This book is about Russia ‘after Christianity and before the new culture’. Of course, the culture of a bygone era (1918 can be considered the year of its end) was not exhausted by Christianity; moreover, it was in a state of struggle and complementarity with it. Christianity was not the only source of values in the ‘old world’. To a large extent this world was based on a pagan, Greco-Roman basis — which was brought to us in Russia by the Romanovs. The nineteenth century in general drew its values from different, contradictory sources. The thinking of our day sees this as a trait of weakness, a lack of unity, a pledge of future destruction. We are generally convinced that if an era is over, it is ‘the judgment of history’, ultimately the judgment of God. But contradictions are not cracks in a building, not mines under its foundations, but a way of existence for all culture.
The ‘old world’ has passed, but it is not ‘obsolete’. All the questions our great-grandfathers posed before the end of this world and soon after are still contemporary. The thread which the Russian culture spun until 1920 in ‘mainland’ Russia and until 1940 in ‘off-mainland’ Russia has not been exhausted, but was forcibly cut. This thread, this line of inheritance can be continued. The question is what form this continuation might take; whether a desire for restoration is appropriate here; if so, to what extent; what is still alive and what will irrevocably remain in the past.
As a sign of the connection with the part of our Russian ‘old world’ which not only lived through, but thought about the revolution, i.e. the White Emigration, I will repeatedly quote in this book the opinions of authors who are little known to the modern reader: Pavel Muratov, Alexander Saltykov, Princes Alexander and Sergey Volkonsky.
This book also speaks of the temptations of modern times: about the Socialism of the ‘third sex’, about the supposed conservatism of modern Russia, seeking ground in the deeds of revolution, that is, the embodied groundlessness, about the possible culture and religiosity of the future, which will hardly be based on a mixture of suffering and hope… Less is said here about a return to external forms, whether of monarchy or spiritual life, except perhaps for one unresolved and still bleeding issue of Russian culture: the question of spelling. Simplified orthography has been forcefully imposed on our language. The semblance of ‘acceptance of the new orthography’ was created by means of extra-literary coercion. Russia Abroad printed books under the old rules until the 1970s; the ‘new orthography’ won there only because of a natural generation change — and the censorship pressure of the West European authorities. Quotations from books printed in Russia before the enforced introduction of the ‘new orthography’ or in freedom, where this orthography had no power, are given according to the old rules. For my essays I, after some hesitation, chose the new orthography. Traditional orthography these days is the best way to scare off a reader accustomed to simplifications; though it is ridiculous for me, bearing in mind the content of my books, to be afraid of ‘scaring off’ anyone.
The translation is computerized, therefore imperfect.