Ideology versus Culture (2005, 2023)

The intelligentsia of our days sees itself as a victim of the revolution, wholeheartedly approving the goals of the “liberation movement.” It is no coincidence that Stalin is so important to it and so little interested in Lenin; nor is it a coincidence that it has a contemptuous attitude towards historical Russia… The black-and-white view of the world that is characteristic of it is surprisingly reminiscent of Lenin’s worldview… Is it not because the intelligentsia brought about Lenin and the revolution? This essay speaks about the strange relationships of mutual animosity and dependence between the Russian intelligentsia and the Soviet “new order.”


The Russian authorities during the Romanov era succeeded in creating an educated class, but failed to instil in it any idea of its own purpose. However, the authorities themselves, perhaps, did not even fully know why they needed it. Russian cultural society existed, from Peter the Great to 1917, but until its very end it never knew why it existed. This cultural society, from the beginning to the end of its existence, was characterised by the absence of any firm principles, traditions, beliefs, except those which were borrowed from the West as the next fashion; and the only firmness in its sentiments — fluid, uncertain, and devoid of steadiness — was an aversion to governmental authorities and their cause. The intelligentsia itself — in that part of it which vaguely felt the unnaturalness of the state of affairs — laid the responsibility exclusively on ‘autocracy’, i. e., on a power independent of public participation. But the truth must be told: long before the revolution the Russian public was incapable of state affairs. If Pushkin’s political judgements were sober, they were also exceptional.  [1]

Unfortunately, the cause in which a large part of the Russian intelligentsia from Radishchev to Lenin was engaged can only be compared to punching a hole in the bottom of a large ship going through the deep sea. After a long effort, this endeavour succeeded, and the intelligentsia sank together with the hated ship.

A member of the ‘intelligentsia’ is alien to his country or he does not belong to it. The main characteristic of the intellectual in the Russian sense is that he is not rooted in any order of things or ideas. He is rootless, has no fatherland or religion, and instead of a coherent worldview or at least a solid tradition, he possesses an ideology, a doctrine, i. e. a set of moral proscriptions applied to social, state and spiritual questions. Moral indignation in place of substantive judgement is a basic feature of the view of things known these days under the name of ‘ideology’.

‘Ideology’, as it has manifested itself in Russian history, has always meant complete thoughtlessness, and vice versa — where thought, i. e. questions and doubts, began, ideas somehow withdrew of their own accord. The label ‘absence of ideas’ was given to those who thought; those who believed that all questions had already been answered, and from the most reliable sources, flaunted ideology. Thought (‘If you do not believe, do not believe, but at least think!’) was on Dostoevsky’s side. Dobrolyubov, for example, preached: ‘Literature is a service force, whose value consists in propaganda, and its merit is determined by what and how it propagandises’.  [2]

It cannot be said that something happened in Russia, ‘due to its backwardness’, that did not happen in the West. On the contrary. The peculiarity of the Russian revolution is that in Russia, in a short, condensed and compressed form, events took place which in the West took more than a century. All the speeches about its character being exclusively ‘Russian’ and therefore ‘barbaric’ are the product of misunderstanding. To achieve the same goal in a shorter time, they had to act differently. Where Western liberalism acted by seduction, by appeal to pride, by temptation, the Russian revolution had to use violence. But now that all the best in a whole series of generations has perished and people have grown up and matured who are completely alien to the former Russia — we see how well and how smoothly (I speak not with admiration, but with horror) the meadow has been mown. Russia became virginly susceptible to Western influence — precisely when this influence became completely corrosive; when the breath of the West became quite poisonous; when nothing could be borrowed from the formerly great forge of ideas and things except the diseases, deformities and perversions of the late, final and barren freedom.

The Russian misfortune is the long-term lack of respect for strength, for a strong personality, and even worse, for cultural strength. To a certain extent this has saved us from other misfortunes, just look at the modern West with its cult of power — but not cultural power. If humanism and self-worship were nourished by an exaggerated reverence for the human person and earthly culture, Russian soil has bred something just the opposite: contempt and suspicion for all power, and worst of all, for the power of culture. Only for this reason could the Russian intellectual see in ‘the people’ (i. e., the common people) a sample for imitation, in the state power — a burden (a ‘burden’ which took upon itself the labour of enlightenment and protection of culture — with all the reservations that can be made about Peter the Great and his successors), despising himself as an unnecessary idler. Only on such a ground could Tolstoy’s doctrine of some crazy ‘simplification’ have arisen.

Here, in brief, is the main tension, the point of the future (that is, for us — already past) fracture of Russian history: the enlightened and moderately European authorities; the intelligentsia that values neither itself nor its statehood and culture, deprived of patriotism and religion and looking at everything exclusively from the point of view of abstract, ruthless morality. I would even say that the monster of ‘ideology’ grew out of this wingless-moral, intolerant (outwardly) and willless (inwardly) mindset.

Although Leo Tolstoy delivered his sermon much later than Sovremennik, Pisarev and Dobrolyubov, he was inspired by the same exceptional moral spirit of the 1860s. State? Religion? Art? Love? Everything was sacrificed to morality. It has already been said that the Nihilists were very moral people, despite all their ‘terrible’ speeches. It is more correct, I think, to say that they were people of high morality, [3] only morality they served and worshipped. An embittered moralist is by no means an impossible combination. Over the years, morality gradually became shallower, anger grew; the struggle against ‘stupid and immoral’ reality gradually became an end in itself — and finally there appeared a ‘professional revolutionary’ with no morality at all. It should be noted, however, that after a brief triumph of the wildest instincts (1917—1927), the revolutionary authorities returned to their usual exercises on moral themes, behind which, however, there was no active moral life.

It is important to note that neither ‘morality’ (not as morality, but as a love of morality as such) nor ‘ideology’, characteristic of the whole revolutionary epoch, was something alien to the Russian educated class, something which it would have had to impose by force. Revolutionary authorities and intellectuals were indeed bound together by a strong bond, which began to weaken and break only by the 1970s, when both ideas and morality finally lost credit, the Western ideal of extra-moral freedom took root on Russian soil, and only state power kept Russia from blindly submitting to Western influence (which did happen at the end of the last century)…

‘Ideology’ and ‘party loyalty’ were not born in Russia in 1917, and Lenin was not their inventor. Their roots are deeper and further. It is enough just to remember how many times ‘brave and honest’ thought was praised in Russia! ‘Brave and honest’ are completely ethical categories that have nothing to do with the actual merits of thought. Thought may be true or false, profound or superficial, witty or vulgar — but it cannot be judged ethically. In the Russian educated class, for reasons as yet unclear to me, all measures and evaluations (cultural, state, religious) have been superseded by a flatly ethical, rational and ethical view of things. Does something conform to a moral prescription or does it not? This is where this worldview saw the basic question — just like modern Western offensive moralism, for which non-compliance with the requirements of an equalitarian morality looks — ironically! — far worse than a violation of the Ten Commandments.

