Author Topic: The Russian Soul  (Read 77994 times)

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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #30 on: April 14, 2006, 02:54:50 PM »
I'm no great admirer of Patriarch Alexei II, but I have to respect the words he spoke to Boris Yeltsin at his inauguration as Russia's president in 1991:

"You have assumed responsibility for a country that is gravely ill. Three generations grew up under conditions deadly to any inclination or enthusiasm for work. At first, people were dissuaded from spiritual labor, from prayer; then they were dissuaded from thought, from the desire to discern the truth independently. And finally, deliberately or accidentally, people were dissuaded from work, diligence, and initiative." (Quoted in Serge Schmemann, Echoes of a Native Land , p. 20.)

What is interesting to me about this statement is its equation of the desire to work with the ability to think independently. I think this is rather progressive thinking in the context of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Remember that throughout the early decades of the Soviet Union, the Communist state urged the Russian (and other ethnic peoples of the Soviet empire) to work in emulation of such model (miracle) workers as Stakhanov. But worker productivity in Russia has always been appallingly low compared to that of other European countries. Isn't it reasonable to assume that this did indeed have something to do with the totalitarian setting? At any rate, there are many many times (for example when reading Patriarch Alexei's words to Boris Yeltsin) when I have thought that modern-day Russia is suffering from a nationwide case of severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Lack of motivation, fatalism, belief in early death or an otherwise foreshortened future, pessimism, depression, etc., are all signs of PTSD. Can Russia heal itself? Or were too many generations of the best and brightest killed off by Lenin and Stalin, and the rest condemned to emigration? At what psychological price to the masses came the Soviet Union's place as a premier power in the world? And what lasting psychological price do citizens of Russia and its satellite nations still pay for the crimes of the past?
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Offline Tania+

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #31 on: April 14, 2006, 11:43:06 PM »
Dear Elizabeth,

How well your words ring in terms of receptiveness of the price Russia has paid. When one thinks of how many lives, and families, children to elderly were affected from mass suffering from WWI, the russian revolution, Lenin, Stalin, Beria, and up till the fall of the soviet union, PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, then indeed, this is I think an important not to take into consideration. As a side note, I think all the more, this is why many russians have held on to their spiritual ties, and beliefs. Who can blame them?

Russia has a long way to go, but for those in belief, our prayers continue, and our thoughts for their freedom to eventually break through, will be without further suffering and pain or loss of life.

Thank you always for your insightful points on Russia, history, etc. You enrich our lives so well.

Tatiana+
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Offline Tania+

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #32 on: April 14, 2006, 11:48:46 PM »
Sorry Elizabeth,

Correction : This sentence should not be :

'this is I think an important not to take into consideration'

but should read :

'this is I think an important note to take into consideration'

Having trouble with my arthritic fingers again. Sorry.  :-/

Thanks again.

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Offline imperial angel

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #33 on: April 19, 2006, 10:46:24 AM »
Fatalism is indeed an means of coping, and I suppose you could say that through this Nicholas was expecting the worst, because if it happened, then even if it was bad, it was meant to be. You don't change things this way, in positive ways, nor try to change things at all. I don't think Nicholas expected the bad to happen, he just passively accepted it, when it, did, acting on Fatalism. Self fulfilling prophecy is certainly applicable though, if not as much as Fatalism to this mindset, and what role it played in the governing of Russia, from Nicholas II, to the peasantry. Fatalism could be called wholly negative, but perhaps if you look, it isn't totally that way.

I agree they were out of touch with peasantry, but then you can't expect that they woudn't be in a autocracy that hadn't changed overly much since the days of Catherine the Great. And no one around them knew much better, nor would  they have said had they known anything more. They subscribed to every notion of the autocracy, and tradition, doing everything as it had been done before. The peasantry as it was traditionally thought of seemed to be part of this, espevially to Alexandra. But they were never taught it was not so, and perhaps to think of it as so, was a challenge to the very existence of their world in the eyes of Nicholas and Alexandra. But they believed they were doing their best, and never entertained the notion of a less than traditional peasantry, although pleasing these peasants, and reforming conditions of daily life for some of these people was needed. But there was no easy solution to these issues of reforms, and perhaps only time, and gradual change could have made reforms effective anyway. It's easy to say reform was needed, but it's hard to say exactly what reforms. Even if Nicholas and Alexandra had been more politically aware, this might not have helped, as there was so much to be done. Sorry to drag so much politics into this..Russia has suffered much, and I agree with what the last poster said.

Offline historywriter

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #34 on: May 14, 2006, 03:43:26 AM »
Hello everyone,

I am finding this discussion about the Russian soul extremely interesting too.  I don't have any Russian blood but I have read a fair number of Russian classics and I think that Virginia Woolf's description is a pretty good one.  The words which sometimes strike me when I think of the Russian temperament generally are 'passionate' or even 'volatile'. I don't mean that derogatively, but as a general description. Australians are the opposite - noted for being apathetic.

