Timely lessons of the past century


“Official history has always been the history of great murderers, and it is not only today that Cain is killing Abel. But it is only today that Cain is killing Abel in the name of logic and then claiming the ribbon of the Legion of Honor.” (Albert Camus, quotation retrieved in the Bertram Wolfe Collection, Hoover Institution Archives, July 2017)

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A avut, are si va avea dreptate…


A century after the Bolshevik revolution: Raymond Aron was, as Allan Bloom wrote shortly after the philosopher’s death in 1983, “the man who for fifty years . . . had been right about the political alternatives actually available to us. . . . [H]e was right about Hitler, right about Stalin, and right that our Western regimes, with all their flaws, are the best and only hope of mankind.”

Basta with Lenin!


In order to calm the crowd outside, the portrait of Lenin is rapidly being removed from the council room of the city hall by a freedom fighter. Gyor, Hungary. October-November, 1956. © Erich Lessing | Magnum Photos


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These images made Mátyás Rákosi’s peers, the other little Stalins, all those butchers of their nations named Gheorghiu-Dej, Novotny, Hoxha, Ulbricht, Zhivkov, but also Khrushchev and Mao, tremble. Neither were Gomulka and Tito happy with the spontaneous outburst of mass revolt against tyranny. Leninists have always resented and abhorred stikhiinost. Moreoever, for all of them the crucial role played by students and intellectuals in the revolution was intolerable. According to historian Lars Lih, the Russian term stikhiinost contains the meaning of the English “spontaneity” combined with a sense of an elemental force…

Image: October-November 1956. Budapest. On Vaci Road was the Soviet Cultural shop, members of the insurrection looted it and destroyed the propaganda material. Photo by Erich Lessing (Magnum)


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O grotescă minciună


Pentru Cornel Nistorescu, Himmler-ul României lui Ceausescu a fost “un general luminat”. Luminat va fi fost și mareșalul NKVD Lavrenti Pavlovici Beria. Luminat o fi fost și Iuri Vladimirovici Andropov, odiosul hărțuitor al celor care luptau pentru respectarea drepturilor omului in URSS. Tot in corul negaționist cântă serenade răposatului megasecurist și Adrian Nastase: “A murit generalul Iulian Vlad, una din figurile cele mai interesante, dar și cele mai discrete, din peisajul public romanesc. L-am respectat și am respectat eforturile pe care le-a făcut pentru a tempera situatia din țară inainte de ’89 și de a asigura apărarea intereselor țarii la incheierea Războiului Rece”. Chestiunea aceasta cu “interesele țării” este o perfidă capcană, de fapt o grotescă minciună. Niciun interes național nu cerea să susții din răsputeri dictatura dementă a cuplului Ceausescu. Niciun interes național nu impunea represiunea din noiembrie 1987 de la Brașov. Niciun interes național nu justifica asasinarea lui Gheorghe Ursu, arestările de disidenți, prigonirea Doinei Cornea. Dimpotrivă!

O datorie de onoare


Ca fost președinte al Comisiei Prezidențiale pentru Analiza Dictaturii Comuniste din România, afirm cu maximă responsabilitate academică și morală că niciodată, dar absolut niciodată, Securitatea nu a fost o instituție patriotică. A fost o organizație criminală din clipa inființării și până la sfârșit (dacă sfârșit este cuvântul potrivit). Dedic acest text memoriei lui Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu (1928–2008), președintele AFDPR și membru al Comisiei Prezidențiale.