It should be said and emphasised: it was not the ends, but the means of the revolution that horrified the intelligentsia. Its aims: the struggle against religion, the radical democratisation (i. e. simplification and flattening) of society, equal rights, habits, education — had long been favoured by the Russian educated class; it was hostile to the government insofar as it did not share its egalitarian-democratic beliefs. Few are prepared to accept the obvious point: the Russian revolution was a democratic movement with undemocratic means of achieving its goal, and these means were not least because Russia (unlike Western society in the second half of the 20th century) would not accept a liberal-democratic, egalitarian (i. e. hostile to higher development and culture) worldview without armed violence.

In the 1970s, the intelligentsia and the authorities in our country drifted apart, from union to confrontation, and the reason for this was morality, or rather, the need to follow some prescribed morality. The intellectuals’ rejection, even denial of ‘ideology’ should not be overestimated, because behind this denial there was no positive worldview, only the same ‘ideas’, but of a different, liberal-Western spirit, just as frivolously, without internal labour and proof, taken on faith… The stumbling block for a significant part of the intelligentsia was the morality (at least external and apparent) of the society of that time. It is surprising: the admirers of an exclusively moral view of things (‘Lenin is a criminal! Stalin is a criminal!’, as if there could be no other assessments of these persons but moral ones) would very much like to get out of the constraining circle of moral habits that prevented many of them — as later ‘democracy’ showed with terrifying clarity — from getting on all fours. This is a cruel way of putting it, but if things had been different, the 1991 coup would not have ushered in an era of intoxicating the people with a mixture of temptations and perversions.

Morality, it was morality that the intelligentsia of those years had become bored with. The revolutionary worldview in its main features can be defined as militant godlessness combined with a burning secular moralism, i. e. moralism not for the salvation of the soul, but for the sake of the state (a graft of the 18th century). So, it was not atheism that the enlightened class was fed up with, but secular morality, which in its origin was the impoverished and simplified Ten Commandments. If the intelligentsia had feuded with the revolutionary power because it wanted more! Unfortunately, it wanted much less — that is, prosperity combined with freedom from moral norms, which it got after 21 August 1991…

About the origin of the intolerable moralism peculiar to the Russian intelligentsia, we can assume that it was the last remnant of faded Orthodox religiosity, just as modern North American offensive moralism is a remnant of faded Protestant religiosity. If indeed ‘ideology’ grows up on broken, weathered religious soil — and not all of it — this provides an opportunity for curious predictions and interpretations of the past. I, for example, am quite sure that the American state is moving, in general terms, along the same road that Russia followed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — I will not say more. We can also conclude that only the Orthodoxy and Protestantism of Calvin’s followers created sufficient spiritual tension, sufficient thirst for the salvation of the soul, which, although faded in generations, left a lasting trace in the form of worldly morality and thirst for (worldly) ‘good’ (I use inverted commas because this worldly ‘good’ has nothing to do with the good of the soul and may even be completely at odds with it).

We may assume that the creation of an ‘ideology’ is possible only on once religious soil, from which, however, real religiosity has weathered away, and in the resulting voids are placed quite other feelings and thoughts. For its emergence it is necessary, firstly, that there was religion, secondly, that it has gone away, and thirdly, that it has left strong traces, and traces of a certain kind, namely, that it has taught man to care for the salvation of his soul. Only on this ground does the building of an earthly temple without God arise, in which man worships another man: a tyrant or a law-abiding ant. With the destruction of religious ethics, the very meaning of striving for the good is forgotten; the very purpose of the good as a way to the salvation of the soul. From a means, the good is gradually becoming a self-sufficient force. Morality takes the place of religion. The pathos of the salvation of the soul turns into the pathos of realisation and dissemination of moral values understood in a certain way… For the first time it happened in France of the 18th century, but there the political domination of fierce moralists (and at the same time, it should be noted, fierce human killers) did not last long — perhaps because it had no good ground for itself.

The Russian intelligentsia regarded both government and state as something superfluous, malignant, something to be abolished, and certainly hostile. In fact, one should always be moderate in condemning the government, remembering that a government is incapable of being completely hostile to its state, although it may be mistaken about the state’s good and the ways of achieving it. [4] Where there was nothing but a dispute about ways and means, the intelligentsia saw a clash between the righteous chosen to salvation and the damned sinners — need I say who tried on the white garments..? Here is the root of all Russian upheavals. Having rejected Christianity, hating God, forgetting about the true meaning of goodness as a means for the salvation of the soul, not as a self-sufficient goal — the intelligentsia retained the ancient way of thinking, which allows them to revel in the feeling of self-righteousness even in spite of the suppressed voice of conscience. After all, what were Russian ‘Landmarks’ but the voice of this long-silenced conscience..? And how this voice was drowned in indignant cries!..  [5] Looking at the revolution, throughout its entire course from 1917 to 1991, one must first of all get off the moral ground in order to see the truth. It is enough to remember that the condemnation of the revolution by its great opponents (Struve, Ilyin, Bunin, Frank…) was not exclusively moral. In the events of 1917—1927 they saw the destruction of a great state and cultural whole, a movement backwards, a rejection of centuries of creative labour… The newest denial of the revolution was of a completely different spirit. The people of the 1970s saw it not as a betrayal of national culture and Christian religion, but as an obstacle on the way to final and complete integration with the West. ‘It is not the bad thing about the revolution that it destroyed the old Russia — that would be all right; but it is, above all, that it prevents the new, modern Russia from finally joining the West’, so many people reasoned. And it turned out as they wished… Russia joined the West and — definitively? — abandoned herself.


The so-called ‘Soviet power’ and the intelligentsia were linked by a strange and unbreakable bond. If the ‘party’ persecuted the intelligentsia throughout its rule, it needed the intelligentsia, for who, apart from the people from this stratum, could have served as an agent of party policy? Bolshevism was the creation of the Russian intelligentsia, the revolt of one part of the Russian spirit against another, and in this respect it had soil and continuity (unlike the ‘democracy’ of 1917 and 1991, which was completely alien to Russian soil). The ideological terror of Soviet times differed only in measure and degree of impact from the polemical methods of Russian liberal-democrats from Sovremennik to Milyukov; it is rooted in and has examples in the history of the unfortunate Russian ‘ideology’, although it reproduces them in view of the constant lowering of the level and narrowing of the outlook — and the increase of social power. The year 1917 was a triumph of Russian ‘ideology’, although this triumph was prepared in advance. That is why the end of the Soviet system in 1991 was also the end of the Russian intelligentsia, as far as we can see.

At the same time, it should be recognised that in Soviet Russia after 1927, Russian cultural values were largely recognised, albeit in a flattened, ideological and utilitarian sense, typical of liberals and democrats from Dobrolyubov to Milyukov. However, in the field of independent creativity, the revolutionary time was completely barren. The monument of the epoch will remain not culture (which, in the sense of a free, autonomously developing spiritual life, did not exist in Soviet Russia), but propaganda. Dobrolyubov’s understanding of literature and all creativity in general won out. ‘The classics’ were honoured mainly in words; they were told to write in such a way that none of the great questions of the spirit were touched upon: about God, about the soul, about the meaning of life (whereas only these questions are fruitful, and it was over them that Russian thought had worked throughout the 19th century); no wonder the barrenness of ‘Soviet literature’! This literature fed and overfed the reader with ‘ideas’ — until it made him completely disgusted not only with ‘ideas’ but also with all questions of a higher order, which was so poisonous for the literature of ‘liberated’ Russia in the 1990s. However, it should also be recognised that, being utilitarian and ideological, this literature was also chaste and never set itself the task of corrupting the reader.

