I was originally going to do a you’ll-like-this-guy – A Song for Arbonne is brilliant, you’ll love everything that he does, buy everything that he wrote – but never mind that now: read this article about the recent Russian poll of the greatest Russian ever. (Stalin in third, Lenin in sixth):
It would feel self-indulgent to launch a jeremiad about how very, very evil Lenin and Stalin and their system were. The novelist Martin Amis did this in a book a little while ago, Koba the Dread, which is essentially about his own belated discovery of that truth. And how his father, Kingsley Amis, and godfather, Robert Conquest (who exposed the atrocities of the Great Terror for the west) had been … right all along while Amis and his college chums had been proclaiming the glories of the Soviet Union and Mao’s China in the 1960s. It was nice to see Amis fils getting around to getting it right, but the tone of shocked baby-boomer awakening bordered on the amusing.
No, it seems to me there’s another point, a narrower focus to be sought here, and it comes from – unsurprisingly – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose The Gulag Archipelago, smuggled out to the west thirty-five years ago, documented the abomination of the Soviet internment camps with a terrifying mixture of Biblical prophet and meticulously detailed scientist. (Solzhenitsyn, who did more to expose the reality of Lenin and Stalin and the Soviet empire to the world than anyone else who ever lived, and did so with unfathomable courage, did not surface anywhere near the top of the balloting, by the way.)
Here’s the issue that seems necessary to register after considering this vote: in The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn makes the point that as of 1966 some 86,000 Germans had been convicted in Germany for Nazi crimes. But what about in the Soviet Union – the Gulag, the enforced starvations, the Terror? “In our own country (according the reports of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court) about ten men had been convicted.” (The italics are his.) And he asks, “What kind of disastrous path lies ahead of us if we do not have the chance to purge ourselves of that putrefaction rotting inside our body?”
Read the whole thing: Kay makes the what would be hopefully obvious (but probably isn’t, to too many people) point that failure to contemplate and face the evils of the Soviet Union is no way to ensure that they would never occur again. And when awareness is absent, one goes to reflex for one’s reaction. And now I guess that I’ve explained Putin. They don’t want to go back to communism, but they don’t want to confront what their elders did in its name, and so they can’t really feel happy with democracy, which is confrontation in almost-primal form. So… find a man willing to take up again the old, old myths, and follow him.
How soon before they call him the Little Father?
PS: And we’re giving them gussied-up Staples buttons as diplomatic gifts. God save the Mark.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.