The tyranny of bad journalism
Where the Russian has the advantage over us is that he is much less than we the slave of convention. It never occurs to him that he should do anything he does not want to because it is expected of him.
Why he bore with a certain equanimity the oppression of centuries (and he surely bore it with equanimity,for it is inconceivable that a whole people could long endure a tyranny which they found intolerable) is that though politically coerced he was personally free.
The Russian's personal freedom is much greater than the Englishman's. He is bound by no rules. He eats what he likes at the hours that suit him, he dresses as he chooses without regard to common usage (the artist will wear a bowler hat and a stiff collar as unconcernedly as the lawyer a sombrero) ; his habits seem to him so natural that everyone else accepts them as natural too; though often he talks for effect he never seeks to appear other than he is, he is only inclined to exaggerate himself a little; he is not shocked by a position he does not share; he can accept anything and he is perfectly tolerant of other people's eccentricities in thought or behaviour. There is a deep streak of masochism in Russians. Sacher Masoch was himself a Slav and first drew notice to the malady in a volume of short stories which are not otherwise remarkable. According to the reminiscences of his wife he was himself a victim of the state he described. Briefly, it is a sexual desire in a man to be subjected to ill treatment, physical and mental, by the woman he loves. For example, Sacher Masoch himself insisted on his wife going for a trip with a lover while he, disguised as a footman, suffering agonies of jealousy, performed for the couple a variety of menial services. In Sacher Masoch's stories the women are described as large and strong, energetic, audacious and cruel. They use men with every sort of indignity. Russian fiction is full of characters of this sort. Dostoievsky's heroines are of this overbearing type; tenderness, sweetness, gentleness, charm do not appeal to the men who love them; on the contrary they find a horrible delight in the outrages to which they are exposed. They want to abase themselves. Turgenev's heroines are intelligent, alert, active and enterprising, while the men are weak of will, dreamers incapable of action. It is a characteristic of Russian fiction, and I imagine it corresponds to a deep-rooted instinct in the Russian character. No one can have lived among Russians without being struck by the aggressive way in which women treat men. They seem to take a sensual pleasure in humiliating them before others; they are contentious and brutal in their conversation; the men will endure things said to them that few Englishmen would tolerate; you will see them flush at a gibe, but make no attempt to retaliate; they are femininely passive, they cry easily.
The Russian sets store on self-abasement because it comes easily to him; he can accept humiliation because to humiliate himself gives him a singular sensual gratification.
The poverty of types in Russian fiction is rather surprising. You meet the same people, under a variety of names, not only in the works of the same author but in the works of others. Alyosha and Stavrogin are the two prominent and marked types. They seem to haunt the imagination of Russian writers, and it may be supposed that they represent the two sides of Russian character, the two persons whom every Russian feels more or less in himself. And it may be that it is the presence in him of these two irreconcilable selves which makes the Russian so unbalanced and so contradictory.
It is humour which discerns the infinite diversity of human beings, and if Russian novels offer only a restricted variety of types it is perhaps because they are singularly lacking in humour. In Russian fiction you will look in vain for wit and repartee, badinage, the rapier thrust of sarcasm, the intellectual refreshment of the epigram, or the lighthearted jest. Its irony is coarse and obvious. When a Russian laughs he laughs at people and not with them; and so the objects of his humour are the vapours of hysterical women, the outrageous clothes of the provincial, the antics of the inebriated. You cannot laugh with him for his laughter is a little ill-mannered. The humour of Dostoievsky is the humour of a bar loafer who ties a kettle to a dog's tail.
From a moving picture show, I hurried to Smolny. In room 10 on the top floor, the Military Revolutionary Committee sat in continuous session, under the chairmanship of a tow-headed, eighteen-year-old boy named Lazimir. He stopped, as he passed, to shake hands rather bashfully. See more
“Peter-Paul Fortress has just come over to us,” said he, with a pleased grin. “A minute ago we got word from a regiment that was ordered by the Government to come to Petrograd. The men were suspicious, so they stopped the train at Gatchina and sent a delegation to us."
A steady stream of couriers and Commissars came and went. Outside the door waited a dozen volunteers, ready to carry word to the farthest quarters of the city. One of them, a gypsy-faced man in the uniform of a lieutenant, said in French, “Everything is ready to move at the push of a button.”
The counterrevolution is preparing another Kornilov putsch. The first Kornilov conspiracy was defeated, but counterrevolution was not broken. See more
It only retreated, hiding behind the back of Kerensky’s government and asserted itself in its new position. The second Kornilov putsch that is being prepared now has to be rooted out in order to keep the revolution out of danger.
An examination and inspection of Red Guard’s readiness for battle. The Smolny looks like a fortress: machine guns, rifles, boxes of ammunition. And our best comrade workers with rifles behind their backs… Worker women in nurse kerchiefs. The revolution headquarters are preparing an offensive.