The main pathos of the Russian revolution was different: in the replacement of the organic by the mechanical. This is its root and characteristic feature. Everything that had grown naturally, over centuries or thousands of years, was replaced by the ordered, artificial, systematic. Hence its immense destructiveness, surpassing all foreign invasions of the past. In this respect the Russian revolution is quite incomparable to the English one, and far more destructive than the French revolution, also inspired by the gloomy pathos of mechanism. Everything went under the millstones of the rational mill in Russia: people’s life, faith, customs and the Russian language itself — for it 1918 was a year of decisive catastrophe, of which the ‘spelling reform’ was only the beginning. Everything that had the property to grow was uprooted and replaced by what could be managed, and with diabolical energy and consistency, and as a result of the hard work of seventy years, everything organic from Russian life was gone.

The state created by the revolution, as it was between 1927 and 1956, can be described as follows: the upper class, freed from all divine and human laws for Machiavellian reasons, kept almost all of the Ten Commandments for the common people. It was a double-hearted order in which joining the ruling and powerful ones freed from the chains of conscience, but did not prevent the crowd from being educated in the spirit of loyalty to the authorities, law and morality. That is why it is so difficult to judge this double-natured epoch. The ‘Order of the Sword Bearers’, as Dzerzhinsky once defined the masters of revolutionary Russia, really did not want moral ruin for the people it governed; it allowed confusion, seduction and destruction, or rather — used it consciously only once, in 1917, in the struggle against historical Russia; and when it reached its goal, it began to guard the conscience of the flock to the best of its ability (knowing that this is the guarantee of the longevity of the state), laying upon itself not so much their sins (as Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor suggested) as the right to sin. It was a highly Machiavellian, i. e. immorally expedient government, whose deeds did not exceed the level of morality of the rulers, but the people’s morality under this rule was kept within a certain line, because to do otherwise would threaten the durability of the state. This was the case until the end of our national Cæsarism. The heirs of Joseph Stalin were more simple-minded, less Machiavellian and believed quite sincerely in moral values that in the previous era were proclaimed only for popular use. These were people of a different nature, which sometimes proceeded from the considerations of the national good of Russia, which can not be said about their successors — self-appointed rulers of the late XX century. [6]

The Soviet era, as it may seem, cared a lot about ‘enlightenment’, but its understanding of enlightenment was narrow and utilitarian. It was not about developing a person of higher culture, but a technically competent performer of the state’s tasks. This reminds partly of Peter the Great with his concern, above all, for ‘good officers’. Culture as a field outside of technology, if it was recognised, was hardly developed. Two requirements constrained its development: service to the ‘idea’ and abstinence from the highest questions of the spirit, i. e. religious. Culture was forcibly kept in the ‘middle layer’ of existence, never falling below a certain level, but never reaching its former heights. Development was encouraged to the extent that it contributed to success in public office, but not to the growth and deepening of the individual. It is arguable that this utilitarian approach guarded against failure below a certain level, but it did not favour upward movement either. Stalin’s kingdom was the kingdom of uniformity and the middle, and as soon as uniformity began to break down, due to the natural change of generations, the durability of this cultural system came to an end. At the same time, it should be said: the mental and spiritual development of the third revolutionary period (1956—1991) was not, generally speaking, a development in a higher and better direction; it was simply a path to greater personal diversity…

The pathos of the revolution was superficial. More than that: the individual was required to remain superficial, even when dealing with the most important questions of existence. That is why the intellectual idols of that epoch went so quickly and so far away, irrevocably far away. As creators, they remained hostages, slaves of a single theme: the relationship between the individual and society. Endless repetitions of this theme, starting from ‘One man’s voice is thinner than a squeak’, constituted ‘Soviet literature’. There was no place for deep, lyrical themes until the very late revolutionary times, until almost the 50th anniversary of the revolution. And even that timid restoration of lyricism, i. e., of soul life, to its rights was accompanied by the well-known dispute between ‘physicists’ and ‘lyricists’. But the revived lyric remained for decades almost without themes, except for love and friendship, which are eternal for it. The paradox of this lyric, the fundamental flaw in its very foundation, was that it was created by poets unprecedented yet (with rare exceptions) in history: poets who did not believe in the existence of their own souls and therefore doomed only to contemplate the day life — whereas it is the night half of life, calling by this word everything that is higher and deeper than everyday experience, that nourishes poetry… ‘Just as the ocean curls around earth’s shores, // Our earthly life’s embraced by dreams’.

We rarely give much thought to the fact that 1917 was the first great onslaught of Western influence in Russia since the Peter the Great’s reforms. This may not seem obvious: comparing Stalinist Russia to an Asian despotism has long since become commonplace. But Cæsarism, as I have said, was not part of the revolution’s ‘task’; it reflected partly Joseph Stalin’s desires and partly Russia’s genuine and natural need for a King. The ‘task’ of the revolution was different: a rational society, a ‘society of machines’, of which America was seen as a model (albeit an impure one) even in the first revolutionary decade. The removal of everything human as ‘vestiges’ and ‘prejudices’; the emancipation of the individual in the lowest, even to the point of unbridling of sex; earthly prosperity as the goal — such was the early ideal, of which, with the coming of Cæsar, almost nothing remains, and which now has to be reconstructed, like the backbone of ancient fishes, from the individual surviving parts. In the age of Cæsar everything individual, everything sweet for the individual, was taken out of this plan, leaving only rational society, machines, and ‘the joy of labour’. (It should be noted that this notorious ‘joy’, and also ‘pride’, is the favourite gift of tyrants to their subjects, whether it be ‘joy about our Cæsar’, ‘pride about our democracy’, or here, ‘joy of labour’.) The incessantly repeated word of the 1930s: ‘industrialisation’ just meant: ‘machine society’. Both the peasant and his horse became irrelevant in this society, not only because they had long been suspected by Marxism, but because they had become too fused with their previous, organic life and did not want, could not become parts of the mechanism of the controlled society that the revolution had brought to Russia.

Stalin created a ‘people’s monarchy’ in its worst sense. ‘People’ in his state was not the real people, but an ignorant, undeveloped layer of yesterday’s peasants who had received only superficial technical competence, and the ‘monarch’ was not a monarch, but a Cæsar ruling by right of power. Cæsar flattered his people, the people glorified Cæsar. Flattery in the Stalinist state was reciprocal: the ‘revolutionary people’, the semi-educated peasants of yesterday, were no less caressed by propaganda than the ‘leader’ — in words, of course, and with emphasis on the word ‘yesterday’. The peasant as such was recognised as dangerous, on a par with the intellectual; only young people who had lost touch with the past were convenient for the purposes of the authorities. There was a reason for this: wishing to start life with a clean slate, the authorities could not rely on any of the classes of former Russia. The task was the same as in Plato’s Republic: first to destroy historical memory, then to rely on the memoryless ones, on those who are sure that the present order of things is ‘natural’. And in this, the Russian revolution is remarkably close to the liberal West: the same loss of memory occurred in the West in the 20th century, hand in hand with the spread of democracy and universal mixing. The historical meaning of the Russian revolution, strange as it may seem, was precisely to equalise Russia’s development with that of the West and, at the cost of eliminating tradition and higher culture, this goal was achieved. Russia in 1991 differed from the West much less than Russia in 1911.

