Author Topic: The Russian Soul  (Read 80099 times)

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Offline AGRBear

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The Russian Soul
« on: November 08, 2004, 03:20:47 PM »
I remember my grandfather talking about how fatalism had devoured the soul of the Russian peasant.  

Here is just one of the sayings of the Russian peasant:  

            "God is too high  and the Tsar is too far away."

AGRBear
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by AGRBear »
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2004, 03:32:22 PM »
What a great topic for a new thread, AGRBear. You know there is an entire book about the Russian peasant... well, no doubt entire bookS, but here is the one from my grad school years - "The Peasant in Nineteenth Century Russia," edited by Wayne S. Vucinich, with essays by numerous scholars including Donald Fanger (he's my  hero! great bio of Gogol),  Nicholas Riasanovsky, and Donald W. Treadgold. In fact, I should reread this book before I add anything more! Although I do remember that what most impressed Tolstoy and also Western observers during the Crimean War was the tremendous courage and also passivity of the Russian peasant soldier. Perhaps the two were synonymous...?
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Offline AGRBear

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Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant,  
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2004, 01:25:31 PM »
Was it easier for the poor peasant to blame God, who was too high, or the Tsar, who was too far away,  then for the peasant to take responsibility for their enviorment  [flea infested home,  no cut wood for the fireplace,  no food to eat,  rags for clothes.....] in 1912?

Notice the year, 1912.  Please,  keep the debate within this time frame.

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"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2004, 04:50:12 PM »
I think a lot of Russian peasants did take responsibility for themselves - remember, large numbers of young people left the villages every year after harvest to find industrial work in the cities, migrating back to the countryside in the spring to help with the planting. They were certainly attempting to improve their lot, and the lot of their families.

It's not that the average Russian peasant in 1912 was lazy or irresponsible, in my opinion; it's that he was in a sense a prisoner of his actual physical environment. Russia didn't have enough arable land for its growing peasant population - even if someone could have waved a magic wand and distributed ALL of the arable land among the peasantry, there still wouldn't have been enough to go around. And what arable land there was in central Russia was not exactly great land for farming. The climate was too harsh, as well. As I understand it, this is one of the reasons why Figes thinks Stolypin's land reforms were doomed to failure. The peasants were reluctant to give up the communal system precisely because it was the most adaptive system of land distribution for the sort of subsistence agriculture they were forced to practice by their environment.
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Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2004, 09:37:54 AM »
Old Russian Proverb: "God never sends you any more than he knows you can bear"

Offline AGRBear

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Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2004, 05:05:35 PM »
"What March doesn't want,
April wil take."
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

Offline AGRBear

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Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2004, 12:23:16 PM »
Nicholas II was fatalistic and one of the examples was explained in Robert K. Massie's book NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA:

Even before Bloody Sunday it was noticed that Nicholas II was deeping his beliefs about fatalism.  

p. 114 "...Nicholas had always been struck by the fact that he was born on the day in Russian calendar set aside for Job.  Nicholas II voiced, "I have a secret conviction, " he once told one of his ministers, "that I am destined for a terrible trial, that I shall not receive my reward on this earth."

Although wealth and throne created an enormous physical gulf between Nicholas II and the poor peasant,  they were not seperated, however, in their souls because of their beliefs that the events in their lives was "god's will".

AGRBear
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

Offline imperial angel

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Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2006, 11:17:45 AM »
I found this thread just now, and it has really helped me. I started a thread called Nicholas and Fatalism under Nicholas II, and the responses I got there were very helpful. :) Certainly it  it is  an apt observation that though there were great divides between Nicholas II and the peasants of Russia, they did have God's will/ Fatalism in common. In other Romanov books I have come across references to this, as well, it was sort of a Russian idea/orthodox idea, not really what I thought it first was, philosophical Fatalism.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by romanov_fan »

Offline Elisabeth

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The Russian Soul
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2006, 10:22:19 AM »
Generations of Russian (and other) writers have spent a lot of ink describing the unique characteristics of the "Russian soul." These have been variously defined as fatalism, a talent for endurance and suffering without complaint, as well as an emotional volatility, spontaneity, candor, and openheartedness not unlike a child's (or a saint's). Are such traits really specific to Russians and to Russian culture, or at least once specific to them and to it? For that matter, do you believe there is such a thing as a national character, and if so, what is (or was) the Russian national character? How is or was it different than say, the English or the American national character?

