January 7, 2022
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Ukraine and the Neoconservatives
In all the hysteria over the latest strain of the Coronavirus virus, the frenzied ideological (and essentially authoritarian and anti-constitutional) activities of the House January 6 “Investigatory” Committee, and the frenetic lead up to this recent Christmas, one significant anniversary was missed, or rather ignored, by our media, including the so-called “conservative” media: the birth on December 11, 1918 of arguably the 20th century’s greatest novelist and social/cultural critic, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Solzhenitsyn, let it be said, will long be remembered when the names of moronic fanatics like Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and others of that ilk, have become filthy curse words symbolizing the political and cultural nadir of our once great republic.
Yet, with all the ejaculatory exclamations and dire warnings, and subsequent demands for “American” and “NATO” action to thwart the supposed “threat” by the Russians, under that evil genius Vladimir Putin, to use bloodthirsty Cossack troops to invade and conquer poor, little democratic Ukraine, Solzhenitsyn’s comments shortly before he died on August 3, 2008, demand consideration.
No one can accuse the great Russian writer of being an advocate of violence, aggression or war. His experiences, so brutally and so vividly recounted in his various semi-autobiographical novels dissuade any dispassionate reader from that conclusion. He had seen the open jaws of bitter Hell, and that Hell attempted not only to swallow him but destroy him and his soul totally. That the Soviet Hell—the Gulag—did not succeed, and that he emerged stronger for it, a man of resilient and unquestioned Faith, is a remarkable example of how true religious conviction and Hope can indeed overcome even the worst trials, both physical and spiritual.
When Solzhenitsyn came to the United States and gave his famous address at Harvard, June 8, 1978, it was met first by shock, then by a studied if respectful silence by many in the media. For in that speech he had taken target at some of America’s showiest and most prized attributes:
He attacked moral cowardice and the selfishness and complacency he sees in the West. Materialism, sharp legal maneuvering, a press that invades privacy, "TV stupor" and "intolerable music," all contribute to making the western way of life less and less a model for the world, he said. "A decline in courage," Solzhenitsyn said, is the most striking feature of what he called "spiritual exhaustion" of the West. "The forces of evil have begun their decisive offensive, you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?" "To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being…."
And that was in 1978.
Furthermore, modern managerial democracy and its vaunted demand for universal (and chimerical) equality, imposed on the rest of the world and modeled on the US experience, actually led to the eventual triumph of totalitarianism.
After the fall of Communism and the end of the Soviet Union, it was gradually insinuated that the great writer was now, given the elapse of time, perhaps a bit passe’ or too much the slavophile or Russian nationalist. Indeed, increasingly leftist (and neoconservative) pundits and writers, while grudgingly acknowledging his literary ability, called him a “reactionary,” unable to understand the new globalist age.
But Solzhenitsyn’s comments about Ukraine made after the dissolution of the old Soviet Union ring true today and are even more prescient now than when they were made shortly before his death.
I transcribe below a letter he wrote to a Ukrainian friend, Sviatoslav Karavanski in 1990, later published in the journal Zvezda, December 1993. And I follow that with portions of an interview that Solzhenitsyn gave to The Moscow News, April 28/May 4, 2006.
Author Peter Rieth (in The Imaginative Conservative, August 24, 2014) commented on the Russian author’s warnings:
“Americans should take heed. Solzhenitsyn’s words would make President Reagan roll over in his grave. America in 2014 is supporting the goals of Lenin, helping pummel the city of Donietsk, a historic city which was a bastion of anti-Leninist and advancing a geopolitical vision dreamt up by German , pursued by Hitler in the west and Bolsheviks in the east. It is only historical ignorance which makes this possible….”
Here are the two items:
“Esteemed Mr. Sviatoslav Karavanski,
“I deeply respect you for all that you have suffered and for your calm under duress when you were made to suffer. I am happy that I can hear your calm voice, even though your countrymen—from the tribune of the High Committee of the USSR to the far off emigrant newspapers—have concluded on the basis of my writings that I am simply a believer in Greater Russia, a chauvinist, a colonialist, a servant of imperial tyranny, and a ‘retarded imperialist’ at that (as published in Gomin of Ukraine 10.10.1990). Such premeditated blindness and incompetence make one wonder, but also make one alert. Just what are they trying to hide by barking so loud?