In relation to the cultural part of society, the revolution was at first a destroyer and then, until its very end, a stepmother. This is where it differs decisively from the Romanov monarchy. It can be said of the revolution throughout its entire course (1917—1991) that it was more a moralising than a cultural force. As the heir to the ‘enlightenment’ of the 18th century, on the one hand, and to our Dobrolyubov-Chernyshevskу on the other, it assimilated Christian values without Christ, at least in theory (in practice, the revolution constantly retreated from these values). The struggle that the intelligentsia waged with the state in the 1970s and 1980s was mainly, as is now obvious, a struggle for the right to get down on all fours. Moral ‘uprightness’, adherence to a certain moral norm, was apparently a burden for a large part of the intelligentsia of that time; ‘freedom’ was understood by this part not as self-subordination to another, higher ideal, but as the rejection of ideals and restrictions in general. This freedom, devoid of positive content, won in 1991. I know that this will sound intolerable to the ear of the intelligentsia, but I will say it anyway: the moral judgements of the late revolutionary epoch were essentially correct, although they were not only unsupported but also refuted time and again by Machiavellian politics, so that, for example, when the authorities spoke of the ‘corrupting influence of the West’, they meant really corrupting influence, i. e. they were not playing with words at all. The imposition of openly demonic morality, with which we had the good fortune to become acquainted during the years of ‘democracy’, was still impossible at that time.

We must admit that in a certain sense the Russian revolution fulfilled the ‘next tasks’ of its time — not in the sociological-economic sense, of course, generally accepted today. One can truly understand the revolution in its inner sense only from the point of view of Konstantin Leontiev. As early as at the end of the 19th century, he considered the next task of Russian history to be a turn to the right, a ‘reaction’, a correction (so as not to pronounce this constantly misunderstood word ‘reaction’) of the course of the ship of state, away from the excessively equalitarian-democratic bias of the Great Reforms.

Many people know the aphorism: ‘Russia should be frozen so that it does not rot’. This task was fulfilled by the Russian revolution, but only for a short time. After a single and decisive all-destroying democratisation (in the course of which all the old great culture perished as ‘unnecessary’ for the people), it created a society far more conservative than, say, the Russia of the time of Nicholas I, although the revolutionary orders gradually softened as the years went by. It sounds paradoxical, I know, but the truth is that the Russian revolution had a largely conservative character, except, as I said, for its first extermination decade. Its confrontation with the liberal-decaying Western society of the second half of the 20th century was determined not so much by ‘ideological’ differences as by the conservative character of the power created by the revolution. Certainly, it was a conservatism of a very special — ‘socialist’ — stamp, difficult to recognise because of its hostility to religion and property, the patronage of which in earlier times was considered an indispensable sign of a conservative policy. However, the pure anti-Christian hatred of the early days of the revolution was soon transformed into a kind of ethical and state semi-religion, in which the moral precepts of Christianity were associated with loyalty to Cæsar, and later to the state; and property, collected in the hands of the all-powerful state, was protected perhaps more securely than the rights of former private owners.

It is enough only to flip through those pages of Leontiev, where he talks about a possible non-egalitarian society of the 20th century, to recognise in it the features of the revolutionary statehood of its second period. [7] The revolution froze Russia. Unfortunately, this historical task was solved not by the state authorities, but by anti-state forces, and the protective society created by the revolution had almost nothing to protect: Russia, for the most part, had already burned down… Now, before our eyes, the little that this society managed to preserve is also disappearing.

The Russian revolution was constantly looking into the mirror of morality, which is why its need for lies was so great. Deeds did not match words, facts did not match promises, predictions did not match reality. The need to constantly revisit the past to make it fit the present, as Orwell noted in 1984, was linked to this need to feel permanently morally right. A huge crooked mirror was created, into which eras, countries and peoples were distorted, all in order to emphasise and illuminate the moral superiority of revolutionary Russia. Out of all this longstanding self-exaltation came only rupture and disappointment, cynicism towards not only the revolution and its ideas, but also towards morality and all values as such. The revolution brought the narrow, exclusively moral outlook peculiar to a part of the Russian intelligentsia to the highest tension and the highest hypocrisy, and therefore, naturally, to failure. This path is now closed. For the new Russia it is possible either to dissolve into a preoccupation with the personal good, to lose one’s human face completely, or to return to an integral worldview, for which ‘ideology and morality’ were a cheap and unsuitable substitute.


Revolt against Christianity and the Church occurred in the East and in the West, but the Western revolt was more profound, more comprehensive. Whereas in Russia it was primarily a struggle against the Church, in the West the revolt was not primarily against the Church, but against the Christian worldview, against the doctrine and morality of Christ, and finally against the very idea of truth itself, without abandoning which one cannot definitively escape from God. Despite all the anti-Christian fury of the Russian revolution, it did not affect the foundation on which any faith is built, although for a long time it made it impossible to search for truth in the right direction. Let us not forget, however, that the whole pathos of the Leninist-Stalinist doctrine was that the truth existed. There was no smell of the agnostic indifference from which the newest Western nations suffer. — Having said all this, it must also be said that the anti-Christian wave of the first revolutionary decades was quite a satanic affair, conducted with diabolical energy and malice. When a daemon plays on the belief in good and truth, he is still doing a daemon’s work. It does not follow from anything that what the ‘Eurasians’ were talking about: the possibility of reconciliation with the revolution. There can be no reconciliation with its ideals, the first of which was the destruction of historical Russia and the Church, but the cognition of its meaning is necessary.

The 20th century, or rather the upheavals of its first half, is often characterised as a ‘failure of Christianity’ (starting almost with our Rozanov). However, one could just as well call it a ‘failure of culture’. Under the combined effect of the Russian revolution in the East and the two world wars in the West, culture and Christianity perished together, which is very significant. Together with them, and this is of no small importance, the old society of ideals and hierarchy perished, in which all the power of capital and all the pressure of the crowd thirsting for ‘equality’ was put to an irresistible limit. If Konstantin Leontiev had seen it, he would have recognised in what happened a triumph, or rather to say — a proof of the truth of his favourite ideas. The divided and complex state, religion and culture have succumbed to the pressure of that very force of intermingling and decadence of which Leontiev spoke. This is no longer the private opinion of a secluded thinker, but an undeniable fact.

Either the growth of profits as the goal of existence — and, as a consequence, the wealth and comfort of earthly life, or the recognition of other, more mysterious life goals — and humility before a certain uncomfortableness, even coldness of earthly existence. And at the same time, history remembers heroic merchant-seafarers, travellers-merchants for whom business was a kind of service. The culprit, therefore, is not the ‘bourgeois’, but what he has become, or rather what he has been replaced by. Apparently, the ‘bourgeoisie’, in the old sense of the word, no longer exists. In place of the ‘bourgeois’, still illuminated by the last glimmers of the old culture, has come the….

