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417 ANDREI V. VOROBYOV AND ALEKSANDR V. SHUBIN THE WAY TO FREEDOM IN CULTURE WHILE ARGUING ABOUT the intellectual influence Poland and Poles have exerted on Russia and Russians (as well as vice versa, since the process can only be seen as an interaction between the two great peoples and their brilliant cultures), it makes sense, we think, to consider a broader historical background, rather than just the early postwar years. That interaction and historical relationship have rarely been mentioned in recent years, at least in the mass media. Certainly, our countries have always had essential differences in civilization, their development paths being opposite. But it is on the boundaries of nations and ethnic groups that unique cultural phenomena and processes often appear, as proven by plenty of evidence in Russian-Polish history, including names, events, and archaeological and cultural finds. Regretfully , in remembering and realizing all that, we are much worse than the two previous—let’s call them “socialist”—generations and much worse than those who lived in the two decades between World War I and World War II or earlier. Why is it so? That’s a different question, but it seems like this mutual ignorance and misunderstanding still affects today’s political and journalistic analysis of bilateral relations, making it poor and superficial. The “old guard” clashes of opinions sounded much more expressive and thorough, both philosophically and literarily. Czesław Miłosz, never sentimental about the eastern neighbor, wrote picturesque memoirs about Russia. “The Russian language,” he writes in Rodzinnej Europie, “was an appeal to Poles as it unleashed the Slavic part of their souls. The language contained everything worth learning from Russia. Learning the language, Poles learned how not be too serious about themselves.” Today this notion is gone, unfortunately. Sometimes one can feel that those Poles who lived through the disasters of the twentieth century or suffered in a Gulag prison had a better attitude toward Russia and better understood it than some recent members of former 418 ANDREI V. VOROBYOV AND ALEKSANDR V. SHUBIN communist youth organizations or graduates of prestigious European universities . Wojciech Jaruzelski in the early 1980s, on the way from an officers’ cemetery in Powązki after the funeral of a fellow soldier with whom he had served in the Polish First Tadeusz Kościuszko Division, uttered a noteworthy phrase: “We just paid our last respects to Wacek, and I remember me wrapping my father like a dog, in a Pravda newspaper[,] after he died in Siberia in 1942.” Nevertheless, General Jaruzelski never hated Russia. Russia has always held appeal for Poles, as well as for Europeans, with their mixed feelings about the eastern neighbor. As one modern philosopher aptly put it, Russia has been and will be “the subconscious of the West.” The Russian attitude toward Europe, of which Poland has always been an integral part, even when in the Russian Empire, was expressed long ago, and the man who did it was not a Westerner: “Oh, gentlemen, do you know how dear Europe is to us . . . ? Europe is a terrible and a sacred thing.” This statement belongs to Fyodor Dostoyevsky, one of the “pillars” of slavophilism. Many Russians had periods of passion for Poland. For some, it was like the first step toward European ideas and values, while others came to a deeper understanding of Russia’s original values. One of the authors of this book, while in his twenties, learned Polish and once was surprised by a Polish translation of the work of Bulat Okudzhava, a Russian poet and songwriter, as he could see a clear difference between the original, “When victory’s over, we foolishly mount a statue. And fame of the statue is over the victory’s fame,” and the Polish translation, “Pedestals remain, but figures are gone” (Górują cokoły, na których nie stoi już nikt). On reflection, it is this difference that, to a great extent, has determined our eternal and deep curiosity about each other, our mutual affinity and interaction in intellectual dissidence in the two nations. Not surprisingly, the terms “dissident” and “dissidence movement” originally came to Russia from Poland. Drowning in information presented by today’s mass media, we lost the origin of the term long ago, but Russia still remembers that, in the past, it referred to those Orthodox Christians who opposed forced conversion to Catholicism. This “aggravated” etymology is likely to have affected the way the term “dissident” was perceived in Russia in the 1960s...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822980957
Related ISBN
9780822944409
MARC Record
OCLC
914230098
Pages
704
Launched on MUSE
2015-08-17
Language
English
Open Access
No
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