Dealing Honestly with Russia's History
In the preface of his book Resurrection: The Struggle for a New Russia, David Remnick noted that interest in Russia has eased since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the waning of the nuclear threat. Enrollment in Russian language and history courses has plunged nationwide and news bureaus have become indifferent. In Remnick's judgment, "this is a serious mistake, for the process of creating a new country a country that will undoubtedly reassert itself in every sense in the twenty-first century is at least as interesting, as essential, as the process of erosion and collapse" (p. x). I heartily agree. My experiences in Russia since 1990 have provided a fascinating window into the tortuous process of rebuilding a nation after seventy years of barbaric rule and hundreds of years of authoritarian rule.
When you study Russia's past, particularly its experiences in the twentieth century, having survived two world wars, a revolution and civil war, famine and brutal terrorism conducted by its own leaders, the fact that Russia has survived at all is, in Remnick's words, "remarkable . . . . For all its trials, for all its mistakes, the story of Russia at the end of the century must be counted as a kind of revival, a resurrection" (p. xiii).
Living with the Past
One of Schmemann's most significant insights concerned the legacy of the Soviet experience and how this legacy impinges on the present:
By the time we came into the 1980s, what made the system appalling was no longer raw terror, which had abated after Stalin's death, or even the silly pretensions of Communist propaganda, which nobody took seriously. It was that the Soviet state had turned every normal function of a society into its antithesis: It created a politics emptied of choice, a religion devoid of faith, a culture stripped of individuality and creativity, and an economy that barred initiative. Its constitution guaranteed every conceivable right and then subordinated them to the whims of the Party. It compelled people to shout "peace and friendship," and laced its borders with barbed wire and mines. It spouted superlatives but glorified mediocrity, crushing anyone who dared to rise above the faceless mass (p. 19).
The Loss of a Guiding Faith
The Bolsheviks understood the power of religion and sought to destroy
all forms of religion by mercilessly attacking its roots; they also
Pinning hopes for Russia on decisions made inside the Kremlin walls is a mistake. The hope for Russia's future is to be found in countless churches and community organizations where grassroots associations are sprouting up and where a powerful healing force is forming among people of faith.
Dr. John A. Bernbaum