One of my areas of interest is Russian literature of the early twentieth century and its demise following the Russian revolution of 1917. Most of the great literature was written before the revolution or afterwards in emigration by people like Georgy Ivanov (1894-1958). Ivanov was critical, possibly unfairly, of those who stayed behind, and there are vignettes of a number of leading lights of the Silver Age in his recollections of life prior to, and shortly after, the revolution.
In Petersburg Winters (Петербуркские зимы) Ivanov’s portrayals were heavily criticised by those still alive and on the receiving end. The leading lights Ivanov wrote about included Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelshtam (nearly always wrongly written Mandelstam), Nikolai Gumilyov, Alexander Blok, Mikhail Kuzmin and Sergei Yesenin.
In his prose-poem Распад Атома which is usually translated as Disintegration of the Atom Ivanov talks of the “glorious knight of the intelligentsia . . . everywhere sniffing out injustice like a hound-dog”. Under Stalin Russian poets and writers, living in Russia, could no longer criticise the regime, not even in the way Tsars had been criticised after Pushkin’s death. Researching this brought me to a thesis by Dimitri N. Shalin called Intellectual Culture: The End of Russian Intelligentsia.
One of the factors pushing Ivanov into emigration was the shooting of his friend and mentor, Nikolai Gumilyov, who had got himself embroiled in a right-wing anti-Soviet group of conspirators. The investigator of what became known as the Tagantsev Conspiracy was Yakov Agranov who, after overseeing the fate of so many intellectuals, would himself end up as a victim of Stalin’s paranoia.
Maxim Gorky was a good man who pleaded to the US on behalf of the famine-stricken in Soviet Russia. Shalin notes:
Maxim Gorky, an important writer and a well-known public figure with links to the Bolsheviks, waged a losing battle against the new regime on the pages of his newspaper “New Life.” “Lenin, Trotsky and their cronies have already been poisoned by power,” wrote Gorky on November 7, 1917; “witness their shameful attitude toward the freedom of speech, personality, and the sum total of rights for which democracy fought for a long time.”
Gorky’s newspaper, New Life, was closed and he emigrated in 1922, only to return again some six years later with full praise for Stalinist Russia – not having lived there. Those from the left, supportive of the Bolsheviks, soon realised that the new form of government was just as tyrannical as the old. Mayakovsky shot himself with a gun gifted him by Yakov Agranov. Sergei Yesenin hanged himself in a Leningrad hotel after writing his final poem in his own blood.
The wife of Mandelshtam, Nadezhda, whose husband died in transit to a Siberian camp, urged compromise for the sake of relatives and close family. “There is one more thing I can add: do not bring children into this monstrous world.”
The cited cases outlined above are only the tip of the iceberg. At this point Soviet Russia must be left to concentrate on the similarities with the UK, and the west in general, in this glorious age of Covid-19.
Shutting down the voice of opposition
Only those sleeping through this current nightmare will be unaware that there is no political opposition to the dictates. These dictates do not come from the despatch box but from lecterns at which stand the three stooges of the day all to willing to inflict more misery on an already miserable society. The Labour Party, which is supposedly the opposition, appears to be in total support of this dictatorship.
All the instruments of a totalitarian regime are in place. The informers are there to shop anyone trying to live a normal life. The so-called Nightingale Courts have been set up to deal with a backlog of cases caused by people disobeying government guidelines – living a normal life in other words. One such court is at the Lowry Theatre, Manchester.
Am I missing something? A place of entertainment is being used to prosecute people for entertaining? Is the irony lost on snitches who got them prosecuted? It beggars belief.
The new “iron laws”, as Ivanov called them when applied to Soviet Russia, are being enforced by our police and judiciary regardless of the fact that those breaking the law would never have been prosecuted twelve months ago. The people being arrested today are just normal people behaving normally. The laws are wrong. Enforcing them is wrong.
What does a totalitarian government do to those who speak out? It silences them. How does it do that?
It imprisons them. It exiles them. It cuts off their means of communication. It kills them.
Most of us will soon have forgotten how long ago it is since Julian Assange was a free man speaking out against the growing unaccountability of totalitarian regimes.
Hardly anybody knows about the almost secret extraditions of Lyn Thyer and David Noakes at the behest of the UK government and Big Pharma-owned MHRA for trying to save the lives of terminally-ill cancer patients. Yes, that is the same MHRA that is currently pushing several experimental vaccines to drastically reduce the population in an unprecedented attack on our most vulnerable old people.
As to cutting off our means of communication most of us have known some kind of censorship at the hands of social media. If they can do it to a president they can do it to anyone. And it is only going to get worse. It will get worse so gradually that most people will not notice, so gradually that the masses will start thinking Wikipedia is the fount of all knowledge.
Most of the deaths orchestrated by Beria, Yezhov and company were not available for years. Those being vanished today we will not know about for decades, if ever. The death of whistleblower Brandy Vaughan is suspicious. Seth Rich is another whose murderers may never be known. It is little comfort that Beria, Yeshov and company would eventually suffer the same fate as their victims.
There can be no argument that society has been changed beyond measure in the last twelve months. All the propaganda is the same as it was in the early days of Soviet Russia. Back then the Leninist slogan for the masses was arguably a lot more positive than it is today.
Мир, хлеб, земля
Peace, bread, land
Nevertheless it was still a three-word jingoistic meme.
Hands, face, space
Nothing changes. Welcome to the Stalinist UK.