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IN THE 1960s

Some of the contributors to Vekhi, including Berdyaev, Bulgakov and Frank, contributed to a further collection published in 1918, under the title De Profundis or, in Russian, Iz glubiny. As Max Hayward points out in his introduction to Solzhenitsyn's collection, its Russian title, Iz pod glyb, is a 'phonetic echo' of the earlier book (p.vii).

But how would Solzhenitsyn have come to know Vekhi? He would certainly have known of it. It had been roundly abused by both Lenin and Plekhanov and as such constituted part of the demonology of Soviet philosophy. The notes to Plekhanov's Selected Philosophical Works inform us:

'Vekhi - a collection of articles by prominent Cadet publicists, representatives of the Counter-Revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie - S.N.Bulgakov, N.A. Berdyaev, P.B.Struve and others - was published in Moscow in the Spring of 1909. The contributors to Vekhi tried to discredit the democratic revolutionary tradition of the liberation movement in Russia and also the views and activities of V.G.Belinsky, N.A.Dobrolyubov and N.G. Chernyshevsky [nineteenth century writers associated with 'Nihilism' understood as a generally materialist and utilitarian world view - PB]. They derided the revolution of 1905-7 and thanked the tsarist government for using its "bayonets and prisons" to save the bourgeoisie from the "wrath of the people."' (9)

(9) Georgi Plekhanov: Selected Philosophical Works, volume II, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1976, p.659 (fn 173).

The quotation is a misquotation from a misrepresentation by Lenin (10) who is quoting the article 'Creative self cognition' by Mikhail Gershenzon - ironically the only one of the Vekhi writers who accepted the Bolshevik revolution and was allowed to remain in Russia. His account of the intelligentsia - The History of Young Russia (1908) - was republished by the Soviets in 1923. He died in 1925. (11) It is of course the intelligentsia, not 'the bourgeoisie' who are expected to 'bless the authority which alone with its bayonets and prisons manages to protect us from the popular fury.' Gershenzon's point is that the people 'do not see in us [the intelligentsia] a human soul; thus they hate us passionately, probably with an unconscious mystical horror.' In a note written in response to newspaper criticisms of this passage he says: 'the sense of this sentence is that through its entire history [which starts with Peter the Great, who created the European minded élite which eventually produced the intelligentsia as an intellectual caste divorced from the wider society - PB] the intelligentsia has been placed in an unheard of, horrible position: the people for whom it has fought hate it, and the authority against which it has fought, turns out to be its defender, whether the intelligentsia likes it or not ...' (p.81).

(10) V.I.Lenin: 'Concerning Vekhi', Novy Dyen, no 15, Dec 13, 1909, accessible at

(11) Note to Shragin (ed): Landmarks, pp.187-9.

Given the fate of the intelligentsia under Bolshevism, was that not quite impressively prophetic?

But to return to Solzhenitsyn and Vekhi. Having been all but forgotten outside Soviet demonology, Vekhi was republished in Paris in 1967 by the YMCA Press, under the direction of Nikita Struve, Peter Struve's grandson, who was soon to play an important part in promoting Solzhenitsyn. (12) An incident which occurred in the offices of the journal Novy Mir (New World) suggests that Solzhenitsyn had read and appreciated it by September 1969.

(12) Through a collaboration between the YMCA officer responsible for Russians outside Russia, the American Paul B.Anderson, and Berdyaev, the YMCA in the 1920s became the major publisher of Russian religious literature during the Soviet period (and the Vekhi group enjoyed an influence greater than they might have done otherwise). Nikita Struve took over in 1955 by which time the American YMCA had lost interest though Anderson was still alive and helpful. Under Struve the YMCA Russian press was taken over by the Russian Student Christian Movement. The name YMCA press was retained. Struve opened a bookshop in Paris in the rue Montée Sainte Geneviève which was to become a favourite haunt of the present writer. The relationship with Solzhenitsyn began with the publication in 1970 of August 1917 although they had previously, in 1968, published an unauthorised version of Cancer Ward, obtained through samizdat. See Matt Miller: The Russian YMCA Press: Preserver and Patron of Russian Orthodox Culture at