The French have probably the closest level of respect to their men and women of letters, but their ideal is an intellectual in general, not necessarily the novelist. For the Germans, their beacons of culture are their philosophers. For the Americans — their inventors and visionaries, nowhere else they have achieved so much respect and so many accolades. But for us, Russians, — our idols are indeed our novelists.
I must have had some prior vague sense of the importance of Russian literature and it's place in their culture (faint memories of struggling through Crime and Punishment in high school are coming back to me). But this article put it an entirely different light, which was quite interesting.
However, I did find it strange how the religious belief described in the article was not critically examined in any depth, and was instead simply dusted with this hue of great significance. The only caveat I noticed was the sentence describing how it didn't seem to matter which religious faith the individual had, just that they had some.
Alexievich won with "Secondhand Time", which I absolutely loved. It is essentially a transcribed oral history, but composed in such a way so as to become literature. It is particularly admirable for the way in which it allows narratives which contradict each other to stand in adjacent chapters, which is jarring, but also very honest.
Please read it if you have the patience for hard reading and some deeply sad stories.
>Alexievich echoed Korolenko by claiming three homelands: her mother’s Ukraine, her father’s Belarus, and—“Russia’s great culture, without which I cannot imagine myself.” By culture she meant, above all, literature.
> No Westerner would call such a work “literary"
Why? There are plenty of works such as this in western literature.
> Russians revere literature more than anyone else in the world.
Again, I feel this claim is a bit baseless. Let's see why he thinks that:
> When Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina was being serialized, Dostoevsky, in a review of its latest installment, opined that “at last the existence of the Russian people has been justified.” t is hard to imagine Frenchmen or Englishmen, let alone Americans, even supposing that their existence required justification; but if they did, they would surely not point to a novel.
Well, this is the opinion of Dostoevsky, a writer. I'm sure similar hyperbolic comments were made by the french naturalists (Zola about Flaubert... ) or German idealists (about Goethe...)
Then the author proceeds to engage in other baseless generalizations about Russians' attitude to literature compared with other cultures.
I appreciate his insights on Russian literature in general and Solzhenitsyn vision in particular. But I do not understand why he needs to precede his text by such myopic comments.
Probably a  for that.
But it is a reminder that just as most people don't really grapple with the amount of good done since the agricultural revolution, they also can't grapple with the new types of evil that have been enabled since the dawn of the 20th century.
It is sunshine and roses this decade, but there are some much scarier threats in the future than, eg, climate change. WWII happened in a climate quite similar to our own.
There are a very large number of countries, an enormous range of political philosophies and "authoritarian" is a very broad brush that accepts a huge number of government styles (monarchies, churches, dictators, oligarchies, company structures, etc).
And we know that the liberal governments sometimes do horrible things too. America is responsible for vast numbers of deaths in, eg, the middle east.
Letting people be free is a better political ideology than authoritarianism; but claiming that authoritarianism = mass murder needs support. Every successful political ideology leads to some level of mass murder, there isn't a powerful country out there that hasn't initiated a war and suppressed internal dissidents violently at some point. It is a question of relative impact and scope. To support the claim there needs to be evidence.
The article reads,
>The contrary view, held by ideologues and justice warriors generally, is that our group is good, and theirs is evil. “Evil people committing evil deeds”: this is the sort of thinking behind notions like class conflict or the international Zionist conspiracy.
This is wrong, and a cursory investigation of Marx's late works would show that. Not only does the theory of class conflict not rest on the idea that capitalists are "evil people committing evil deeds", but it does not project Marx's "proletariat" as inherently virtuous. Marx, in fact, takes great pains to avoid this misinterpretation of his work; take for example the 1867 preface to the German edition of Capital:
>To prevent possible misunderstanding, a word. I paint the capitalist and the landlord in no sense couleur de rose [i.e., seen through rose-tinted glasses]. But here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.
It is a theory of society, not of some people who, somehow, are evil due to their economic position. Modern commentators on Marx argue that he does not argue for a socialist society on the basis of "justice" or what is "right" - in fact, he does the opposite - his claim is that would be in the "best interests" of the working class to overcome this unintentionally constructed system. Would the author have compared Smith's invisible hand to people doing intentionally good deeds? I don't think it would - so it's a mystery why it feels the need to misrepresent Marx, especially given the fact you can read all of Marx's works online... for free.
Not so with the theory of the international Zionist conspiracy, which is a right-wing idea predicated on the "fact" of Zionists who are intentionally coordinating with each other for malicious purposes. Of course, the article omits Solzhenitsyn's anti-semitism from this discussion. It would be inconvenient to mention it, I suppose.
The article then reads,
>Mercy, kindness, compassion: these were all anti-Bolshevik emotions, and schoolchildren were taught to reject them. I know of no previous society where children were taught that compassion and mercy are vices.
As much as they may have been anti-Bolshevik emotions, they are also anti-capitalist emotions, and this is exemplified on a massive scale in modern society where even in developed ("first world") countries people starve and die because they cannot afford insulin. The compassion, in fact, only comes from people who aren't out to make a profit even if it means the misery of another.
>For a true materialist, Lenin maintained, there can be no Kantian categorical imperative to regard others only as ends, not as means. By the same token, the materialist does not acknowledge the supposed sanctity of human life.
