This collection features 11 essays written by Solzhenitsyn, Barabenov, A.B. Yehoshua, Shafarevich, Korsakov, Agursky and Borisov and was first published in English in 1975.
From Under the Rubble was intended as a discussion and debate starter on the future of the U.S.S.R. In the foreword and his first essay of 4 (in this collection), Solzhenitsyn explores how, “over half a century of enforced silence” has left every mind in the U.S.S.R. deeply scarred by the “shackles” of propaganda and fear. He also insists that although (comparative) freedom of speech has recently come into existence again, the Soviet nation is in danger of not being freed from, “the lie forced upon us [by the State]”.
Taking Sakharov’s article, Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom as a starting point, Solzhenitsyn blasts, “many of the fundamental ideas” in it as being, “insufficiently thought out” and, in some cases, not honest or radical enough to initiate a proper discourse on the nation’s history. The main point that Solzhenitsyn took pains to blast open was the received idea that Stalinism (portrayed as a Bad Thing), represented a break from Leninist thought.
“Did it ever exist?”, asks Solzhenitsyn before delivering one of the most brutal and crushing verbal assaults on Stalin that it has ever been this blogger’s pleasure to read. (No spoilers, I am not going to take the unadulterated pleasure from any of you). He then goes on to disprove the theory that Stalin’s policies broke with Lenin’s in any way except for “the ruthless treatment of his own party“.
Sadly none of the other essays struck a chord in quite the same way.
Shafarevich’s vision of a future Socialist system in which everyone is “‘militarized’ and turned into a soldier” of the state. A state in which punishments range from slavery, (“which plays an important role in the economy”) to, “the elimination of undesirables” left me cold.
The bit that chilled my blood was that whether by luck or design, Shafarevich has actually described a system not dissimilar to a certain country’s current political system.
Throughout the collection of essays, snippets of ideas and ideologies that are still promulgated by certain groups sprang up. Pan-slavism and how being made to feel ‘Russian’ was a high honour for any nation (especially Ukraine), how the ‘intelligensia’ should now be classed and whether ‘the people’ should listen to them or remove them, the place of religion.
Considering the fact this translation was published 40 years ago, this collection of essays has stood the test of time remarkably well. In these turbulent political times, this is a book to read and ponder over. We haven’t come as far as we would like to think we have over the last 40 years…
Read for the European Reading Challenge – Russia