January 25, 2024
Source: Portrait by Vasily Perov c. 1872
The massacre in Gaza has shoved the Ukraine war aside, which is just as well for Zelensky, who canceled the election he was about to lose and has outlawed rival political parties for the duration. I recently watched an interview the ex-comedian gave, and I must admit he comes through as a charming, honest, and warm person. Was I fooled by his act? Probably, but compared with his archenemy Putin’s thespian abilities, Volodymyr beats Vladimir hands down.
The Ukrainian leader’s life is a public melodrama, whereas Putin’s inner thoughts are a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma—Churchill’s description of Russia. The late Dr. Henry Kissinger, a great American statesman who cannot be compared to the morons running the US of A nowadays, got it right when he said that in order to understand Putin, “one must read Dostoyevsky, not Mein Kampf.” I knew Dr. Hank, as I once boldly dared to call him, only slightly, but I know Srdja Trifkovic, an all-knowing geopolitical expert, much better, as we both write for Chronicles, a conservative monthly. Both Dr. Hank and Srdja agreed that Russia’s soul has a hell of a lot to do with her wars, and no one better understood the Russian soul than Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky.
No nation takes its literature more seriously than Russia, and I thought of that tortured land when I recently walked into an American bookstore that contained mostly ghostwritten autobiographies of illiterate celebrities. “How can you not root for Russia?” I asked an appalled friend of mine whose father, Norman Mailer, was known to write the odd book or two.
Never mind. Russians still read Turgenev, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Dostoyevsky, whereas Americans are busy canceling Hemingway, Mailer, Fitzgerald, and O’Hara. Russians can withstand wars and deprivations until victory is achieved, whereas Americans—according to my own father—were complaining that Coca-Cola was hard to find during World War II. According to Kissinger, Putin is “a character out of Dostoyevsky,” and as everyone but a Hollywood ignoramus type knows, Dostoyevsky’s life and writing were one long struggle with the demons.
The demons, needless to say, were both his own and those of Mother Russia. Dostoyevsky was transformed by having faced a firing squad—as close as one can get to death—before being reprieved and exiled, turning to God as a result. For the next 40 years his characters—mostly bad, tortured souls—all found Christ toward the end. He saw the Russian soul as being divided between the greatest evil and the greatest good, with both God and the devil ruling the world. The latter grants us great freedoms—as Americans enjoy their porn and drugs today, while accusing Putin of making Russia less free and other such crimes. The devil also guides Uncle Sam in his pursuit to reshape the world into a collective utopia and ideological conformity, and into blurring the sexes because the old devil is a trickster like no other. The devil says that an American cannot discriminate in favor of his own brother or sister, father or mother; he must love them less than abstract humanity. See what I mean by how tricky Satan is?
The American affectation of denied rights for newly minted oppressed groups I see as the devil’s work, because it annuls freedom in the name of collective happiness. These denied rights also include the legitimacy of the nation in the name of a global utopia. The ever-encroaching E.U. is a perfect example. Putin’s Russia, with its nationalist theme and opposition to the global vision of our Western political establishment, is seen as the great enemy, the one that needs to be canceled and eradicated.
What does all this have to do with Crime and Punishment? Well, as Srdja Trifkovic wrote, Putin going after Zelensky and NATO enlargement reminded him of Raskolnikov going after that horrid old woman. And just as hundreds of thousands of innocent Ukrainians and Russians have been killed in the process, so did the old hag’s innocent half sister, Lizveta, become collateral damage of Raskolnikov’s crime. And do you now see why Dr. Hank was correct in advising us to read Fyodor in order to understand Vladimir?
Do any of you remember when everything Russian was hunky-dory? When Yeltsin was in power and every crook in every corner of this earth was eager to do business with him? Well, what followed Boris was chaos, inflation, unemployment, crime, and, most likely, erectile dysfunction. It was only natural for Putin to emerge as a leader and hard man. We, the West, in our unlimited greed, had egged, enabled, and lionized the robber-baron crooks of the Yeltsin era. Putin put a stop to it and will never allow Russian lackeys to genuflect to Western robber barons and banks.
Russia has always been held in a certain antipathy by Western elites for reasons unknown, although I suspect they have a lot to do with the Russian deep belief in Christianity. What America should do is force Ukraine to sit down and talk. Just as it should force Netanyahu to never show his face again in any public forum. But Uncle Sam is greedy and scared and can only pick on midgets like the Syrians and Iraqis.