I am an Australian and I think that we probably share a lot of the characteristics that Elisabeth mentioned that the Americans have.  It was interesting to hear that they tend to keep things close to their chests, unlike many of us.  Do you think that that is a natural trait or related to their historical lack of freedom?

Best Regards,

Lisa

www.webwritereditor.com
www.bookaddiction.blogspot.com

Offline russimperial

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #35 on: May 14, 2006, 09:02:43 AM »
Dear All,

Start reading the Russian Imperial Union Order web site, you will find a number of Imperial web sites attachted, it may be wise if you wish to make in depth comments on the Russian Soul, to contact the actual descendents and get some real heart felt comments not purely subjective ones, l am in contact with persons and families that could give you tangable comments.

HIH Grand Duchess Maria personal web site  is attachted to the Order's web site.

http://www.riuo.org/

It is usual and custom to sign off  politely,

Imperial Regards [to all]


Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #36 on: May 22, 2006, 03:30:41 PM »
Quote
Quote
As for a constitutional monarchy, this might be one solution for Russia's troubled political state, but I fear the current Romanov "heirs" have so far been only to the discredit of their dynasty and are taken seriously only by a very few. It might be better if, as in the case of Greece or Bulgaria in the nineteenth century, Russia could simply "import" a constitutional tsar from amongst all those petty Germanic and Scandinavian princelings looking for a suitable job... For I fear that as it is, many of the leading Romanovs, past and present, have earned only the distrust and disrespect of the Russian people, and perhaps (in some cases) rightly so.

I have often wondered if, 500 years from now, historians might not be characterizing the 20th century as Russia's second "Time of Troubles" . . . and whether this one, too, might not end with the election of a new tsar.

Personally, I hope not.  Michael Romanov was chosen because of his putative weakness and the expectation that he and the monarchy could be made the puppets of boyar interests.  We all know what that strategy eventually produced.  I think the Russian willingness to accept suffering -- even to attach honor to it and, in some sense, to revel in it -- makes any form of monarchical restoration a proposition doomed to end in autocracy.  Both autocracy and the soviet era have left Russians with a seemingly perpetual sense that they need an authority beyond their reach to impose order on their affairs.

I think the window of opportunity closed on constitutional monarchy sometime between 1905 and 1912.  Paradoxically, only orders from an autocrat and a sustained policy to stay that course would have created the conditions under which democracy could slowly take real root in Russia.  Any courting with monarchy in any form at this point will ultimately precipitate a backslide into full autocracy.  The combination of the Russian craving to have the government sort out all their affairs combined with the serious issues that a constitutional monarchy would have to address quickly are a recipe for autocracy to emerge from the brew.  The presence of an elected tsar would be a catalyst for exactly the chemical reaction that Russia needs at all costs to avoid.


And, I must disagree with you on several points:

1. The idea that Russia was well suited to a constitutional monarchy is nearly a 100% Western idea which enjoyed little support in Russia herself. Massie was quited enamoured of the idea at one time, too. The thing is, when Revolution happened, nothing turned out quite the way it was expected. The failure of "liberalism" which was advocated as a solution to the problems of autocracy was immediate and staggering.

2. The person who "chose" Michael was his brother, Nicholas, who may not have always had a good opinion of Misha, but nonetheless was not motivated by his brother's alleged weakness. It was expected by everyone that if Nicholas abdicated that he would do so in favor of Alexei, who was, after all, the Heir. It came as a surprise - even to those who knew the Emperor well - that he bypassed his own son to avoid Civil War which emphatically WAS his motivation in abdicating.

3. It was clearly Nicholas' expectation that Michael would make sure he could quitely retire to either the Crimea with his family. He thought so because his brother and his wife were thick as thieves with the Duma crowd - yet they could not govern when they were in power! There were no boyars by 1917 - only a country that was imploding, and no one realized this except perhaps the Bolsheviks.

4. I believe that Russia's problems can't be solved quickly or easily. It's not a matter of tsar or no tsar. It's not a matter of Bolshevism or oligarchy. The problems which lead to the first Revolution, the Kronstadt uprising and other popular revolts have never been solved. It's time to stop looking for simple solutions and for ordinary Russians to take responsibility for their own country. What they do with it will be up to them.

David_Pritchard

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #37 on: August 19, 2006, 11:46:28 PM »
For an entirely different slant on "the Russian soul", may I suggest "Ivan's War" by  Catherine Merridale?
An excellent book about the Red Army in the Second World War.  Ms. Merridale posits that what has become known as the Russian soul is a  quasi-concoction often propagated by Western writers.  It is a wonderful read on many levels.