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Mânia și greața


Chiar dacă aș avea nervi de oțel și tot n-aș putea citi fără un sentiment de abisal, nevrozant dezgust despre “patriotismul” securistului en titre care a fost Iulian Vlad. Marx a scris cândva că omenirea se desparte de trecutul ei râzând. In cazul de față, ne despărțim cu o infinită, irepresibilă și pe deplin justificată mânie in raport cu un criminal și cu apologeții săi. Dublată de o apăsătoare și cât se poate de legitimă greață…

Totalitarian brotherhood in action…


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September 17, 1939: Every word in Vyacheslav Molotov’s infamous speech on that day was a shameless, blatant, egregious lie: “Events arising out of the Polish-German War have revealed the internal insolvency and obvious impotence of the Polish state. Polish ruling circles have suffered bankruptcy… Warsaw as the capital of the Polish state no longer exists. No one knows the whereabouts of the Polish Government. The population of Poland have been abandoned by their ill-starred leaders to their fate. The Polish State and its Government have virtually ceased to exist. In view of this state of affairs, treaties concluded between the Soviet Union and Poland have ceased to operate. A situation has arisen in Poland which demands of the Soviet Government special concern for the security of its State. Poland has become a fertile field for any accidental and unexpected contingency that may create a menace for the Soviet Union…Nor can it be demanded of the Soviet Government that it remain indifferent to the fate of its Blood Brothers, the Ukrainians and White Russians inhabiting Poland, who even formerly were nations without rights and who now have been utterly abandoned to their fate. The Soviet Government deems it its sacred duty to extend the hand of assistance to its brother Ukrainians and White Russians inhabiting Poland.” Extracts from Molotov’s broadcast speech on the Soviet invasion of Poland (17 September 1939) Mirovoe Khoziaistvo, 1939, 9, p. 13. In Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy. Volume I: 1917-1941. Jane Tabrisky Degras (ed.) 1953, Oxford University Press. Pages 374-5

Secolul lui Lenin…


The twentieth century was dominated by Lenin’s institutionalized inventions: vanguard party, agitation and propaganda (Agitprop), secret police (Cheka), censorship (Glavlit), central state planning (Gosplan), state controlled unions (Profsoyuz), Communist Youth Union (Komsomol), Communist International (Comintern), Political Bureau (Politburo), collective farms (kolkhoz), concentration camps (Gulag) etc The precondition for all these to operate was the moral blindness and the absolute commitment of the party cadres to the sacralized cause. Lenin’s officers were professional revolutionaries, they dedicated their lives to the Party 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…

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Soviet Grand Guignol


They were all burnt by the unsparingly cruel sun of the Revolution, the Piatnitskys, the Radeks, the Bukharins, the Yakirs, the Redenses and Svanidzes (Stalin’s in-laws), the Litvinovs, the Tukhachevskys, the Rakovskys, and countless others. Fully deserved congratulations to Berkeley historian Yury Slezkine for this formidable accomplishment! An apocryphal story claims that, during the Great Terror, the genialissimo generalissimo used to watch from his office in the Kremlin how the lights turned on and off in the House on the Embankment–the title of a semi-autobiographical novella by Yuri Trifonov. In a recent conversation, Stalin’s biographer Stephen Kotkin told me that this would have been physically impossible. But the vozhd definitely knew what was going on there, who was arrested, whatever happened to the families of those purged. In fact, not only was Koba in the know, but he was in full control, the utimate mastermind of the social cataclysm…

Many residents and their families were detained during Stalin’s terror in the late 1930s, such that the building was dryly referred to as “The House of Preliminary Detention.” (A play on the Russian initialism Допр, from the building’s original name: Дом прави́тельства.) Fully one third of residents disappeared during the terror. The building was in fact an immense mousetrap serving the vindictive appetite of the Black Cat…

Sheila Fitzpatrick in the London Review of Books: “Yuri Slezkine, a master stylist as well as a first-class historian, is the least predictable of scholars. Still, it comes as a surprise to find that the book he has now produced, after long gestation, is a Soviet War and Peace.”

Bulat Okudzhava: Song of the Black Cat (Песенка про чёрного кота)

He doesn’t demand, doesn’t ask,
only his yellow stare glows.
Every cat brings him his catches,
and thanks him besides.

He doesn’t utter a word,
he just eats and drinks.
His claws paw the dirty ground
like they would scratch your throat.

One does wonder why
it’s so gloomy in our block.
We should hang a lamp in the courtyard,
but no way to collect the money.