Kirill Medvedev: The Crisis of the Russian Intelligentsia

In distant Soviet times, I found Bertolt Brecht’s statement that “for art, not being a party member means belonging to the ruling party” the height of absurdity. Nowadays, this line has a different ring to it. It sounds okay. In any case, it makes you think.
Lev Rubinstein (in

In order to talk about democracy (people power) we have to give the word “conviction” a new sense. It should mean: to convince people. Democracy is the power of arguments.
Bertolt Brecht, Me-Ti: The Book of Changes

The principal symptom of the cultural situation in today’s Russia is the crisis of the liberal-intelligentsia consciousness and its schism. For over fifty years the consciousness of this stratum consisted of two main components. The first component was the intelligentsia’s well-known anti-statism, its sense of empire (inherited from the revolutionary intelligentsia) as a repressive force. The second element, on the contrary, was inherited from the statist intelligentsia that had produced the famous Vekhi (“Landmarks”) almanac in 1909: the cult of private values and a hatred of everything “leftist,” everything that called the “bourgeois” into question; that is, a mindset that sanctified inequality and exploitation as the order of things. For the Vekhi crowd itself, this hatred was aggravated because they had dallied with Marxism in their youth. For the Soviet and post-Soviet intelligentsia, this hatred was stirred by their own genetic origins among those very same “socialists,” “destroyers,” and “lefties” who had planned and carried out the Revolution. While it was natural that it rejected Soviet (“imperial,” “collectivist”) reality, this type of consciousness became unbelievably hypertrophied. It was this stratum—a hodgepodge of dissidents, moderate frondeurs, crypto- or latent anti-Soviets—that captured the position of cultural hegemon in the nineties on the crest of a general anti-totalitarian wave and the collapse of the Soviet bureaucratic model. It was this stratum that rediscovered the culture that had been wholly or partly forbidden by the Soviet authorities. It was this stratum that set the tone in the press of those years. Using innocent slogans that seemed logical at the time, it was this stratum that threw its ideological weight behind the notorious reforms of the nineties. Continue reading “Kirill Medvedev: The Crisis of the Russian Intelligentsia”

Pavel Arseniev: Solidarity and Alienation among Russian Students

We remember, we preserve our faithfulness to the event.

Forty years like forty days.


Return to your classrooms:

They are fireproof.

No, a spark will not set them ablaze.

All measures have been taken,

More or less in earnest. Continue reading “Pavel Arseniev: Solidarity and Alienation among Russian Students”

Vladimir Bukovsky on “Political Correctness” in Britain

We don’t want to be racists: we’re all civilized people. But the situation is absurd. [In Britain] TV news anchors . . . it’s a requirement that she be black, swarthy. And the other one has to be something else. The recruitment of these minorities is huge. And you can’t find two news anchors. It turns out that a TV channel’s best bet is to hire a legless negro lesbian single mother. That’s great: she meets all the criteria. But if you don’t do this, you might be sued for discrimination. People do this [hire minorities] not because they’ve come to love everyone or accepted the theory of Marcuse, but because they can be sued. Sued and bankrupted. Suddenly there’s this big campaign [in Britain]: for some reason there are very few women in private companies, on boards of directors. Well, go figure, huh? It’s a national tragedy. But what do you know: these companies are forced to find women so that these women sit there stormily. This isn’t a joke, this is serious. This is private business: they don’t need these people. They need people who will work. But as a result it turns out that not only does this not produce any fairness in society, but also suspicion grows, racism grows. You go to the hospital and there’s a Pakistani doctor. For all I know he got his diploma because he’s politically correct. I don’t want to be treated by him. I would prefer to be treated by one of our guys, by a Russian immigrant. At least I know that he studied properly and learned a thing or two. But this guy [the Pakistani]? I don’t know who gave him his diploma and why. Maybe because he’s dark-skinned.

Vladimir Bukovsky, Smolny College of Liberal Arts, Saint Petersburg, 28 November 2007