But what to call this new class? It is easier to describe it: a small, very small little man from the time of Cæsarism and the domination of monstrous military machines, of which the state is only an appendage, constantly frightened, constantly intimidated, and constantly hungry for a ‘rise in income’, to get more tomorrow than he got yesterday. There has been, if I may say so, a radical democratisation; bourgeoisie has gone deep and wide, with a still greater blending and depersonalisation of features. The previously defined physiognomies of the worker, the entrepreneur, the salaried employee, the civil servant, the teacher, the doctor — began to be erased and discoloured. The still relatively rich in types and colourful Europe of the end of the 19th century was decisively ‘unified’; a huge pressure shrunk the rather complex (whatever Leontiev might say) society into two layers: the masters (the military and industrial caste and the science serving this caste) and the crowd controlled by them, almost unified in tastes, habits, moods, education and income. The flattening of society and the simplification of the individual are the results of the ‘democratic’ 20th century.

What is striking about the question of the notorious ‘equal rights’? That in the course of the pursuit of ‘equal rights’ the quality of the rights sought is decisively lowered. Not the crowd in the 20th century was raised to the level of the superior, with their opportunities and aspirations, but the superior was dissolved in the crowd without a trace. The same was done in Russia, but the West managed to pass this way without violence. It seems that Western man himself was in a hurry to get into that ‘wonderful new world’, where Russia had to be driven by an armed hand in 1918.

Russian ‘backwardness’ compared to the West is a myth.  In the 20th century, in the East and in the West at the same time, something has emerged that was not there before, namely, a controlled society. Back in the 19th century, society was a force with which the state had to reckon, whose opinion was weighty, and whose loyalty was not always unconditional. In many matters, the interests of society and the state diverged, which made possible the rich political life of the West, which developed, for its own convenience and to protect the security of its participants, all those checks and balances so vaunted today. The 20th century, however, was the century of the cessation of political life; this is not surprising in Russia, where the iron hand has closed all mouths, but represents something of a mystery in the West.

There, exactly as in Russia, the limits of possible disloyalty have been extremely reduced. The individual may, of course, disagree with the state, but only in minor, local and unimportant matters, such as municipal administration or sewage disposal. There is nothing like the political movements of the past, with their far-reaching goals and extensive demands, in the modern West. In all major issues, the flock is completely united with the shepherds. A caricatured remnant of the former political struggle can be seen in our time in the notorious fuss about ‘political correctness’ and the rights of all sorts of neglected minority representatives. This is the fact of the matter. The modern Westerner, to say the least, has no more desire and opportunity to influence public affairs than the Roman of Cæsar’s time. All that is left to him is economic freedom and the opportunity to extol the virtues of Democracy.

The cult of reason, common to our revolution and to the modern Western order, suffers from an internal contradiction. The notion of ‘reason’ is already invested with the idea of the limitations of its powers; therefore, when the religion of our time glorifies ‘all-powerful reason’, it falls into contradiction. Reason is a limited power, whose achievements do not coincide with its aims, and whose foresight is shortsighted. A revolution whose main idea was to base everything on ‘reason’ could not succeed. In the society it captured, everything organic was consistently transformed into mechanical… i. e. incapable of independent existence. No wonder that the revolutionary system briefly failed.

However, the idea of the ‘omnipotence of reason’ is not peculiar to the revolution alone. It was only the first to draw the last conclusions from the worldview once expressed in the words ‘Knowledge is Power’. Liberalism in the West for most of the 20th century was opposed to revolution in the East, but there was no contradiction between the two — only a difference in maturity and consistency. Liberalism was too burdened by the cultural prejudices of the past — respect for the individual, property, free speech, independence of opinion. But as the Western world, over the course of the 20th century, freed itself from this legacy, it came closer and closer in its outlook to the revolution.

By the end of this century, the Western world came to believe in a single, excluding the truth of others, all-conquering doctrine, based on science, knowledge of the mechanisms of nature and the power given by this knowledge, which does not tolerate any moral control from outside and, moreover, does not recognise the presence of a moral world order at all, is extremely hostile to the idea of God, and seeks goods and benefits exclusively here on earth. Anyone who knows the history of the Russian revolution will recognise in this view its official outlook, long ago and aptly named ‘titanism’. Whoever opposes this doctrine is damned and doomed.

The difference, as I said above, is in measure and degree; where the East resorted to fetters and force, the West confined itself to scorn and whistling; and in time: in the development of this godless, limited and proud doctrine, the West lagged behind Russia by almost a century — adherence to order, love of the old culture and respect for the individual hindered it; but two world wars and a change of generations did the trick. The West has come, at least in theory, to what it was once so frightened of by the Russian revolution.

It has come, not without a significant lowering of the level compared to the 19th century.

One of the aims of the Russian ‘liberation movement’ (which, according to its final consequences, should have been called the ‘enslaving movement’) was the abolition of censorship. In this respect, the ‘liberation movement’ only followed Western models — the well-known statement that man is naturally good and any restriction of his free will is evil. The real meaning of censorship, i. e. the understanding that censorship is a measure of the moral sanity of society, was far from the Russian liberal; all the more so because liberalism never recognised the independent existence of any moral issues separate from science and technology (it is enough to recall Bielinsky’s absolutely insane letter to Gogol).

When Piotr Struve admired the wisdom of the English Parliament, which once refused to extend the censorship legislation, he forgot Pushkin’s famous saying: ‘what is necessary for London is too early for Moscow’, and another Pushkin’s saying: ‘if, for goodness sake, censorship is abolished in Russia, Barkov (pornographer poet) will be the first to be published’. ‘London’ itself did not retain a reasonable degree of moral sanity for very long — until the second half of the 20th century; to be more precise, the degree of moral maturity at which the abolition of censorship was permissible was a temporary state — the fruit of a long cultural education, and an unstable one at that.

The local and temporary state of Western society, after leaving the Church tutelage and before the onset of the epoch of universal corruption (read democracy), was accepted by Russian freedom-lovers as a sustainable achievement of the West. However, this is a deep, fundamental error of all Russian liberalism, which assigns to the West it adores attributes of almost Deity, such as eternity, infinity, etc., not realising that their favourite order is only a temporary historical stage, not a ‘summit’, but a step on a long road.

The West has always been eager to accuse Russians of their ability to see things through to the end, denouncing their ‘ignorance and ill-manneredness’, examples of which are usually taken from Dostoevsky. It is striking, however, that this supposedly ‘Russian’ ability is an profound European trait. Ever since the majestically moderate Greeks and Romans left the stage, Europe has been doing nothing but reaching the most extreme conclusions in the worldview it once adopted, and whenever these last conclusions are drawn from the former European faith, it is discarded with disgust and replaced by something completely different. It is enough to look at Europe of the 12th, 17th, and 21st centuries to see that at each of these points in its history it has gone to extremes in the development of known ideas, denying everything that had gone before and, as if in this denial, finding new strength. The external smoothness and continuity of European history is a deception of vision, caused by the absence of strong external opponents and, as a consequence, the thousand-year absence of extermination wars (compared to the struggle waged by Russia against invaders from the North, South, East and West, European history is a sample of peaceful development. For a thousand years, there was no such force in the world that would have set out to destroy the West — which is not the case with Russia).

