people could hardly be described as beautiful.
I somehow managed to find the words to describe what was going on: Here I was, a guest of the contemporary intelligentsia, and the people were on the television screen. I started to understand that the intelligentsia, which in the past had lived with the people and shared its misfortunes to such an extent that the very term intellectual, which arose in the nineteenth century, unequivocally implied a love for the people, was today afraid of those same people.
Why? Why in the past did the intelligentsia pity the people, sympathize with them, declare "I dedicated my lyre to the people," but now tremble? What happened?
We have heard over and over that one reason for such panic is the fear of pogroms produced by the primordial anti-Semitism of the Russian people. It's true that popular disaffection was sometimes expressed in anti-Semitic movements. From my point of view, Russian anti-Semitism represents a kind of alienation of evil. It is a popular, mythic, almost fairy-tale notion that the people cannot be bad. Our people are good. They are our people. But some outsiders have wormed their way into the government, and they are to blame for everything. In the past I often had to argue about this with men in the camps, and pointed to the fact that the government, the KGB, and the courts were almost entirely made up of Russians. The major argument of my uneducated opponents was, Is a Russian capable of such injustice? These are clearly the ploys of outsiders or foreigners, because at heart we are all kind and good.
Yet I, who have fought anti-Semitism throughout my entire life, felt strangely reassured. And it was Zhirinovsky who reassured me. If such a large percentage of the Russian people could vote for him (and we should not forget that in 1993 he got some 23 percent of the vote), for a man who looks so obviously Jewish, that means that my great people is not so terribly anti-Semitic.
Today this myth has changed. Anti-Americanism has grown. This has been caused by the glaring abundance of foreign goods, which only rich people can afford, and by the fact that Moscow is now blanketed by foreign advertising, signs, and names that irritate me, even though I have been living in France for a long time and have no negative feelings whatever toward America. But it is irritating that Moscow sports an enormous neon sign advertising The Very Best American Tobacco, that this tobacco is unaffordable, and that your income is barely enough for a lousy domestic Belomor. It looks like foreign occupation. Cities are studded with signs such as Casino or Casanova Night Club (Great Intimate Atmosphere); a restaurant called At the Banker's; The Lolita Venereal Disease Clinic; The Flamingo Bar; and the Gallant grocery store. Just try to imagine such signs not in Moscowwhich has anything and everythingbut in the small, ancient town of Pereslavl-Zalessky, which has the Eden dry cleaners, but no sidewalks. Against the background of dirt and poverty foreign words sound like a nasty parody of Western lifestyles.
I think that today there is excessive freedom of language. There are all kinds of filthy language, as well as an incredible corruption of the language with foreign words. I have difficulty fully understanding some things that are direct borrowings from English. That also irritates the people. They don't understand what a spiker [a parliamentary speaker] is. They don't understand all those new words. They really hate that, and then they again think that America is the reason for all our misfortunes. I remember that back in the Stalin years, America was blamed for everything. So there are reasons for concern about what is happening to the language.
Russian shops and kiosks are inundated with foreign goods, and this parody of capitalism looks extremely vulgar and brazen. That capitalism, which is bringing a great many problems in its wake, is also associated with America. Moscow has become an alien city to Muscovites. Many houses on the main streets have been bought or rented by foreigners, and the local population has been evicted to the outskirts. The dollar is the most common currency and a symbol of wealth. A dollarization of consciousness is taking place, and is encountering a logicaland negativepopular reaction. Slogans such as Down with the Bourgeois! or Death to the Bourgeois! are more and more often scrawled on walls. These words fall on fertile Russian revolutionary soil. It was not hard to guess that the Communists would win the Duma elections.
In October 1995 we went to a large Communist meeting in Moscow. All two thousand tickets had been sold (and tickets cost ten thousand rubles, which is no small price). I talked to a middle-aged engineer. His father had died at the front during the war, but his mother, an ordinary worker who was left with two children, had managed to give them a higher education. And now, under the democrats, is he going to be able to educate his sons? Though he is not a Communist, he naturally sympathizes with them.
In December 1995 the Communists won the Duma elections. How does Boris Zolotukhin, a deputy who is a democrat, a well-known dissident and champion of human rights, react to that, and how does he explain the defeat of democracy? "The democrats were unable to explain to the people why the Gaidar reforms did not result in a real improvement in the lives of most people."
