Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Short History of Russia by R.D. Charques

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I am being a little unconventional in my music this post.  I am listening to a musician that my son would listen to before he had his license and I had to drive him everywhere.  It was a good time and our best conversations took place while traveling around town.  This song, a remix of Roberta Flack's Do You Know Where You're Going To by TobyMac brings back some fine memories.  Love you Derek.

A Short History of RussiaA Short History of Russia by R.D. Charques

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a concise and informative book that gives an excellent overview of Russian history.

It starts with Russia's Eurasian background and the Slavs, explains the Mongol influence and how it formed the Serf culture that became a prominent part of Russian culture, all the way through to the rise of Communism, where Serfdom was simply renamed as "Comrade". It's not unequal distribution if you don't call it that and it is equal distribution if you do.

Chapters are devoted to each Tzar and also Catherine the Great, the one Tzarina. When reading the barbarities of every single one of the Tzars (and Tzarina), one wonders if any of them were sane and one does not wonder if the outcome of Soviet Revolution was inevitable. And while many of the Tzars or the wives were German, they still managed to keep Russian isolated from the rest of Europe.

Even so, the aristocracy looked to Europe for its fashion and style but maintained 12th century Asian primitivism when governing its people. This would pave the way for the Communists in the 19th century who embraced Marxism, finally culminating in the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

Charques' book goes into greater detail as to the different groups who rebelled against the Tzar and aristocracy, when they fought in unity and when they fought against each other, one group finally destroying the other.

Lenin's methods were no less brutal or sadistic than any of the Tsars, the difference is that he annihilated the aristocratic class and created another aristocratic class, which was developed to a higher level with each succeeding leader.

Again, it's not an aristocracy if we don't call it that (wink). We call it "Comradeship". Of course Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev etc. and their fellow party members managed to live in aristocratic luxury as the rest of the nation suffered an existence of grinding poverty, but reality is determined by rhetoric or so Soviet propaganda asserted. This is still true today and not only of Russia. Orwell was right.

Under Stalin millions starved as he tried to stamp out the peasant rebellion. Peasants preferred to destroy their farms and livestock rather than submit the earnings of their labor to others. It helps to read the history of Russia to better understand Ayn Rand. One sees why she calls people who demand the wages of others and call it "equal distribution" as "looters". The sharing was clearly one sided, as was the receiving.

More would have starved if it were not for Europe and American intervention, supplying food as they were able. So the outside world had some understanding as to what was happening in Russia and I cannot help but wonder why the West was not more proactive in putting Stalin out of commission or at least not conceding him Eastern Europe. He could not have put up a fight if Churchill and Roosevelt had chosen to put Western Military installations there. His army, due to his own paranoid machinations, were mostly disabled, but I suppose the world had become war weary.

Too bad. It's interesting to speculate what history would have looked like had we fought a little longer.

This book was a textbook my mother used when she was studying Russian history at Syracuse University in the early 1970s. As a result the entire grisly story of Stalin's monstrosities were as yet unknown, and the book stops with Stalin. Perhaps for diplomatic reasons Khrushchev is not mentioned, since he was still alive.

An interesting point the author makes is that Lenin understood that to make his Soviet survive they would need public relations with the West. He achieved this through diplomatic actions by allowing Ballet and circus troupes to travel around the world. He knew this would not only lend legitimacy to the Soviet Regime but also allow agents to integrate into Western society, especially in the Fine Arts and Media, and thus planting seeds of revolutionary ideology.

This is a good book for anyone interested in increasing their understanding of how Russia arrived at its present cultural and political conditions.

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  1. i read quite a bit about the Russians at one time; enough, i guess, to put me off the subject, and to contribute materially to my negative opinion of the human race... it's very hard to find an era or locale in history in which dire behavior was not the norm... consequently, at my age, i try to ignore the whole subject and just live my life day to day... and with memory failing, it becomes easier all the time: one of the benefits of age...
    still, it sounds like the author gave a complete and descriptive portrayal of the country and it's rulers... if i were interested in pursuing it, this book would be a big help... tx for talking about it...

    1. Hi Mudpuddle. I can easily see why you would find the human condition depressing, even distressing. As a Christian, of course, I chalk it up to sinful nature. That doesn't mean I don't get discouraged when I look at the world- both generally and personally. Especially at myself. Man! I blow it every day..

      But knowing God is a great Redeemer and believing in something greater is waiting me beyond this short, sometimes bleak, life gives me great hope.