“I can appeal to you sir, in the hope for mutual understanding, since they have not sought such mutual understanding with me.
“With regard to your historical arguments, beginning with your reflections on Tatar invasion (at least with respect to Red Rus and not Rus itself), one could elaborate on this matter for quite some time. Yet all such elaborations would pale when compared to the strongest argument which you now fail to make, perhaps because it is so clear: If the hearts of the people of Ukraine desire to separate from the Soviet Union, then we have nothing to quarrel about. All that is required is a movement of the heart! This was the thrust of my article. I also wrote about this in my Gulag Archipelago (part V, chapter 2). This is why my current view is certainly not without precedent. Yet even you, good sir, have failed to note that I have no quarrel with Ukrainian separatism, only with the factual state of Ukraine.
“Currently, as statues of Lenin are being torn down in Ukraine (as rightly they should be!), why is it that western Ukrainians of all people in that land desire that the state of Ukraine should have the borders made for it by Lenin himself? The borders which Uncle Lenin himself drew up for Ukraine? For the present borders of Ukraine are the result of Lenin seeking for a way to compensate the Ukrainian people for consuming their liberty under Soviet domination. Thus it was Lenin who arbitrarily attached Novorossiya, the Donbas (by which Lenin separated the Donbas from the anti-Communist counter revolutionaries of Donietsk) as well as attaching parts of the left bank to Ukraine. Later, Khrushchev arbitrarily added (1954) Crimea to Ukraine. And now Ukrainian nationalists stand firm in defense of their “holy” territorial integrity—of borders created by Lenin?
“I wrote in my article (though I suspect no one read what I had to say): ‘of course, if the Ukrainian nation does indeed wish to go, then no one can dare use force to prevent their departure’. But realize please how heterogeneous is this great territory and allow the local people to decide the fate of their districts. And for writing this, I am considered to be a ‘retarded imperialist?’ What of those who forbid the nation from expressing its will, and, along with those democrats and liberty lovers, even fear this expression of national will for some strange reason?
“Under such turbulent circumstances, it is impossible to discuss this complex problem through which our two nations have combined together through family ties in hundreds of cities. There is also an additional argument which, to my surprise, you make: you claim that the language which children will speak should not be left to the ‘whims’ of parents, but should be determined by the State? You write that ‘non-Ukrainians are free to make their choice’. But will you limit the amount of their schools? As for Ukrainians, I understand you to be saying they are not free to choose? Thus you support coercion yet again? No sir, this dictatorship is unnecessary. Let all cultures develop in a natural way.” (Published in Zvezda, December 1993)
By 2006, Solzhenistyn had become far more pessimistic, as we can see from this interview:
“WT [interviewer]: Personally, I think that the three basic components of Christian civilization, Euro-Atlantic civilization—the United States, the European Union and Russia—should all create a strategic alliance with one another sooner or later. If they do not, then our whole civilization will cease to exist. How can we save our European and Atlantic civilization; does it need to be saved?
Solzhenitsyn: Unfortunately, global processes seem to be moving along a direction contrary to your desires. The United States of America are moving their occupation armies into ever newer countries. Such was the case of Bosnia 9 years ago. Such was the case of Kosovo (where they helped establish an Islamist state in the heart of Europe). We have witnessed it over the last 5 years in Afghanistan and over the last 3 years in Iraq. Although in Iraq, the occupation will not survive long. The activities of NATO and, separately of the United States, do not differ except in minor details. NATO clearly realizes that Russia is not capable of threatening the Alliance and thus NATO methodically and stubbornly develops its military apparatus from Eastern Europe to the south of continental Russia. One sees it in their open support for a variety of color revolutions as well as the paradox of North Atlantic interests taking precedent there over central Asian interests. All of this leaves little doubt: NATO is in the process of encircling Russia and depriving Russia of its independence as a nation state. So, to answer your question: no, allying Russia to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization that uses violent force in various corners of our planet to plant the seeds of an ideology of modern western democracy will not expand Christian civilization, only terminate it.
WT: What is your view about what is happening in Ukraine. And what is your view on the issue of fragmenting the Russian nation (the most fragmented nation in Europe)? Should Russia raise the prospect of uniting all of the Russian and Rus lands if the Ukrainian elites turn their country in the direction of NATO and the EU?