I have often thought about this also. Could the so-called Russian soul simply be a coverall term to disguise the laziness of Western writers who are not willing to invest the time and energy to try to understand the average Russian mindest (if there is one)? The intricacies of Russian social interaction and personal traits being a bit difficult for many western Europeans to understand quickly, have these traits and qualities simply been consigned to the mysterious Russian Soul for lack of a more educated term?

If there ever was something quantifiable as the Russian Soul, I think that it has been slipping away since the freeing of the serfs in 1863.

David

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #38 on: August 20, 2006, 09:35:51 AM »
I have to disagree with the two previous writers here... The popularization of the idea of the "Russian Soul" was certainly helped along by certain Western writers, such as the above-cited Virginia Woolf, but the specific traits of that so-called Soul, embodied in so many memorable fictional characters, is found all over nineteenth-century Russian literature and most especially in the works of Turgenev, Tiutchev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Doesn't anyone here remember the character of Platon Karataev in War and Peace? Or Maria in Dostoevsky's The Devils ? Dostoevsky himself stated that Russia had a lesson to teach the world, placing most of his faith in Russia's future in the figure of the exemplary Russian peasant, long-suffering and more spiritually profound than the educated Russian elite and certainly more so than philistine, secular Westerners. This noble idea was  fully debunked by Russian writers of the younger generation, most notably Anton Chekhov and Andrei Bely. Nevertheless, the essential idea of the Russian Soul had its origins amongst Russians themselves, and specifically in the Slavophile movement, and this conclusion has never before been contested to my knowledge... Pray note, even Catherine Merridale doesn't go so far as to argue this. She just says that the Russian Soul is a "concoction"  (Russian in origin?) "propogated" by some Western writers!
« Last Edit: August 20, 2006, 09:39:03 AM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Tania+

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #39 on: August 20, 2006, 01:58:09 PM »
Dear Elizabeth,

I can see you are truly a lover of reading Russian Literature. Your education was certainly not wasted ! Bravissimo, well done.
You have captured the essentials in offering where best to find the examples in literature about the 'Russian Soul' This statement of yours, says it all :  "the essential idea of the Russian Soul had its origins amongst Russians themselves, and specifically in the Slavophile movement, and this conclusion has never before been contested to my knowledge". Above all, Thank You !

Tatiana+

TatianaA


David_Pritchard

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #40 on: August 20, 2006, 02:22:07 PM »
Maybe the most interesting aspect of the Russian Soul question is that the Russians bother to discuss it at all. That the Russians themselves discuss such a profound concept says much about their group psyche. Has anyone ever heard a discussion about the Swedish Soul, the French Soul or the American Soul?

David

Offline Silja

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #41 on: August 22, 2006, 04:57:42 AM »
Maybe the most interesting aspect of the Russian Soul question is that the Russians bother to discuss it at all. That the Russians themselves discuss such a profound concept says much about their group psyche. Has anyone ever heard a discussion about the Swedish Soul, the French Soul or the American Soul?

David

Yes, definitely about the German and also the American "soul".  But in no other culture has the idea become such a key topic as in the Russian one.

Offline imperial angel

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #42 on: August 22, 2006, 05:26:47 PM »
That is true. There is rather a difference between a national character and a soul. I suppose that there is a national character in every country, it is hard to avoid. And in some countries, it is more profound than others, and it can be reocognized more than in other countries. Certainly, writers are responsible for some conceptions of national characters or souls, and in identifying what constitutes their culture. Writers from another culture might tend to make mistakes writing about other national souls, or national characters, in other cultures. Perhaps this is occasionally done because it is too hard to think things out, and it is easier to slap a label on things that seems correct, even if it is not. This will always happen though, to the end of time.

Offline Lyss

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #43 on: August 23, 2006, 07:07:25 AM »
I'm not a Russian, but I think we must look different at the search for the Russian soul in the 19th century and that what 's called the Russian soul now by (western) scholars. The search for the Russian soul in the 19th century was also a search for the Russian history, the Russian roots by young Russian noblemen (a search within yourself), so in a case a search for the common factor that makes Russia "Russian".
The search for the Russian soul now by (western) scholars is more a search for the differeces with the west, to explain to themselves why things happened and why in Russia during the past 100 years. What makes "Russia" different from "us".
That search now is just not what was ment by the search for the Russian soul. It's what our human race loves to do now a days: putting people in squares, labelling what they can not understand (because admitting that you can not understand something is tabou) so the unknown becomes known and by this less frightening.
That 19th century search was a real search, it was philosophy, it was a search because you're pushed by a want for knowledge.
What's happening now is, how can I say this to make it understandable, raping that philosophy, it's a search because you're pushed by fear.
Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or stupidity.

Offline Tania+

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Re: The Russian Soul
« Reply #44 on: August 23, 2006, 12:26:24 PM »
What a great perspective, and very well thought through. Thank you so much for expressing and sharing your thoughts.

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