Just to get you thinking, here are two very famous poems by the Russian poet F.I. Tiutchev about the uniqueness of Russia in the landscape of the world. They are engraved in most Russians' hearts:

"Through reason Russia can’t be known,
No common yardstick can avail you:
She has a nature all her own –
Have faith in her, all else will fail you."

Feodor I. Tiutchev, 1866, translation by Alan Myers

"These poor villages, this humble landscape – native land of long suffering, land of the Russian people!
The foreigner’s haughty glance will not understand or notice that which shines dimly and mysteriously through your humble nakedness.
Weighed down by the burden of the cross, the King of Heaven, in the likeness of a servant, has walked up and down all of you, my native land, blessing you."

Feodor I. Tiutchev, 18??, translation by Dmitry Obolensky

And this is what Virginia Woolf had to say about the distinguishing characteristics of Russian literature from English literature:

"Indeed, it is the soul that is the chief character in Russian fiction. Delicate and subtle in Chekhov, subject to an infinite number of humours and distempers, it is of greater depth and volume in Dostoevsky; it is liable to violent diseases and raging fevers, but still the predominant concern [….] It is the soul that matters, its passion, its tumult, its astonishing medley of beauty and vileness […as] the elements of the soul are seen, not separately in scenes of passion or scenes of humour as our slower English minds conceive them, but streaked, involved, inextricably confused, a new panorama of the human mind is revealed. The old divisions melt into each other. Men are at the same time villains and saints; their acts are at once beautiful and despicable. We love and hate at the same time. There is none of that precise division between good and bad to which we are used. Often those we feel most affection for are the greatest criminals, and the most abject sinners move us to the strongest admiration as well as love… [no] restraints were laid on Dostoevsky. It is all the same to him whether you are a noble or simple, a tramp or a great lady. Whoever you are, you are the vessel of this perplexed liquid, this cloudy, yeasty, precious stuff, the soul.  The soul is not restrained by barriers. It overflows, it floods, it mingles with the souls of others…"

Virginia Woolf, "The Russian Point of View," 1925

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline palimpsest

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2006, 09:38:55 AM »
Wonderful topic!
I, Claudius

Offline Tania+

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2006, 06:37:28 PM »
Thank you Elizabeth, for bringing up the thread on The Russian Soul. There are many writers (Russian of course) who wrote much about the Russian Soul. I believe one of Russia's most famous writers, Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyovesky wrote at length on this in many of his books. Perhaps one of his famous quotes might be shared here. I think it would add much to the thread. Thank you again for bringing this to the forum thread.

Tatiana+
TatianaA


Offline imperial angel

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2006, 11:17:08 AM »
Certainly, most nations have a national character. I don't see that Russia would be any different. Sometimes it is hard to pin down national character, but about the Russian one, I am sure that Russian writers have got it right. Elisabeth's list of things that the Russia national character is is very often the ones attributed to it, at least by most. Sometimes national character is used to explain the strengths and weaknesses of a country, which is perhaps a mistake. Sometimes even the things in the national character are called weakness or strength, which could be true. I have no Russian blood, etc, so I don't feel qualified to comment more, but I have enjoyed this topic. :)

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2006, 06:05:03 PM »
I wonder if the Russian soul was developed because of the length of the reign of Russian autocracy.  No other country had an autocracy for as long.  I mean going back before the 300 years of Romanovs.

Even Great Britain, although its manarchy has been around for over 1000 years, did not have an autocracy.