The author is clearly unfamiliar with Marx's own theories of morality (which Sean Sayers elucidates in Marxism and Human Nature) and misunderstands the conflict between materialism and idealism in Marx's sense. The materialist argues that morality derives from actual social formations, the "tradition of all dead generations" - this does not make the morality "invalid" or "wrong", but it is an acceptance of the scientific method as applied to the gaeneology of morals. One can be both a moral realist and a Marxist, since Marxism entails a material analysis of how things have developed in society. In the same way, one can be a moral realist and believe, with Kant's categorical imperative, that it is morally impermissible to lie at any time for any reason, which conflicts with many perspectives on what it is right for a Christian to do.
>They may have insisted that high moral ideals do not require belief in God, but when it came down to it, morals grounded in nothing but one’s own conviction and reasoning, however cogent, proved woefully inadequate under experiential, rather than logical, pressure.
This is simply a re-statement of the old myth that when in mortal danger an atheist will also pray. It's not backed up by anything, but then again - nothing else in the article is either. The author used a pithily inaccurate characterization of class conflict (and failed to link it to the scientific aspect of historical materialism), argued that the core capitalist tenets of thrift and stinginess driving accumulation which are seen so essential to entrepeneurship today are not found in "any previous society", and then tried to reclaim the horrific actions of the Soviet state as being due to atheism while ignoring the fact that it is secularism that brings the tolerance the liberal author is so proud of in Western democracies.
 Available here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/p1.htm
True enough. The article, like Solzhenitsyn's own thinking, is an exercise in excluding the obvious middle ground: what if neither sort of God -- neither the patron of Abraham nor the personage of Stalin -- is the answer?
It's amusing to imagine Solzhenitsyn's corpse propped up in a chair, facing the similarly-seated corpse of Giordano Bruno. The two are arguing vociferously over who had it worse, as if it somehow matters.
Especially the last cited paragraph by Solzhenitsyn: he finds the lesson (or Truth) he learned so valuable, it justified his experience! Why not just send a donation to the Party then? (sarcasm)
The article explicitly rejects the utility of logic in discovering our true norms, desires, ... :
>Great novels test ideas not by their logical coherence, as in academic philosophy, but by the consequences of believing them.
But the whole point of atheism, science and philosophy is to not blindly accept statements for fact, but to only view them as justified by evidence or proof.
Solzhenitsyn laments his blind participation in the system, so if anything it seems to me like moving towards a provable and individually verifiable society could improve things. (and indeed many people dream of applying the non-energy intensive decentralized concensus algorithms to constructing such a provable society)
Um, what "scientific aspect of historical materialism"? To me, the claim that there is any scientific aspect of it requires some evidence, because it seems to be grounded in nothing but ideological belief.
It's an outdated phraseology that doesn't mean what it sounds like in today's context.
It's also not really Marx's term, but Engels', and borrowed from Proudhon.
If people like claudiawerner really want to communicate, they ought to rewrite Marx's concepts in today's language. Most of us aren't going to learn Marx's terms in order to examine his ideas.
The focus here is on Lenin and his progeny, particularly Stalin. Marx claimed the discovery of objective laws of reality through generous application of the Hegelian world-spirit concept. The Bolsheviks expanded Marx's ideas.
The expansion was thus: the Party is the agent of the Proletariat. The liberation of Proletariat is the ultimate end of History. The laws of History dictate that this is so. But if there are objective laws of history, someone must explain what those laws are and act on them: this is the Party. And if the Party observes such laws, then the concept of democracy or debate within the Party is nonsensical, so the Party must follow the doctrinal rulings of the Politburo. But it also follows that debate or democracy within the Politburo is also nonsensical, therefore, only one leader may give meaning, purpose and weight to the objective laws of history.
Leninism laid the ideological rails that Stalin used to railroad Russia straight to hell. Marx's work was not sufficient, but it was necessary.
 There is a view that Marx's ideas were purely economical in nature. I don't think this holds up. He was a philosopher first and an economist second. The concept of alienation for example is not just about effort or property, it is a quasi-mystical notion of a fundamental schism of persons, from themselves and from each other.
Calling it well-written and informative is very much akin looking for kernel of truth in whatever logorrhea comes out of Stomfront or that Flat Earth Society.
You can't reduce broad groupings down to the few evil things people may have done in the groups name.
And then there's
"that is the foundation of America and is the system most proven to provide the most benefit to people without discrimination or coercion"
Are you aware of the history of slavery in the US? Of segregation? Or are you "mentally stepping over" that?
In the context of what happened to the millions of people who lived here prior to colonization, documents like the Declaration of Independence read like delusional toxic propaganda.
Keeping people aware of that context is absolutely important.
Are you under the impression that a thing wrote this, or are you attempting to dehumanize your opponent?
Adding nationalistic flamebait to ideological flamebait is not the way to make HN threads better. Please don't.
Not to say that say Mussorgsky (as mentioned somewhere above) isn't a top-notch composer, but if you have, as your comparatives, Dostoyevsky vs. Dickens (for example) or Mussorgsky vs. Wagner, you'd probably pick Dostoyevsky...