On the 11th December 1918 the Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born. His work was widely disseminated and celebrated in the free western countries but he endured censorship and oppression as a Soviet citizen. The Russian revolution was believed by the vanguard to forge total equality on Earth, but this could only be achieved through a series of ideological and physical purges.
There is a bitter irony that lies behind all idealistic thinking, in that for all of the hyperbole about creating this mythical “one world of harmony”, it strips all of the human characteristics that give our lives meaning. Karl Marx once sneered that “religion is the opium of the people” but lacked the foresight to perceive that his own reductive and crude philosophy ultimately had the same effect upon the people who were forced to believe in it.
Solzhenitsyn was more than a Russian writer, he was almost a prophet. He enjoyed the intellectual and personal freedoms of the west as an exile, but like all refugees he longed to return to the country of his birth. He understood that the west was on a path towards progress, but he feared that this relentless pursuit for societal perfection could lead to moral degeneracy.
He outlined all of this in a 1983 speech entitled “Men have forgotten God”. He foresaw that a society solely motivated by personal gains and pleasures becomes spiritually hollow and decadent. The irony is that the west used to laud itself for being morally superior to the east, but now the opposite seems to be happening.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, a spiritual vacuum imbued the populace. The effects of this were starkest in Russia, a unique nation which had lost its entire cultural identity in the wake of the revolutions. The effects are still being felt today, it has led to the rise of populists who are struggling to form cohesion in a fractured and traumatised society.
(Photograph is of Russian mystic and philosopher Aleksandr Dugin).
Vladimir Putin`s vain and almost futile campaign to reclaim Russian imperialism is a consequence of the perceived failures of democracy in the country. He is derided in the west but it is obvious that most of his western critics are shallow hypocrites. It seems really perverse to observe how the world looks now in the 21st century, with the west appropriating the worst elements of Marxist belief and forgetting that there were positive elements to societies before mass industrialisation and scientific progress.