The Russian people also believed that the Tsar was God's annointed representative on Earth. That must have been a big leap of faith.

So, living under such a system which was tangled up in their religious beliefs might have created the "fatalistic" Russian soul.  What answer is there to your worldly prpblems if the autocracy fails you, but the head of the autocracy is also the head of your faith?

I know that they believed that "if only they could get to the Tsar"  then everything would be solved.  But it must have seemed nigh on impossible to even imagine getting to the Tsar.

It would be like getting to OZ.


Offline Tania+

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2006, 07:41:26 PM »
Dear Alixz,

It is true, the Russian people believed that the Tsar was God's annointed representative on Earth. But as you have stated, that was developed over the centuries and long reign of Russian Tsars. The Tsar's of Russia, lead Russia. They also were baptized, married, and buried in the Russian church.

But you have one thing wrong I believe. Though the Tsar was an annointed representative, the Tsar was by no means head of the Russian Church. God is irreplaceable, for those whom believe in God.
The Russian Church headed the Russian Church, not the Tsar. The Tsar and his family were valued supporters, and believers, nothing less.

Oz, I believe came with the soviet regeime ! But even then, Stalin knew that the Russian Church, and Russian religion would never leave, or be forgot in Russia. Stalin was head of Oz for sure. But for reality's sake, and understanding, The Russian Church has never died, nor has the feverent belief of the Russian peoples. It is as alive now, as it was the first time it was introduced to Russia. Thank God.

Tatiana+


Quote
I wonder if the Russian soul was developed because of the length of the reign of Russian autocracy.  No other country had an autocracy for as long.  I mean going back before the 300 years of Romanovs.

Even Great Britain, although its manarchy has been around for over 1000 years, did not have an autocracy.

The Russian people also believed that the Tsar was God's annointed representative on Earth. That must have been a big leap of faith.

So, living under such a system which was tangled up in their religious beliefs might have created the "fatalistic" Russian soul.  What answer is there to your worldly prpblems if the autocracy fails you, but the head of the autocracy is also the head of your faith?

I know that they believed that "if only they could get to the Tsar"  then everything would be solved.  But it must have seemed nigh on impossible to even imagine getting to the Tsar.

It would be like getting to OZ.

TatianaA


Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2006, 02:35:13 PM »
Dear Tania, I hate to correct you, but in practical terms the tsar was the head of the Russian Orthodox Church from the time of Peter the Great; the Church was completely subservient to the autocracy. Even before this, however, Ivan the Terrible had greatly weakened the autonomy of the Russian Orthodox Church with his reign of terror. The history of the Russian Orthodox Church stands in marked contrast to the history of the Catholic Church in the West, which managed to maintain its autonomy as an alternate source of authority in many European countries, even after the Reformation. As such it acted as a counterbalance to the growing power of individual nation-states and helped to encourage the establishment of institutions to check the sovereign's powers. You do not see such a pattern of checks and balances developing in Russia after Ivan the Terrible.

I wonder why people are so hesitant to talk about the Russian national character, however. It seems to me most of us can be summarized by reference to our nationality - Americans, for example, are generally optimistic, open, confiding and honest to a fault - we will tell you our entire life story if you happen to have the misfortune to be seated next to one of us on a plane trip. Russians (in my experience, and we can only speak from personal experience) tend to hold their cards much closer to their chests in public; in private however, if they like you, they will take you to their bosoms and confess the deepest and darkest secrets of their innermost souls... and seriously discuss with you all the mysteries of life and death... until about 4 o'clock in the morning, when the vodka and cigarettes are running low. Russians (at least traditionally) are very good at the kind of profound conversations most Westerners only get to experience in college and/or graduate school. Maybe all this is changing now, due to the new Russian realities of dog-eat-dog capitalism... I honestly don't know, but I think it would be a shame if it had changed completely!

... I love my poor earth
because I have seen no other

-- Osip Mandelshtam