In fact, the outwardly smooth European history is a series of mutually exclusive, mutually hateful segments, each of which abolished all the preceding ones and imagined itself to be the last and exceptional. The incredible strength and vitality of this development was that — unlike, for example, the cultures of the East — there was no thought that it was afraid to bring to an end. As one of the heroes of Clive S. Lewis’s Narnia stories says, ‘We have been successful in all our endeavours because we never leave anything we have begun without finishing it, whether it be labour or amusement, business or pleasure!’ True enough. Here is the root of Europe’s power, and not only materially. After all said, it is not reasonable to reproach Russians alone in ‘addiction to extremes’… These reproaches owe their appearance to a simple self-deception — anemic and weak children of impetuous and passionate fathers, modern people of the West, judge about ‘Europeanism’, about the idea of Europe by themselves, who have lost all ideas and all ability to burn. It is not the peculiarity of the latest (from the accession of the Romanovs) Russian history that it is ‘discontinuous’, but the fact that for such a short period of time it has contained so much.

Another feature common to the Russian revolution and the current Western order is anti-Christianity.

It is curious and highly significant that Christianity in modern times — in Europe and in Russia — had no thinking opponents. The mind, after all, is in a way the ability to deny itself, at least this mind that is the beginning of wisdom. The ‘departmental atheist’ is too preoccupied with himself and his knowledge to recognise the existence of any ‘truth’ independent of him, and even such a truth that requires effort and revision of conveniently piled up, long ago and indiscriminately taken on faith opinions. (And the opinions taken on faith are an extremely important, almost fundamental part of that heterogeneous mixture which is usually called ‘scientific worldview’). The intelligence  in the last 200 years has always and exclusively been on the side of Christianity, among whose opponents even the possessors of humble worldly wisdom are useless to seek. The ‘advanced worldview’, as applied to questions of human life, from the education of children to state relations, is reduced to preaching the complete irresponsibility of the subject, covered by words like, ‘Progress cannot be stopped!’ i. e., in other words, ‘Things will work out!’ We are already experiencing the terrible consequences of this way of thinking.

The mind and science in modern times have irrevocably diverged, because the mind is not a mere force for processing facts, but something greater, which includes not only a correct consideration of the circumstances observed by experience, but also a correct self-assessment and evaluation of others. In essence, the mental is inseparable from the ethical and, if we look further, from the aesthetic; the mind is not a huge muscle that lifts ever greater mountains of facts. This is where the rupture occurred. The ideal of integral development is a thing of the past. ‘What is my mind? — a man of our day might ask, if he were inclined to self-contemplation. — In the fact that by means of reflecting on some inanimate things (particles of matter) I can influence other inanimate things (particles of matter), may it, matter, be eternally blessed and may its holy will endure forever!’ The world of humanity remains beyond his aspirations and desires, and even that part of it to the contemplation of which he is destined daily — his own soul. ‘There is something past which all atheism slides’, said the great Dostoevsky. So this worldview slides past the most important thing, reveling in its power over dead things, powerless in all that concerns human life.

The Russian ‘democrat’ of the 1990s was surely also an opponent of party dictatorship. However, advocates of democracy in Russia should remember that the Russian revolution they rejected had democratic goals, although it used undemocratic means to achieve them. The earlier Russian liberals understood this affinity much better, and saw in the extreme revolutionary parties ‘unwise allies on the left’, as Piotr Struve put it. However, this internal contradiction between ideas and methods misled many. Democracy began to be seen as a ‘good’ force, and revolution as an ‘evil’ force, but neither of them seeks either good or evil, but only the simplification of society and the individual by means of universal equalisation, through the lowering of the highest level and the widespread dissemination of the habits and attitudes of the middle. Only the means and, shall we say, the philosophy of the movement differ.

The former liberals were mostly agnostics, did not believe in the existence of truth, and therefore considered themselves not entitled to resort to coercion and relied more on reasonable and utilitarian arguments. The revolutionaries, most of them ardent enemies of Christianity, smuggled into their doctrine a belief in truth (Marxism even created an entire metaphysics), and as the possessors of the final truth they believed that ‘everything is allowed’. Not just ‘everything’, I repeat, but for the sake of this last and final truth, which Marxism gives to mankind. Without metaphysics, there is neither socialism nor revolution.

However, times have changed. Now a new metaphysics, intolerant of any doubt, is being created by the descendants of the once listlessly sceptical liberals. The liberal has become a believer, but he believes not in Truth, but in Nothing, and he is ready to preach his faith to the ends of the earth. Metaphysics (materialistic, of course) is now with the liberals. Now they have found the lever, by turning which one can end the ‘prehistory’ and begin the ‘history’ — where did the professorial lukewarmness in spiritual matters, so characteristic of their grandfathers, go? Under the cloak of extreme and consistent materialism there is nowadays an intense spiritual struggle, in which the place of some new ‘militant church’ belongs to liberalism and to that force which is commonly called ‘positive science’.

Science wants power over the whole man, so it makes judgements not only about the laws of dead nature, but also about the due, i. e. the moral.

The spiritual development of Europe and Russia in modern times can be traced along the path of transformation of the concepts of good and evil, from ‘natural and unnatural’ (Rousseau), through ‘scientific and unscientific’, ‘civilised and uncivilised’ (19th century) to ‘progressive and backward’ (our days). It can be said that the whole spiritual and ideological struggle of each epoch is reduced to attempts to introduce the desired meaning into the notions of ‘good and evil’ — and to resistance to these attempts, and it is the force of resistance and tradition, the force for which good and evil are not subject to redefinition, that gets the label of ‘counter-value’ (i. e., speaking in conventional terms — the place of evil). This is the rule: in times of decline, ‘to be at the head of one’s time’ means ‘to be against it’.

From the prevailing viewpoint of our day, ‘progressive’ is, in particular, all ‘reductionism’, i. e., the interpretation of the higher in terms of the lower — perhaps the greatest evil in the mental life of our day. Starting from a certain level, these explanations of the complex through the simple cease to look convincing and begin to look ridiculous — the question is how simple the explanation, how simple the set of concepts will be taken as a model for interpreting complex things. I apologise to the reader for making another mockery of poor Freud, but it is his teaching that is a striking example of an ‘effective’ explanation turning into a ridiculous one. Yes, under certain circumstances we have to use these ‘effective’ explanations because they offer, at no extra cost, some ‘working model of the universe’, but we shouldn’t take them seriously. ‘A working model of the universe’ is too general and almost nobody, except philosophers and poets, is affected by it; but try to hold in your arms a ‘working model’ of the woman you love, constructed in the way Freudianism constructs its models — then I think many people will be moved and will prefer the real and complex composition of Love (complex — from spirit to flesh) to its schematic representation….

