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”