To me and my wife, Russia had been, not was. With several hundred other Russians, we were permitted, for the first time since the early 1920s, to emigrate (with our son and my mother). And since our arrival in 1972 to the countries free and alive, I have never made — for about 40 years! — a single telephone call to Russia, dead yet horrible.
But the other day my wife surprised me with a printout from the Russian online magazine “Snob.”
When we had come to the United States, a conventional American university invited me to deliver a lecture on how much the West knew about Russia. They were shocked, offended, and frightened when I had explained that one’s knowledge of a foreign country is likely to have one’s accent of his or her own country, and that was a dangerous trap the Western democracies had fallen into.
“Snob” is the only way out so far, and my son, Andrei, has been enthusiastic about the venture. It is a kind of university, with branches in Moscow, London, and New York, in which all scholars and commentators are natives of the country under study.
Below is the response (translated from Russian) of a “Snob” reader by the name of Yelena Pyltsova to one of my son’s columns:
If you still accept opinions concerning your key thesis, here is mine. I thoroughly studied your article as well as the essay by your father, Lev Navrozov [“Mediocrity and the Rescue of the West”], whom I now deeply respect. His article provided me with such vital information, in particular about Solzhenitsyn. I had always suspected that not everything about the man was so simple, and now I have received proof to this effect. Lev Navrozov’s essay was published in your magazine a while ago. In my view, this period of “silence,” strange for a contemporary country, was definitive for the society of Russia. Why?
Because matured and consolidated was the “genie” that came out of the Russian post-reconstruction society. The Russian soul has always been fragmentary — half of it cunning mixed up with Oriental treachery, lifelessly weak soulfulness, capable of responding to any request of a quietly dying human being. Because life up to the middle of the 1990s was passing at half-speed, at the edge of a God-forgotten platform of unrealized hopes.
As a result of trials, always advancing and giving no time for breath; trials of life on the brink of starvation, with a constant want of any vestments capable of covering the shame, with daily humiliations practically in any field of endeavor, there has appeared the unique Russian ability to survive, first fixated in phenotype and gradually transformed into the genotype.
For the new generation of the Russians, fattened on the “reconstruction” German frankfurters and warmed on Egyptian resorts, there is now no obstacle they cannot overcome. Given the will and the readiness to invest in the development of the world’s only humane nation on the isles of Great Britain, London and its suburbs are being filled with Russians. They don’t care that they are not accepted by British peers. So what? The Muskovites are used to the insolence of [wife of former Mayor Luzhkov] Baturina. Well, now Baturina lives in a castle in England, though she is quite nervous, of course.
Another convenient country, called the United States of America, has also been flooded by citizens of the former USSR, and the newcomers have been contributing to the life of their new country a vast number of little things from the repository of their old survival experience. They too will achieve their goals.
Russians now live in Turkey, Bahrain, Venezuela, the Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Australia, and Peru. The “Russian plague” is spreading all over the world. They succeed in practically every field, and going back to their Motherland are only those who have been tormented by the “second half of their Russian soul” yearning nostalgically for old Arbat, destroyed by Mayor Luzhkov’s satraps . . .
Such is Yelena Pyltsova’s commentary on “Snob.”
First of all, it is obvious to us that she belongs to the Russia of 2011, and not the Russia of 1972, which we left in horror. This is Russia today, with a mind of its own. Let the readers read it at least in English. Yelena sounds like a professor of a free Russian university in which the number of a “Snob” auditors or students is boundless. Russia: are you listening?
The democratic West: what about you?