I am a total stranger to nationalism, patriotism—all those deficiencies of spiritual vision. Nonetheless, I see that the Russian people are exceptionally, fantastically talented and idiosyncratic. Even fools in Russia are stupid in their own original way, and our lazy folk are positively brilliant. See more
I am certain that in terms of intricacy, in terms of unexpected twists, so to speak—in terms of the configuration of the mind and the emotions, the Russian people are the most rewarding material for an artist.
The gardener is pacing up and down the alley, a ladder on his shoulders, scissors in hand, trimming trees. He’s lost weight, shrunk a little, his clothes hang loose on him like a sail on a mast on a windless day. His scissors cut branches with loud angry clicks. I was watching him and thinking that nothing - not an earthquake, not even the Deluge could stop this man from doing his job.
According to Gorky, who had just arrived in Koktebel, the issue of the death penalty emerged, with Savinkov calling for its introduction in the rear and Kerensky expressing a desire to abolish executions once again. But, given that the introduction of the death penalty is essentially the abolition of lynch law (i.e., the selfsame death penalty, meted out for what are essentially insignificant instances of misconduct), it will undoubtedly be introduced sooner or later; the most terrible thing about revolutions is sensitivity: it always ends up yielding the bloodiest fruits. See more
When the death penalty was being abolished, I said: fine, this is certainly the first gesture that needed to be made, but, alas, it does mean that the Russian revolution will be very bloody. I said this even as everyone was boasting about the “bloodlessness” of the Russian revolution. The least cruel are those who kill out of necessity and for the good of the endeavour, without any thought of justice and retribution. I believe that, of the two generative forces, Kerensky possesses only faith, but that he lacks a sufficiently profound contempt, and that he’s approaching the limit of his capacities...
It’s nice here. It is so beautiful that you feel ashamed when thinking about what life must be like with you all now.
I know you are crazily busy, but I beg you: I have heard on good authority that if our son applies for a medical degree he will be freed from the draft, so please try to sort this out. I’m still stuck in St Petersburg, my sojourn in part extended by the wonderful tropical weather. See more
It’s sweltering. Everything has gone green, myself included. Palms have popped up along the boulevards; baobabs, belfries and even factory chimneys are positivity yearning up towards the sky, spreading shoots out in all directions. I am not blossoming much myself, but I’m as tired as a workhorse.
People have been sending me nooses, images of axes, chopping blocks and hundreds of expletives—and this is in the year of my fiftieth birthday. I have served Russian culture for 25 years! Does this kill me, does it depress me? Well, no, not really, but I will not hide, I’m afraid, that it irritates me. I’d rather they didn’t.
Three years of merciless, senseless war; three years of daily bloodshed among the finest peoples of the earth; the priceless spirit of the cultural nations of Europe is being exterminated. The most villainous sort of these nations accuse those of their compatriots with the audacity to believe in global brotherhood of being dangerous madmen and heartless utopians with no love of country. See more
Meanwhile those who annihilate millions of lives in the pursuit of a few hundred versts of foreign land heed neither God nor the Devil. How else could they have lived through these last three years, head-deep in blood, spilt at their will from the veins of tens of millions of innocents?
I am no investigator and I have no idea who is most to blame for the vile drama we are witnessing. I have no intention of defending the adventurers and opportunists; all those who try to arouse the dark instincts of the masses are hateful and unpleasant to me, no matter what name they bear, or how much fine service they may have done in the past for Russia. See more
I think German provocation is a possibility, but I must say that the malicious joy some are finding is also slightly dubious. There are some people who talk all the time about freedom and revolution and about their love of these things, and they talk in the smooth manner of merchants who want to sell their goods as profitably as possible. Iin my opinion, however, the chief instigator of the drama was not the followers of Lenin, nor the Germans, nor the provocateurs and counter-revolutionaries, but a more evil and powerful enemy – profound Russian stupidity.
I'm afraid that Lenin has gotten himself into a mess. It's not his fault, of course, but it seems that his closest friends are swindlers and scoundrels. They have all been arrested.
Leave Petrograd—it is a rather pleasant dream, and I am ready to go to Kamchatka, to Solovky, to the devil! In general, I live in a spiritual contradiction with myself and don’t see any other outlet but cultural work.
The task of culture is to develop and strengthen in the human being a social conscience, social morals, to work through and organize all the abilities, all the talents of the individual. Is this task achievable in times of widespread brutality? The Russian person, upon seeing his old way of life shaken by war and revolution to its very foundations, bellows with all his might for cultural aid. See more
People write on their opinions about the priests, people ask whether there will be changes in immigration law, people ask for stories “about the American government,” about how to cure syphilis, about whether there is a law regarding “the transportation of the wounded to a single gathering point,” people submit “petitions” for onions to be sent to the soldiers in the trenches—they are “very good against scurvy.”
All of these “petitions,” “messages,” and “demands” find no place in the pages of our newspapers, which are all occupied with bile and malicious bickering. Newspaper editors seem to forget that outside the sphere of their influence there remain tens of millions of people whose instinct to struggle for power still lies asleep but whose drive to build new forms of daily life has already awakened.
Gorky introduced me to Lunacharsky. The latter seemed to me like a real charmer. Wide-ranging erudition, wonderful mastery of speech, an “almost Jewish” nimbleness! He seemed all around to belong to the chosen people, but the rumor goes that Lunacharsky isn’t a Jew at all, but a pure-blooded Russian and even a nobleman and a Southern landowner. See more
His strange surname seems to trace its roots to some kind of lunar enchantments that point to his “aristocratic roots from the left.” He treated me with great attention, as though he would even offer his services whenever they might be useful to me.
Good, honest books – the best instruments of culture – have all but completely disappeared from the book market. A number of slanderous and dirty newspapers have sprung up encouraging people to treat one another with hostility and hate, supposedly while trying to answer the question of who is responsible for the collapse of Russia.
Yesterday the commandant of the Tsar's residence spoke in detail about what the royal family is doing now. And it is hard. In general, everyone is right; the Cadets are right, Gorky with his "two souls" (passive East and active West) is right, and there is an ugly truth in Bolshevism also. See more
I see nothing ahead, although I do not lose optimism. All of them, both "old" and "new", reside in our hearts- in mine at least. I am suspended in the air; no land now, and no sky. For all that, Petersburg is again unusually beautiful.
The true essence and meaning of culture lies in an organic aversion to everything that is dirty, base, false, or rude, that humiliates people and causes them to suffer. We must teach ourselves to hate suffering; only then will we annihilate it. We must teach ourselves at least a bit to love people the way they are, and we must passionately love people the way they will be.