Solzhenitsyn: Events in Ukraine, ever since the time of the referendum in 1991, with its poorly formulated options, have been a constant source of pain and anger to me. I have written and spoken about this often. The fanatic oppression and suppression of the Russian language there (a language which polls show is consistently the preferred language of 60% of the people there) is a beastly methodology aimed primarily against the cultural prospects of Ukraine itself. The vast territories which were never part of historic Ukraine, such as Crimea, Novorossiya and the entire southeast were forcibly and arbitrarily consumed into the territory of modern Ukraine and made hostage to Ukraine’s desires to join NATO. Under the Yeltsin presidency, not one meeting was ever held with the Ukrainian President that did not end in Russia capitulating and accepting everything Ukraine requested. Yeltsin uprooted the Black Sea fleet from Sevastopol; something not even Khrushchev did under the USSR. It is all a simple minded, indeed simpleton and cruel joke perpetuated against the entire history of XIX and XX century Russia. Given these circumstances, Russia will never, in any way, betray the many millions of Russian speaking peoples in Ukraine. Russia will never abandon the ideal of unity with them.” (Moscow News, interview with W. T. Trietiakov published 28 April/4May 2006)
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was mutually agreed by Gorbachev and President George W. Bush that the Soviet state would be dissolved and the former constituent states of the Union become independent, on condition in return that the United States and NATO would not incorporate those states into their military alliance, an obvious threat to Russia (and for which there would be now no real reason). But that is exactly what occurred, beginning with President Clinton and continuing under George W. Bush, and under Obama and Biden.
George Kennan, one of the most distinguished of American diplomats, told The New York Times he believed the expansion of NATO was “the beginning of a new cold war…I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves.''
And today Russia finds itself virtually encircled by an armed NATO, a Ukrainian government which mistreats and persecutes its large ethnic Russian minority (around 30%) and that has violated the peace terms of the Minsk Agreement (negotiated after the 2014 crisis), and American and European Union NGO agents provocateurs and subversion internally and in nearby pro-Russian associated states (such as, most recently, Kazakhstan).
In 2014 American government officials, including Obama’s Assistant Secretary of for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland (wife of the late J0hn McCain’s foreign policy advisor, Robert Kagan), were responsible in large part for instigating the “Maidan coup” which overthrew the popularly elected and pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. In a secretly recorded phone message Nuland declared that the Obama State Department had selected Arseniy Yatsenyuk to be the new prime minster: “Yats is the guy,” she said. Voting by Ukrainians be damned if not acceptable to the Foggy Bottom globalists.
Is the American State Department, infested as it is with Neoconservative globalists, willing—like England did to Poland before the outbreak of World War II—to give Ukraine the promise of (unlimited) military support which could unleash world conflagration?
Is the so-called “conservative movement” so corrupted by a secular and increasingly anti-Christian globalism that it now spouts ad libitum Leftist foreign policy talking points? To listen to a Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) or Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one would have to conclude so.
Already our misguided and belligerent policies have forced Russia into the arms of China—the two largest nations of the earth whose national and internal interests have sharply diverged, but who now find themselves drawn closer due to American insistence on imposing our form of democracy uber alles, our internal subversion (via the “color revolutions”) in former Eastern Bloc states, and our zeal to see Russia accept the worst gutter filth that we export around the world.
One year (2007) before he died, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gave another interview, this one to the German magazine, Der Spiegel, in which he said:
"[Vladimir] Putin inherited a ransacked and bewildered country, with a poor and demoralized people…. And he started to do what was possible, a slow and gradual restoration. These efforts were not noticed, nor appreciated, immediately. In any case, one is hard-pressed to find examples in history when steps by one country to restore its strength were met favorably by other governments. Putin gives us hope and seeks to restore Russia's Christian tradition. That I applaud." [The Washington Post, August 5, 2008]
Once again, the American media and political establishment largely ignored his utterance, just as our nation has ignored the warnings of Lee Congdon, former Ambassador Jack Matlock, Paul Craig Roberts, Tucker Carlson, the late Stephen Cohen, and others. And now it is we who have created the conditions for unnecessary conflict, misery, and global conflagration.