Friday book # 47: Bolsheviks in Russian Society

I bought this week’s book while working in the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University as part of the research for my doctoral dissertation. I was particularly interested in the chapter by Leonid Heretz entitled ‘The Psychology of the White Movement’. The Whites, Heretz argues, thought in ‘religious categories’ and ‘did not fight for a restoration of the prerevolutionary order, nor indeed for any mundane political goal, but rather for the mythical “Holy Russia”,’ which the Bolsheviks had defiled. ‘The Whites’ struggle’, says Heretz, ‘was an attempt to cleanse and purify Russia by means of self-sacrifice’, which they imagined in terms of ‘redemptive suffering.’

brovkin

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8 thoughts on “Friday book # 47: Bolsheviks in Russian Society”

  1. Metaphysics of war, eh? And the crusades were organized in pursuit of the holy grail… The Iraq war to bring democracy to ME… Accepting propaganda as the real purpose? Nah, thanks but no thanks.

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    1. In my own study of the Whites (albeit of their time in exile), I came to a somewhat similar conclusion as Heretz. White officers, in particular, were very much narrow military men – they just didn’t think in terms of political or social/economic programs. Rather, they thought in terms of honour, country, faith, etc. If you had asked them what they would do with power if they ever won it, most of them would have been utterly lost. Even in the late 1930s, when they’d had 20 years of exile to think about such things, they were still incapable of producing anything which could be called a political ideology beyond the concept of ‘nonpredetermination’, which in essence was a negation of ideology.

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      1. honour, country, faith

        Well, this could be interpreted as an articulation of a political ideology. ‘Honor’ is merely an expression of loyalty to the previous politico-socioeconomic system. ‘Country’, hmm, probably the same thing, more or less. ‘Faith’ is also political in this context; after all, no one can take away your personal faith, so this is more like defending the status of the Church.

        I mean, they were fighting against a very specific political system/ideology. They wanted it to be gone, so that a different, more acceptable political system could be (re-)established.

        To simplify even more, they were anti-communist warriors. Like any other generation of anti-communist warriors, before and after them.

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      2. “Rather, they thought in terms of honour, country, faith, etc.”

        Did ataman Semyonov or baron von Ungern think in the same cathegories? I doubt. And when was their officers’ honour, the honour of the noblemen and patriots, when they supported Nicholas II abdication?

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  2. And, apparently, to demonstrate the ruthless barbarity of the Bolsheviks, good, honest, striving for accuracy authors, decided to use a photo depitcting the aftermath of machingunning of 4th Juky rally in Petrograd:

    Done by “democratic” (as any idiot will tell you) Provisional Govenment.

    Because “you need to live not by a lie” (c).

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      1. 2melanf

        I don’t suppose that we will ever share the same assesment of the World War I and its nature.

        What “should” and “should not” be done in such instances is a tricky question, that will inevitable stumple upon another one – “what is lawful?”

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  3. Paul,

    “White officers, in particular, were very much narrow military men – they just didn’t think in terms of political or social/economic programs.”

    I see. Another bunch that Just. Didn’t. Get. Clausewitz.

    Mysticism just dosen’t cut it in 20th Century industrial warfare.

    Like I observed before, Adolpf woulda plucked a White Russia like a ripe tomato. Good thing the Reds won, they at least had a clue about modern warfare, and that came in really handy around 1941…

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