No matter how much you explain to the people why they are badly off, poverty will not be any more pleasant. It is understandable that people are asking the democrats, i.e., the intellectuals Yegor Gaidar and Boris Zolotukhin, Why did you allow the people to reach this state of poverty? They answered their own question by voting for the Communists.
Zolotukhin also shifts the blame from the intelligentsia to the people:
It is characteristic of Russia that the majority of people were reconciled to the fact that the guaranteed salary was wretched and that guaranteed medicine was awful. People who are not used to living in conditions of freedom are now feeling nostalgic for what they have lost. These middle-aged people cannot adapt to the new conditions. Even those who are ready to exist on a miserable salary and to stand on lines are not ready for an independent life and are not ready to stand up for themselves. They backed the Communist party.
In other words: the people are bad, the people are to blame for everything. And is half-baked Minister Gaidar in fact good? And it does not occur to Zolotukhin, as a jurist and a lawyer, that you cannot first rob a man, reduce him to tatters, and then turn him out naked on the street, telling him: "Now go survive on your own."
I recall with longing the far-off past, before the Revolution, when the Russian intelligentsia occupied the rather broad space separating the people from the authorities: when it was critical of the authorities and could not be otherwise; when a natural component of the intelligentsia was the so-called critically thinking personality, as the intellectuals were called in the nineteenth century; when it was considered monstrous for an intellectual to grovel before the authorities ("I'm glad to serve, but fawning makes me sick," said Chatsky, one of the first Russian intellectuals); when the intelligentsia empathized with the people and felt guilty because of its relatively privileged place in society.
The intellectual of today seems to be saying that the people are nostalgic for slavery and poverty. In fact, the people are nostalgic for the past, when they lived better than they do now.
The meaning of life has also been lost, and this has had a somber impact on Russian consciousness. What did Soviet power give the man on the street? Freedom, land, and wealth? Nothing of the sort. All it gave was a sense of righteousness and an awareness that we lived in a properly run and logical world. We have now fallen from that logical Soviet cosmos into chaos and have no idea what we can believe in. The meaning of the lives of several generations has been lost. It looks as though they lived and suffered in vain. After all, it is hard to believe in the dawn of capitalism, particularly such a wild and terrible capitalism, which smacks of criminal lawlessness.
Humanity often asks questions about the meaning of life and the purpose of existence, and Russians are perhaps particularly inclined to do so. In 1904 Nikolai Berdyaev wrote that "the Russian yearning for the meaning of life is the major theme of our literature, and this is the real point of our intelligentsia's existence."
This is not only the distinguishing feature of the intelligentsia: it is also the treasured core of individual Russians and of the Russian people described in our literature throughout the nineteenth century. All of a sudden the interests of the intelligentsia and the people seem to have gone their separate ways, and they have stopped understanding each other.
Six months before the Duma elections of May 1995, the newspaper Obshchaya gazeta published a very interesting dialogue between the newspaper's editor, Yegor Yakovlev, and the Russian ambassador to Paris, Academician Yuri Ryzhov. Yakovlev speaks of the catastrophic situation in the country: "The Parliament has been disbanded, the President is endowed by the new constitution with unlimited power, feedback between the authorities and society has been cut off once and for all." Ryzhov consoles him: The editor is 10 percent hopeful and 90 percent despairing. For the ambassador, since he is an official and a bureaucrat, the ratio is 50-50, and that is why he is optimistic. Yakovlev is on the brink of despair: "The entire Weltanschauung of the Russian people today is reduced to the question of how to make do and survive." The ambassador does not object but merely makes a small correction: "You're right in saying that the masses are trying to survive. But survival is not a new ideology and not a new mythology. It is a natural, and to a great extent physiological, reaction. Things will be easier for the next generation." "Nevertheless, answer me," Yakovlev replied. "If in April 1985 you'd told people what awaited them in April 1995, and called on them to follow you, would they have supported you? If you'd told them that they would be afraid to go out of the house in the evening?" "You don't remember how afraid they were in the past?" Ryzhov asked in reply. "Not afraid of going out of the house, but of the footsteps outside the door! They'd say to me that it's better to be scared to go out in the street than to be constantly waiting for them to come and get us."
Here Ryzhov is distorting the situation. Yegor Yakovlev is asking him about the beginning of perestroika, about 1985, when no one was afraid of steps outside the door because the time of unjustified repressions was long gone. The dissidents had never stayed up listening for the sound of steps at night, for they understood what they were getting into. Ryzhov, however, was speaking of the time of Stalinist repressions.