A rather fantastic and arbitrary metaphysics is nowadays generally accepted concerning the human being. As the ‘primary reality’ it is accepted to consider the brain as a certain ‘parallel computing device’, which in some unimaginable way produces thoughts, and to see in the personality a certain illusion. To whom, however, is this illusion? To the brain, to the neurons, or to itself? Since we usually have an idea of our own personality, the latter must be true: this illusion is itself, deceives itself, and, moreover, tries to know itself!.. This is some kind of shadow theatre!

Under the guise of talking about ‘the power of reason’ and ‘the power of the people’, the 20th century has created something that did not exist before: a controlled society, and whether this society will be cruel to the individual depends only on the taste and arbitrariness of the rulers. The ‘organic’ society of the previous era was much more complex, and the state authorities in it were stronger, but also more limited than the modern ones. Yes, as is commonly believed, ‘the monarch could do anything’ and was not limited by ‘the good general will’ (as the French naïvely say) or ‘checks and precautions’ (as the Americans no less naïvely say); but it was limited — to a certain limit, of course — by honour and Christian conscience, by custom, and by the rights and liberties of the estates (here, of course, I am speaking more of the West, since the Russian Middle Ages did not, unfortunately, create this ‘reserve of independence’ for social classes and individuals). Moreover: in certain areas he was not only limited, but simply had no power. Contemporaries would consider it dangerous arbitrariness for the state to attempt to ‘control’ industry, trade or agriculture… The monarch could do many things, but a huge part of society was excluded from the sphere of his wishes. To say that the modern state, unlike the former ones, can do anything in relation to its subjects would not be an exaggeration. The fact that it (in the East and in the West) disposes ‘in the name of the people’ does not change the matter.

On the ruins of the old world, in which too much room was still left for unreasonable human freedom, both West and East built in the 20th century a machine society, the only difference being that in the East the direction of the machine was determined by a patronising government, while in the West it was determined by the selfish aspirations of the masses in pursuit of the highest welfare. Anything above the level of government in the one case and the average consumer in the other was discarded as unnecessary, with my usual caveat about violence and temptation. Democracies have always favoured ‘persuasion’ — i. e. seduction — over direct coercion.

The man of the democratic epoch is offered two roles in life: one after the other. First, it is a role in the faceless but bright crowd of ‘youth’, to whom all or almost all pleasures are allowed; then — a role in the no less faceless but less bright crowd of hired employees — cogs in the mechanism of someone else’s success. Youth is made a kind of atoning sacrifice for a generally ruined life. The very idea of a whole life, in which youth is only the beginning of ascent, the beginning of continuous development, is abandoned. To youth — mindless pleasures, to maturity — the yoke of mindless and fruitless labour for the sake of other people’s goals. I don’t dispute that not everyone had the opportunity for this upward development before — above all, it was available to the privileged cultural class. But modernity has abolished this opportunity for all, thereby (I will not tire of repeating myself) not by raising the inferior to the same level as the superior, but by lowering the superior to the condition of the inferior. Modernity has abandoned the idea of progress as applied to the individual. ‘Have fun, then work for someone else’s success, then make others work for your success, then die’, is all it has to offer the individual.

The bait of ‘entertainment’ is rivalled by the bait of novelty.

Among the ‘magic’ words for the modern Western ear, words whose charm the Westerner cannot overcome are the words ‘modernity’ and ‘reform’. ‘Modern reformer’ is a combination of words absolutely irresistible. Both modernity and change are ascribed a certain moral meaning. To be modern is good; to be a reformer (i. e., an enemy of tradition) is also good; ‘progress’ (endless change) is beautiful in itself, regardless of its aims and consequences. Modernity sees ‘good’ in not having roots and ground, not knowing the way, but perpetually be in a hurry, denying the past and admiring the future in advance… What meets this definition is undoubtedly good. Undeniably, there is a big difference between ‘to be’ and ‘to stay’, but even bigger is the difference between ‘to be’ and ‘to hurry to be in time’, and nowadays the latter is seen as the most valuable. The future is supposed to be a rare and hard-to-reach good, which can slip away from the one who has not hurried enough. Since there is no direct route to this good, it is possible to experience at least partial bliss — provided that you have been ‘modern’, i. e. in a sufficient hurry.

One of the main vices of contemporary Euro-American culture (and Russian one too) is that it has broken with everything that has gone before and does not want anything to come after it. This desperate uniqueness gives Western culture the spice and poignancy of a walk over the abyss, but it makes it extremely unfruitful. In modern Europe it is considered a sign of great freedom of thought to condemn the so-called ‘patriarchal’, i. e. hierarchical, family-like, state system. The need for such a system is considered a sign of the ‘backwardness’ of peoples… The family as a model of the state, from the latest point of view, is something vicious.

However, it is worth turning the question to the other side: what exactly is the peculiarity of the family as a unity? It is the recognition of the inequality of its members, and the inequality is factually justified. The family is ‘undemocratic’ in its essence, because it contains individuals who are incapable of managing not only others, but also themselves, and whose inequality is only a consequence of their actual inability to enjoy freedom. But from what does it follow that in a modern ‘parliamentary’ and ‘democratic’ society all its members are able to dispose of their own freedom? Can this be asserted with certainty? Of course not.

In democracies, the appearance of equality serves only as a cover behind which the strong control the votes of the weak — unfortunately, the ‘strong’ not spiritually, but materially. Equality is allowed as a convenient appearance — only to facilitate some (usually well hidden) persons to achieve even greater prosperity by influencing the ‘free submission of votes’. In this case, as it is easy to guess, the supreme interests of the state and the people (which is not the same thing, contrary to popular belief) have very little weight… ‘Democracy’ of this kind has long ruled in the West — now Russia is getting acquainted with it.

Curiously enough: deviation from the natural is taken as a measure of ‘progress’, as far as society and the individual are concerned. The greater the break from the roots, the more progressive it is. In the field of culture, this leads to the well-known cult of perverted forms: the more unnatural — the ‘sharper’, ‘brighter’, ‘more modern’. Out of the once proclaimed ‘equality’ came, strange as it may seem, a rebellion against the norm, i. e. something essentially opposite to equality. There is no doubt that the egalitarian-democratic worldview recognises the norm exclusively as something imposed on man by an external force and not rooted in himself. In fact, of course, the egalitarian faith is heterogeneous in its composition, and its famous ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ are a far from harmonious combination. Freedom excludes equality, equality abolishes freedom… There are two ways out of this contradiction: into a jungle society or a barracks society, depending on personal preference.

The cult of every kind of deviation naturally grows on the ground of freedom, understood exclusively as the right to disobedience, i. e. negatively understood freedom, freedom as an airless void. And another question: with what can such an extremely ‘liberated’ society, freed from the influence of tradition, religion and culture, hold on? The answer, I think, is obvious. Such a society can only be sustained by naked police force, by the law, which demands unquestioning obedience — its last sanctuary. However, the fate of the law in a society devoid of faith in the divine foundations of human regulations is unenviable.

