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Similarities between pre-communist Russia and contemporary USA

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 01, 2008 03:07PM) (new)

I haven't quite finished The Idiot yet, but has anyone else noticed some amazing similarities between the pre-communist Russia of Dostoevsky's time and that of our own? Here are a few snippets that I had to re-read:

"Why did you come in to-night with your heads in the air? 'Make way, we are coming! Give us every right and don't you dare breathe a word before us. Pay us every sort of respect, such as no one's ever heard of, and we shall treat you worse than the lowest lackey!' They strive for justice, they stand on their rights, and yet they've slandered him like infidels in their article. We demand, we don't ask, and you will get no gratitude from us, because you are acting for the satisfaction of your own conscience! Queer sort of reasoning!... He has not borrowed money from you, he doesn't owe you anything, so what are you reckoning on, if not his gratitude? So how can you repudiate it? Lunatics! They regard society as savage and inhuman, because it cries shame on the seduced girl; but if you think society inhuman, you must think that the girl suffers from the censure of society, and if she does, how is it you expose her to society in the newspapers and expect her not to suffer? Lunatics! Vain creatures! They don't believe in God, they don't believe in Christ! Why, you are so eaten up with pride and vanity that you'll end by eating up one another, that's what I prophesy. Isn't that topsy-turvydom, isn't it infamy?"
~Lizaveta Prokofyevna

"I must add... my gratitude to you for the attention with which you have listened to me, for, from my numerous observations, our Liberals are never capable of letting anyone else have a conviction of his own without at once meeting their opponent with abuse or even something worse."
~Yevgeny Pavlovitch to Ippolit

"In the first place, what is Liberalism, speaking generally, but an attack... on the established order of things? That's so, isn't it? Well, my fact is that Russian Liberalism is not an attack on the existing order of things, but is an attack on the very essence of things, on the things themselves.... My Liberal goes so far as to deny even Russia itself, that is, he hates and beats his own mother. Every unhappy and disastrous fact in Russia excites his laughter and almost his delight. He hates the national habits, Russian history, everything. If there is any justification for him, it is that he doesn't know what he is about and takes his hatred of Russia for Liberalism of the most fruitful kind.... This hatred of Russia was quite lately almost regarded as sincere love for their country. They boasted that they know better than other people how that love ought to show itself; but now they have become more candid and are ashamed of the very idea of 'loving' one's country.... How can we explain it among us? Why, by the same fact as before, that the Russian Liberal hitherto has not been Russian; nothing else explains it, to my thinking."
~Yevgeny Pavlovitch to Myshkin, the Epanchins, et. al.

Kbmaxwell Maxwell Ryan, you have picked out a couple of very apropos snippets, but I just finished last night and could not believe how incredibly applicable almost all of the "holding forths" were all through the book. Every time I read a Dostoyevsky novel, I am somehow transported into a strange world that ends up being my own all over again--like science fiction. I'm sure he had to be careful what he said just like Prince Myshkin--people thought he was an idiot, but he was a prophet. It has ever been so. Those who have a real vision of what life means and is are those whose very person as well as ideals society ridicules. I was so glad to read your post and see that someone picked up on this. What a heart-wrenching read!

Julia Wonderful quotes! It's amazing that it's been more than a century since Dostoevsky wrote the novel, but it reads like a story of our time. I think what makes great classic literature great is that it focuses on intricacies of human psychology rather than time and place, and thus always stays topical.

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