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So we can see that there was a lot of backwardness going on in Russia in the 1960s, even in some of the high places of Soviet culture. No wonder the articles by Lobanov and Chalmaev excited such indignation - even including the editorial committee of Novy Mir. A denunciation was written for Novy Mir by Alexander Dementyev, whom Solzhenitsyn regarded as a particular enemy. Solzhenitsyn gives a probably not very objective account in The Oak and the calf (pp.249-252):

'The critic keeps in mind the orders with which he was sent into action - to strike and to smash, never inquiring whether anything inside there deserves to live, concerning himself not with truth but with tactical advantage. He begins with older history, and cannot help shaking with rage when he hears of such people as "hermits and patriarchs", cannot suffer a word of praise for the second decade of the century, since it has been so sternly condemned by Comrade Lenin and Comrade Gorky. Although it has nothing to do with the debate, he twice pours abuse on Vekhi ("the renegade's Encyclopedia" ,"that symposium of shame"), because it is a habit with him, and because his brakes are poor. While he is at it, he snipes at Leontiev [a passionately anti-European, anti-modernist nineteenth century philosopher who saw the future of Russia as lying in the East, in a revival of 'Byzantine' culture], Aksakov [slavophile theorist], and even Klyuchevsky [nineteenth century historian], the pochvenniki group [a political movement led by Nikolai Strakhov, an associate of Dostoyevsky's. The name is derived from the Russian word for 'soil'], the Slavophiles. What can we set up in opposition to them? Why, our science. (You and your science! Enough to make a cat laugh! Twice two is - whatever the Central Committee determines from time to time.) Still, the Party teaches us (though only since 1934) not to disown our heritage, and Dementyev's ample embrace takes in "both Chernyshevsky and Dostoyevsky" (one of whom summoned men to the axe, the other to repentance: he really should choose) and even Rublev's [fifteenth century icon of the] Trinity (also admissible since 1943).

'Anything connected with the church sets Novy Mir's critic more violently atremble than ever: whether it is corrupt "ecclesiastical rhetoric" (actually the highest poetry!) or merely a mention of "friendly shrines" and "melancholy churches" by the poets of Molodaya Gvardia. Think what you like of their verse, the pain it expresses is unmistakable, the regret sincere. A church is disappearing under water, and the poet vows:

'I will wrest you, I will save you
From the surging water's hold
Or clasp your wall and perish with you
In the foaming deluge rolled.

'"Not," says Dementyev, coldly and jarringly, "the jolliest of occurrences," but there is no need for "this state of exaltation"; "the religious theme demands a more carefully thought out and soberer approach." (More carefully thought out, you mean, than the demolition of churches in our country? In Khrushchev's time they even used bulldozers. Whatever you say about Molodaya Gvardia, it had, if only obliquely, put up a defence of religion. Whereas liberal, sincerely atheistic Novy Mir took pleasure in supporting the onslaught on the church in the post-Stalin era.)

'The nature of patriotism is something else on which Dementyev leaves us in no doubt: it is not a matter of love for antiquities or for monasteries, but a sentiment to be awakened by "labour productivity" and "the brigade method." What an ugly thing is affection for your "little homeland" (your native place, the locality in which you grew up), when both Dobrolyubov and the CPSU have made it clear that your attachment must be to your "greater homeland" (the frontiers of your love precisely coinciding with those of the state, which among other things simplifies the organisation of military service). And why should anyone say that picturesque Russian speech had been preserved only in the countryside (when Dementyev has been writing socialist jargon all his life - and managing very well)? Bah - the muzhik-fanciers even dare to prophesy that:

'With outstretched hand, we shall seek again
The fountainhead from which we sprang.

'Will we, though? Dementyev knows we won't! If you must extol the village, let it be the new village, and "the great changes it has known"; show the "spiritual significance and the poetry of agricultural labor in the kolkhoz, and of the socialist transformation of the countryside." (Right, red professor, show us how you can work, twisted into a Morlock.)

