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So where did this national enthusiasm - absent in 1917, present after over twenty years of Soviet internationalist propaganda - come from? Could it be that Stalin had something to do with it? We will remember from the previous article the quarrel between Solzhenitsyn and his old friend Dmitri Panin over Solzhenitsyn's Letter to the Soviet Leaders. Solzhenitsyn was calling for a continuation of the existing state structure without the Marxist ideology no-one believed in any more, and open to more participation by elements from outside the Communist Party. Panin was calling for the violent overthrow of the existing state structure.

In arguing for the abandonment of Marxist ideology, Solzhenitsyn evokes the possibility of an imminent war with China (also a theme in Andrei Amalric's Will the Soviet Union survive until 1984? published shortly beforehand). He reckons that the war will be fought over Marxist ideology and that therefore the Russians, who don't believe in that ideology, will lose. By contrast:

'When war with Hitler began, Stalin, who had omitted and bungled so much in the way of military preparation, did not neglect that side, the ideological side. And although the ideological grounds for war seemed more indisputable than those that face you now (the war was waged against what appeared on the surface to be a diametrically opposed ideology), from the very first days of the war, Stalin refused to rely on the putrid, decaying prop of ideology. He wisely discarded it, all but ceased to mention it, and unfurled instead the old Russian banner - sometimes indeed, the standard of Orthodoxy - and we conquered! (only towards the end of the war and after the victory was the Progressive Doctrine taken out of its mothballs.)

'So do you really think that in a conflict between similar, closely related ideologies, differing only in nuances, you will not have to make the same reorientation? But by then it will be too late - military tension alone makes it very difficult.

'How much wiser it would be to make this same turnaround today as a preventive measure. If it has to be done anyway for a war, wouldn't it be more sensible to do it much earlier, to avoid going to war at all?!' (Letter to the Soviet Leaders. pp.17-18)

Panin was disgusted by this:

'I consider these statements By Solzhenitsyn to be blasphemous.' 

He quotes Solzhenitsyn (Letter, p.45):

'When Stalin initiated such a shift during the war - remember! - nobody was in the least surprised and nobody shed a tear for Marxism: everyone took it as the most natural thing in the world, something they recognised as Russian.' 

and continues

'Who is this everyone? The oppressors and the oppressed? in The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn describes the appearance of the old Vlassovians [followers of Andrei Vlasov, the Russian general who, after being captured by the Germans, led the German-backed 'Commttee for the Liberation of the People of Russia - PB] behind the barbed wire. Out of the 432 pages of the first volume only 23 are given to them and even so a large part of the information is given in the form of footnotes. Solzhenitsyn explains, but unfortunately does not justify, the conduct of the soldiers and officers who turned their weapons against Stalin's despotism.' (Soljenitsyne et la réálité, pp.86-7)

He goes on to say (p.88) that the Soviet leaders are already making use of Russian patriotism:

'Without waiting for Solzhenitsyn's advice, Stalin reintroduced officers' titles and their shoulder boards; he devised new decorations glorifying the generals and marshals of old Russia. Children from infants' school onward are stuffed full of patriotic stories. In all the enterprises and in the army, at the obligatory hours of political education, the glory of Russian arms is sung. The peoples of the USSR are undergoing an artificial russification. Antisemitism is encouraged by the state.

'What more does Solzhenitsyn want from the leaders? To open the churches and allow them to ring their bells? But that bait, the leaders are keeping in reserve, following Stalin's example, only to bring it out in the event of a war.'

We might remember from the first article in this series that Sologdin - the fictional version of Panin in The First Circle - regretted that European chivalry had been kept out of Russia through the thirteenth century Alexander Nevsky's victory over the Teutonic Knights, and argued that Russian Orthodoxy, unlike Roman Catholicism, was a religion of slaves, incapable of standing up against despotism.