We announce to all workers, soldiers, and all citizens of Petrograd:
In the interest of protecting the revolution and all its conquests from assaults by the counterrevolution, we have appointed commissars to military units and important posts in the capital and its outskirts. See more
Orders and decrees that pertain to these posts are to be fulfilled only after they have been approved by commissars that we have appointed. Commissars as representatives of the Soviet are inviolable. Opposition to the commissars is opposition to the Soviet.
A rumor went around that they will come to crush us. Policemen came over for the night to protect us. No one slept, didn’t even undress.
Vladivostok. A meeting took place between local foreign consuls and Russian authorities on the question of protecting foreign nationals.
How painful it is to read this emissary’s telegram! Foreigners—for the most part, of course, our allies, do not trust our current state, are afraid for the life of their compatriots, who live in Russian towns. See more
And they are totally right! For Bolshevik propaganda and calls for soldier and worker demonstrations on the streets do not portend anything good. It is not shameful that they do not trust us with their lives, that they are afraid of us, but it is shameful that we have let ourselves fall that far. They are beginning to treat us like a small, barbarian nation that does not recognise the rights of other persons and another’s property. Wake up, brothers!
Dear Alya! Thank you for the letter. I hope that you are now behaving yourself well. I have bought you a few gifts. Not so long ago, Nadia, Andryusha and I went to the steppe. Many thorny bushes grew there, completely dry, with stars on the edges. See more
I wanted to set them on fire, at first they would not burn, the wind put out the fire. But then, I got lucky, and the bush crackled, the stars burned like a Christmas tree. We made a big fire, and every minute threw more and more in. The fire broke out absolutely red. When the last branch was burned, we started trampling the ground. It smoldered for a long while, and sparks were flying from under the boot. Only a gigantic, black, smoldering circle was left from the fire. Everyone is asking me about you here, Alya, what you are like, have you grown up a lot, whether you behave. I respond, “When I was there she behaved herself well, with me not there—I don’t know.”
The tyranny of bad journalism
But even if they would confiscate all the money in the banks, we would still have our jewels. Mine were in a state bank in Moscow. I thought that it would be wiser to take them from there before it was too latej it would be safer, I thought, for me to hide them at home. See more
We decided therefore to go to Moscow and take the jewels from the bank, and to see Aunt Ella, who had not met my husband. Taking very few things with us, we left at the end of October. In Moscow we stopped in the house of the Yusupovs, near the Nicholas station.
"I heard this morning that the executive committee of the Soviet had decided to form a Government, and at half -past twelve one of the cadets sent me a message to say that the Bolsheviks would oust the Ministers from their respective departments in the course of the next few days. See more
At one o'clock the three Ministers — Tereschenko, Konovalov, and Tretyakov — whom I had asked to luncheon arrived quite unmoved. On my remarking that after the reports which had reached me that morn- ing I had hardly expected to see them, they said that those reports, to say the least, were premature.
Tereschenko then told me that he had, on a preceding evening, gone to Kerensky and had persuaded him to issue an order for the arrest of the executive committee of the Soviet, but that after he had left that order had been cancelled on the advice of a third person. They all three assured me that the Government had sufficient force behind them to deal with the situation, though Tetriakoff spoke very disparagingly of Kerensky, saying that he was too much of a Socialist to be relied on to put down anarchy. I told him that I could not understand how a Government that respected itself could allow Trotzky to go on inciting the masses to murder and pillage without arresting him, and Konovaloff said that he quite agreed. The Russian revolution, he remarked, had passed through several phases and we had now arrived at the last. He trusted that I would, before leaving for England, see a great change in the situation. Turning to Tereschenko, I said : * I shan't believe that we are really going till we are on the train.' 'And I,' he replied, 'not till we have crossed the Swedish frontier.'
Unless Kerensky is prepared to throw in his lot unreservedly with those of his colleagues who advocate a firm, continuous policy, the sooner he goes the better. The Government is but a Government in name and things cannot be much worse than they are at present. E\en if they have to make way for the Bolsheviks, the latter would not be able to hold out for long, and would sooner or later provoke a counter-revolution.
Tereschenko spoke again this afternoon in the Provisional Council, but on the question being put to the vote, there was a majority against the Government. The resolution eventually adopted, while condemning the contemplated Bolshevik rising, threw the responsibility for the crisis on the Government. The situation, it affirmed, could only be saved by transferring the control of the land to the land committees and by inducing the Allies to publish their conditions and to commence negotiations for peace. In order, moreover, to cope with any counter-revolutionary or subversive movement it advocated the formation of a committee of public safety, composed of representatives of the organs of revolutionary democracy, that was to act in concert with the Provisional Government."