'Continuing his tactical defence of Europe, why, Dementyev wonders, should Molodaya Gvardia object to the yowling of tape recorders in city backyards? Or the "insane ravings" of jazz in a Voronezh hamlet where no one reads Koltsov [presumably Alexei Koltsov, early nineteenth century poet of rural life. He has been compared to Robert Burns. - PB]? In what way is pop music inferior to Russian songs? Soviet prosperity "leads to the enrichment of culture" (witness the domino players, card fiends and drunks we meet at every turn!). He needs no lessons in the art of turning things inside out. If Molodaya Gvardia assures us that [the early twentieth century poet Sergei] Yesenin was persecuted, driven to his death - Dementyev shamelessly "remembers" how Yesenin was loved! (not by him, of course, as a Komsomol activist, not by Party and trade union committees, not by the newspapers, not by the critics, not by Bukharin - but loved he was!).

'The really important thing is that "the Great Revolution has been accomplished" ,"a socialist order has come into being" ,"the moral potential of the Russian people is embodied in the Bolsheviks" so "let us look forward with confidence!" "The wind of the epoch is filling our sails... ."

'And so on, ad nauseam; my hand gets tired of copying it. The inevitable quotations from Gorky, the inevitable quotations from Mayakovsky, all of it stuff we have read a thousand times. Does he see a threat to the Soviet regime? Yes, of course - and this is it: "the infiltration of idealistic" - then, swinging with the right to confuse the opposition - "and vulgar materialistic ... and 'revisionist' " and (to restore the balance) "dogmatic ... perversions of Marxism-Leninism!" There you are - that's what threatens us! It is not the spirit of the nation, our environment, our souls, our morals, that are in danger, but Marxism-Leninism, in the considered opinion of this avant-garde magazine!

'Can this journalistic pig-swill, this cold and heartless pauper's fare, be the offering not of Pravda but of our beloved Novy Mir, our one and only torchbearer - and in lieu of a policy?'

Much of The Oak and the Calf was written contemporary with the events described. Having written more or less what we've just read he went to see Tvardovsky (pp.254-5):

'"Yes; but all in all, A.T., I found Dementyev's article painful. You attack them from the wrong side. This desiccated dogmatism of Dementyev's ..."

'He was suddenly on the defensive.

'"I wrote half that article myself. " (I didn't believe him. This was an un-Soviet characteristic of Tvardovsky's: not to distance himself from something under attack, but to cherish it more than ever.) "You know what they are - a gang of crooks!"

'"I'm not denying it. All the same, you're tackling them from the wrong side. ... Do you remember at Ryazan, when you were reading my novel (Circle 87 - PB): 'Go to the stake if you must, but make sure you have a good reason.' "

'"I know, I know," he said, smoking furiously, as he warmed to the argument. "You're all for the churches! For the good old days!" (It might have been better for the peasant poet [Tvardovsky was a well respected poet - PB] if he had felt the same.) "That's why they don't attack you."

'"They can't even mention my name, let alone attack me."

'"Still, I can forgive you. But we are defending Leninism. In our position, that takes a lot of doing. Pure Marxism-Leninism is a very dangerous doctrine (?!) [sic - PB] and is not tolerated. Very well, then, write us an article and tell us where you disagree."

'I hadn't an article, but I already had the preceding pages in outline form, on a sheet of paper. I wasn't going to put Samsonov's catastrophe [August 1914 - PB] aside to write an article, of course - but perhaps I could at least say what I thought? After half a century in which every illuminating word had been suppressed, every thinking head cut off, there was such general confusion that even close friends could not understand one another. These were my friends: could I speak freely on such a subject? I was always made so much at home at Novy Mir that I often hadn't the heart to spell out unpleasant things for them.

'"Aleksandr Trifonich, have you read Vekhi?"

'He made me repeat it three times - a short word, but an unfamiliar one.

'"No, I haven't."

'"Well, has Aleksandr Grigoryich [Dementyev] ever read it? I think not. So why did he aim two quite unnecessary kicks at it?"

'A.T. frowned in an effort to remember. "What was it that Lenin wrote about it ... ?"

'"Lenin wrote all sorts of things ... in the heat of battle," I hastened to add - or it would have sounded too harsh and could have precipitated a split.

'Tvardovsky had lost his previous Bolshevik assurance. His new habit of self-questioning showed itself in wrinkles on his face.

'"Where can I get it? Is it banned?"

'"It isn't banned, but there's a 'hold' on it in the libraries. Your lads can get it for you."'

Michael Scammell in his account of this confrontation suggests (p.671) that this may have been the moment when Solzhenitsyn thought of putting together the collection that was to become From under the rubble. He also thinks Solzhenitsyn may have been introduced to Vekhi not long beforehand by Shafarevich.