In the last article I quoted Panin criticising Solzhenitsyn for not mentioning the revolts that occurred in the work camps in the early 1950s and I pointed out that Solzhenitsyn did write about them in the third volume of The Gulag Archipelago. I should incidentally have said that not only did Solzhenitsyn write about them he was involved in one of them, together with Panin, a riot followed by a hunger strike in Ekibastuz camp in 1952. But this third volume also discusses, and indeed justifies, the Vlasovians. So far as I can see the third volume of Gulag was published in Russian in 1975/6. Panin's Booklet was published in Russian in 1975. Solzhenitsyn says:

'The time has come for us to give our views on the Vlasov movement once again. In the first part of this book the reader was not yet prepared for the whole truth (nor am I in possession of the whole truth; special studies will be written on the subject, which is for me of secondary importance). There at the beginning, before the reader had travelled the high-roads and by-roads of the camp world with me, he was merely alerted, invited to think. Now, after all those prison transports, transit jails, lumber gangs, and camp middens, perhaps the reader will be a little more open to persuasion. In Part 1, I spoke of those Vlasovites who took up arms in desperation, because they were starving in the camps, because their position seemed hopeless (Yet even here there is room for reflection. The Germans began by using Russian prisoners of war only for nonmilitary tasks in the rear, in support of their own troops, and this, you might think, was the best solution for those who only wanted to save their skins - so why take up arms and confront the Red Army head on?) But now, since further postponement is impossible, should I not also talk about those who even before 1941 had only one dream - to take up arms and blaze away at those Red commissars, Chekists and collectivisers? Remember Lenin's words: "An oppressed class which did not aspire to possess arms and learn how to handle them would deserve only to be treated as slaves" (4th Edition, Volume 23, page 85). There is then reason to be proud if the Soviet-German war showed that we are not such slaves as all those studies by liberal historians contemptuously make us out to be. There was nothing slavish about those who reached for their sabres to cut off Daddy Stalin's head (nor about those on the other side, who straightened their backs for the first time when they put on Red Army greatcoats - in a strange brief interval of freedom which no student of society could have foreseen)'. 

He then goes on to a brief account of various revolts that occurred in the context of the war. For example: 

'On August 22 1941 the commanding officer of the 436th Light Infantry Regiment, Major Kononov, told his regiment to their faces that he was going over to the Germans, to join the "Liberation Army" for the overthrow of Stalin, and invited all those who wished to go with him. Not only did he meet with no opposition - the whole regiment followed him! Only three weeks later Kononov had created a regiment of Cossack volunteers behind enemy lines (he was a Don Cossack himself). When he arrived at the prisoner-of-war camp near Mogilev to enlist volunteers, 4,000 of the 5,000 prisoners there declared their readiness to join him ... [He did better than Roger Casement in 1915! - PB]

'Having rightly taught ourselves to disbelieve Soviet propaganda, whatever it said, we naturally did not believe tall stories about the Nazis' wishing to make Russia a colony and ourselves German slaves; who would expect to find such foolishness in twentieth heads unless he had experienced its effects for himself? Even in 1942 the Russian formation in Osintorf attracted more volunteers than a unit still not fully deployed could absorb, while in the Smolensk region and Byelorussia, a volunteer "people's militia" 100,000 strong was formed for purposes of self defence against the partisans directed from Moscow (the Germans took fright and banned it) ...

'I will go so far as to say that our folk would have been worth nothing at all, a nation of abject slaves, if it had gone through that war without brandishing a rifle at Stalin's government even from afar, if it had missed its chance to shake its fist and fling a ripe oath at the Father of the Peoples ...

'this is the crucial question: Ought you, for what seem to you noble ends, to avail yourself of the support of German imperialists at war with Russia?

'Today, everyone will join in the unanimous cry of "No!"

'What, then, of the sealed German carriage from Switzerland to Sweden, calling on the way (as we have now learned) at Berlin? The whole Russian press, from the Mensheviks to the Cadets also cried 'No!" but the Bolsheviks explained that it was permissible, that it was indeed ridiculous to reproach them with it ... Convert the war into a civil war! This was Lenin's proposal before the Vlasovites thought of it ...

'there was a time when, inflamed with martial ardour, we never mentioned the Kaiser in print without the words "ferocious" or "bloodthirsty", and incautiously accused the Kaiser's soldiers of smashing the heads of babes against stones. But let's agree - the Kaiser was different from Hitler. The Provisional Government, though, was also different: it had no Cheka, shot no one in the back of the head, imprisoned no one in camps, herded no one into collective farms, poisoned no one's life: the Provisional Government was not Stalin's government.

"We must keep things in proportion.'  [3]

[3] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago, Vol 3, translation by Harry Willetts, New York, HarperPerennial, 2007. English translation first published1978 (first published in Russian 1976), pp.27-30. Outrageously the 2007 edition has a foreword by the anti-Russian propagandist Anne Applebaum. It is difficult to see how this could have been agreed by the Solzhenitsyn estate.