Even then, people were not terribly afraid of steps outside the door. For the most part, it was either the educated strata of society or the party bosses who were afraid. The people were sometimes happy when the bosses were sent to jail. In the camp, one clever man tried to prove to me that under Stalin things were better, because then the bosses were afraid to repress the people and their behavior was more restrained. He thought that all the bosses should be shot every ten years, the same way wolves in the forest are periodically shot to keep their numbers down.
Vassily Aksyonov, whose father and mother were former party bosses who rotted in the camps for many years, was indignant over the results of the most recent Duma elections. In the newspaper Moskovskie novosti he wrote:
The people have voted. What can you do about that? What is striking is the cynicism of these "people" who have voted. So it turns out that all the unmasking of Communist crimes during the years of glasnost and freedom, all of those countless bullets to the backs of heads, were things about which they didn't give a damn?
Aksyonov puts the word people in contemptuous quotation marks. Academician Ryzhov is also displeased with the masses (that is, with the people). When the prior elections to the Duma did not agree with what he had predicted, Yuri Kariakin, a specialist on Dostoevsky (that is, on the people), exclaimed in utter despair, "Russia! You've lost your mind!"
The words Konstantin Balmont addressed to himself after the October Revolution, when the people supported the Bolsheviks, are relevant here:
You were wrong about everything: your beloved people Are not the people you dreamed they were.
The recent elections to the Duma were best summarized by the economist Nikolai Shmelev:
The elections have clearly demonstrated that the Russian population refuses to think of itself as mute cattle. Thank God it expressed its conviction through the ballot box, and not with grenades and automatic rifles.
Obshchaya gazeta, January 25, 1996
All that remains for me is to make a futile appeal to the intelligentsia by citing the verses of Aleksandr Blok, written eighty years ago:
Open your eyes, and open them faster to the unfathomable horror of life, before everything in your motherland is swept away by a great thunderstorm.
On October 3, 1994, the anniversary of Black October, my wife and I went to the stadium at Krasnaya Presnya in Moscow. A brass band was playing funeral marches. Some people were demonstrating; others had brought flowers. The Black Hundreds, who always know who is to blame, were bawling away. An imposing old lady stared blankly at me and said: "Well, I wasn't expecting to see you here. I thought the intelligentsia had completely lost its conscience."
I think that the intelligentsia was divided. Many members of the intelligentsia welcomed the firing on the White House. I think that intellectuals who were better offnot necessarily rich, but who were confident of their situationwelcomed it. The poorer intelligentsia, the teachers and ordinary people, naturally took the side of the people. The old woman who spoke to me looked like an intellectual, and she'd come to the memorial meeting on that sad anniversary of the firing on the White House
Then we went to a demonstration at the Moscow Soviet where that lovely girl Novodvorskaya proposed that everybody drink champagne to the health of Boris Nikolaevich, little Yegor Gaidar, and the glorious tank crews that had done such a beautiful job of firing on the White House.
Today the intelligentsia is starting to see the light. While the intelligentsia did not cause a lot of trouble over the firing on the White House, in the war with Chechnya, thank God, Yeltsin has not gotten support. The intelligentsia's opposition to Yeltsin has broadened. I am glad that Sergei Kovalev has returned to the dissident movement, and I hope he will feel more comfortable in this role than in Yeltsin's service. Every cloud has a silver lining. Otherwise our Sergei Adamovich would be serving as a human rights adviser to Mr. Cannibal. The intelligentsia, however, has not yet understood that the war in Chechnya is a direct continuation of the firing on the White House. Until my favorite group in society understands its guilt, good will not triumph.
I keep returning to the subject of the firing on the White House. After all, what's the Supreme Soviet to me? Do I think that Rutskoi and Khasbulatov are such bright people? I really don't care about them. The Supreme Soviet is bad and the Parliament is lousy. But just because your Parliament isn't good enough is no reason to fire cannons at it. Can you imagine the American president firing cannons at Congress just because some people are arguing with him? That's what I find so painful. Russia has had enough cannon fire. I'm against cannon fire in general. There's been enough use of force in freeing the country from czarism. When democracy sheds blood as its first stepI say that cannot be done. No. Period.
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Meet the Author
Andrei Sinyavsky is the author of The Makepeace Experiment; Goodnight; Soviet Civilizaton: A Cultural History; and Strolling with Pushkin. In exile from the U.S.S.R. since the 1970's, he was professor of Slavic studies at the Sorbonne until his retirement in 1974.
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