The so-called ‘rule of law’, about which the Russian liberals have written so inspiringly and extensively, albeit boringly, in reality means nothing more than the domination of the police and lawyers. Lawyers to define the limits of morality; police to impose these limits on society. I have, however, mentioned morality in vain. In this kind of society, the circle of morality coincides with the circle of what is prescribed by law, and, moreover, for lack of more trustworthy sources of moral judgement, the lawyers are recognised as such.

‘A friend of humanity without moral grounds is the man-eater of humanity’, observed Dostoevsky. The same can be said of this deified and emancipated from all morality law. What is good and evil, the citizens of the ‘liberated society’ feel very vaguely; but they know very well that what is lawful is moral, and that what is useful to the state is always lawful. At the heart of this outlook is pure nihilism, both in relation to morality and to the law. In this kind of society, the circle of morality coincides with the circle of what is prescribed by law, and moreover, for lack of more trustworthy sources of moral judgement, the lawyers are recognised as such.

Something needs to change here.

The debate is not about how much more man should be liberated and how to protect his right to almost limitless freedom, but about how and in what direction his freedom should be restricted. The question on the successful resolution of which the future depends is: how to limit man’s freedom, channelling his energies, now largely wasted, to positive creative ends; how to make man stop consuming and start creating. The freedom granted by the 20th century has turned out to be the freedom to dissipate energies for the sake of insignificant goals, it is already obvious. So, freedom should be restricted, and restricted unevenly: in some things to make it much wider, in others — much narrower than now. The breadth of freedom, I would say, should increase in proportion to the height of the needs satisfied by this freedom, and diminish as far as the quenching of the primary instincts is concerned. Freedom should be freedom for the strong, but not in the dangerous sense in which, in modern society, it really belongs to the strong predators.  Freedom is for the strong who can lift it and carry it. And we should say goodbye to the dream of ‘equal opportunities’ — but again, not as modern society has said goodbye to it. Freedom of cultural creativity, freedom of honest labour is absolutely not the same as the liberally understood freedom of seduction and personal enrichment… The very idea of equal rights for different activities is insane. The main thing is banished from the liberal notion of freedom: the qualitative evaluation of the deeds performed by the liberated person. ‘Our business is to give liberty to the individual; if he abuses this liberty, we shall give this individual to the court and leave his future to the law’, so says liberalism. [8] It should not be like that at all. The greater the number of people involved in a relationship with a person (i. e., the more dangerous the instrument in his hands), the more careful the law should be about that person. ‘Art for the masses’, say, is subject to stricter censorship than poetry (if the latter is subject to censorship at all); a thinker should be freer than a writer of light novels; a street vendor should be freer than a rich man. Do you understand my thought?  The more dangerous the fruits of freedom are for a given person, the more careful one should be. The weak should be freer than the strong. Not just for reasons of public safety, but also because — let me put it figuratively — all other things being equal, in the competition between cultivated plants and weeds, the latter are stronger, and without compulsion and labour, the garden of world culture would have grown overgrown with weeds long ago.

I may be told that the revolution also restricted freedom. But the point is that it restricted freedom evenly, narrowing the possibilities of the class of the governed and greatly expanding the range of what was possible for the class of the administrators (first of all, by freeing them from the morality preached for popular use). The peculiarity of the revolutionary epoch was a very simplified, almost bipartite society, consisting of masters and subordinates, shepherds and flocks; the shepherds took upon themselves the care of the conscience of their flock, rewarding themselves for this burden by freeing themselves from morality, to a greater or lesser extent. This order was both guessed by Dostoevsky and not; it both bore a resemblance to that described in The Devils and The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, and it did not. Its chief vice was the excessive simplicity of the society created by the revolution. It was, as I have said, only two-tiered, with two possible states of freedom, moreover limited or given blindly, without reflection on the quality of the cases to be liberated or forbidden. The revolution brought nothing new to the interpretation of freedom at all — it only simplified and redistributed the social classes enjoying (or not enjoying) freedom.

[1] For the same reason, the mission of Russian emigration – the preservation of cultural traditions for future generations — was unfulfilled. Success in this endeavour could only accompany that emigration, which would set as its dream and goal the restoration of the state order destroyed by the catastrophe, and not ‘reconciliation with revolutionary reality’. That is why the cultural nucleus of our emigration — Struve, Shmelev, Ilyin, Frank, Khodasevich, Bunin, Kartashov — was so few in number, and its members were constantly ridiculed and criticised by their contemporaries. The emigration, for the most part, wanted no restoration; quite shared the joy of the Russian destroyers, and differed from them only in temperament.

[2] A ray of light in a dark kingdom.

[3] This division may seem far-fetched, but I would say that ‘morality’ is more of the heart and conscience, while ‘morality’ is something cold, cerebral; an idol to be served.

[4] There are few instances in history of governments openly hostile to their peoples, and they all arose in times of revolution, not reaction. The fierce Leninists, the Jacobins, or the listlessly vicious, mistaking the freedom  for ‘the right to dishonour’ state looters of Boris Yeltsin’s time… They were all brought to power by revolution.

[5] My attacks on the intelligentsia may seem unmerciful and unnecessary, I know. However, they are caused by the firm conviction that we Russians need to return to history from the world of moralistic dreams.  The belief that this unholy and unreasonable world will pass, that ‘prehistory’ will end and ‘history’ will begin (as Marx played on this string!) — this belief must be abandoned. This world will pass, no doubt, and there will be a new one, but not under this sky and not on this earth.

[6] The so-called ‘democracy’ of the 1990s was the last reincarnation of the revolutionary system, in which yesterday’s servants of the party joined the criminal world. There is no need to speak of the morality of these new rulers, since their main virtue even in the days of their former masters was obedience. By declaring the implementation of democratic formalities to be the main and self-sufficient goal of the state, even achieved at the cost of decay and destruction, they have done an amazing, unheard-of favour to all kinds of predators, both internal and external, and have themselves insensibly joined their ranks. There is nothing more shaky, more convenient for hiding true deeds and intentions than these democratic formalities, behind the supposed ‘transparency’ of which anything can be hidden… Inspired by the liberal chimera expressed in the aphorism of ‘President of all Russians’ Yeltsin: ‘let everyone, you know, take as much as he can take!’, the government went on killing honest labour, for the second time after 1917, which was sacrificed for the deceptive façade of ‘prosperity’ of a tiny minority. The respect of the people this government received on credit, gratuitously and undeservedly, and in 14 years of rule it has squandered it without a trace…

[7] ‘Communism, thinking to achieve complete equality and perfect immobility by means of preliminary destruction, must inevitably, by means of its struggle with capital and gradual victories and defeats, lead, on the one hand, indeed, to much less economic inequality, to a comparatively greater economic equalisation than at present; on the other hand, to an incomparably greater legal inequality than at present… […] Communism, in its exuberant aspirations for the ideal of immobile equality, must by a number of different combinations with other beginnings lead gradually, on the one hand, to less mobility of capital and property, on the other hand, to new legal inequalities, to new privileges, to constrictions of personal freedom and coercive corporate groups sharply delineated by laws; probably even to new forms of personal slavery or serfdom (at least indirectly, otherwise named)…’ — The average European as an ideal and an instrument of world destruction.

[8] That is, first we give a small child a hammer, and then, if necessary, we punish him.

2005, 2023

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