      Take care! Hope you have a good week and your house can be restored sooner than they told you!

    2. tx, Sharon... we tried getting kitchen furniture from a so-called voc free manufacturer, but chickened out after talking to the guy... it turns i'm extremely sensitive to that stuff; most likely from exposure suffered when i worked for the gas company... i spent two hours in the same building where we moved all the bad cabinets and got another attack of illness: rapid pulse, headache, fatigue, not sleeping; so we decided to do it our selves piece by piece, here and there, testing each unit as we go.. and so it goes(Vonnegut)...

    3. Hi Mudpuddle. Sorry to hear that. I wish I could say something other than sorry. I certainly hope you are feeling better. I don't know how you test for that stuff but I hope your are successful and get all this behind you.

      Now I have to look up Vonnegut. :)

    4. Cat's Cradle, his first effort, and the best, i thought...

    5. Not Slaughterhouse Five? I don't know Vonnegut but my husband has all his books. I should crack them open.

    6. both wrong: wiki says "Player Piano" was his first; but i'm fairly sure the source of the quote was CC... Josh would most likely know...

    7. Josh says Cat's Cradle is his best. He says V. is hit or miss. Other than Cat's Cradle and Sirens of Titan, both of which he really likes, he doesn't care too much for the rest. What do you think of Sirens of Titan?

    8. i think i liked it the best of any, although ice nine was a conception of genius, imo....

    9. Josh explained ice nine to me. Interesting concept. i like how I am having a conversation with you via my husband. :)

  2. Great commentary Sharon.

    I took some Russian history courses in college and I also have done some reading over the years. Russian leadership has indeed been brutal regardless of ideology.

    To this day, I think that a lot of folks do not know just how bad Stalin was.

    Have a great week!

    1. Hi Brian. It is fascinating how absolute power turns human beings into inhuman despots. I believe it is because everyone needs to be answerable to a higher power. When they think they are answerable to no one they are allowed to act out their selfish proclivities (which is why of course we have laws). People who think they are above the law and see no repercussions can behave in horrible ways.

      Hope you have a good week as well.

  3. You caught my attention. I'm adding this to my wishlist and see if I can get a used copy via Amazon. I just finished The Brothers Karamazov ... Russian authors make me feel attached to Russia, and yet I know very little; so I want to know more, and this sounds great.

    I do know a little, so I don't know if you heard me yelling YES! YES! while I was reading your post. UH, that Stalin!!!! And young people still do not know how contradictory and cruel socialism and Marxism are. I feel like the Russian story has not been told enough, or at all, compared to say, Hitler, Nazism, and the Holocaust. Maybe it has been by design; but I do not know why.

    P.S. I do have an interest in Ayn Rand - only read The Fountainhead and she made sense to me; but I've watched old Youtube clips of her, and while so many people cannot stand her, I think she is full of common sense. I'm glad you mention her. Maybe I will consider covering this Short History of Russia before tackling a couple of her philosophy books I have been holding on to.

  4. Hi Ruth. I think I heard your "yes!yes!"

    I also love Russian literature and like to read as much history as I can to get insight into the authors and their works.

    I do not understand how anyone can endorse socialism or Marxism. It's not as if we don't have history and also present day Europe to prove how these systems are not viable.

    Children are not going to learn it in public school They're too busy taking standardized tests and also learning how morals are relative etc..

    I think it is by design that we are not better informed in this country.

    I read a book called the Velvet Prison. It was written by a Hungarian who said that Marxists and socialists get their message across the the media and the arts. Artists think they are being "revolutionary" by making art that tells how horrible society is.

    Then when the system they propagated comes into power they have to change their message to "how wonderful it is to live under Socialism etc.."

    I personally think that is already true in America. If you want to get your book published or art exposed, you have to make sure that you engage in identity politics and keep it anti-capitalist.

    Ayn Rand certainly made some sharp points. I don't agree with her but she was an atheist so even if she saw what was wrong she would not allow herself to arrive at the real reason our world is the way it is.

  5. Oh, Roberta Flack is one of my favorites. Your memory brought back one of my own. I was driving about town with my son and Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" came on the radio. He had never heard it and it came through the car speaker crystal clear. I always loved sharing new songs with him and now the exchange is mutual.

    1. I've always liked Roberta Flack. My son also has introduced me to a lot of popular music I would never had heard otherwise.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.