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Solzhenitsyn Against American Trad Myopia on Russia and Ukraine

Edmund J. Mazza’s article at OnePeterFive on July 21st, 2022, (‘Solzhenitsyn on NATO, Ukraine, & Putin’) misses the mark so badly that I decided it must be publicly challenged. At the same time, my intention here is to at least call the reader’s attention to the American Traditionalist Catholic propensity to see more or less everything, including the Faith, through the lens of currently-fractured American politics. This inclination, of which Dr. Mazza’s article is in my view a good example, is in reality a form of national selfishness on the one hand, while on the other it indicates how even Traditionalists appear unable to separate themselves from an obsession with judging everything in the light of politics and boundless speculation. This broad development, fed by social media, came into being during the Trump years 2016-2020, was exacerbated by COVID controversies, and is running riot in Traditionalist circles.

Dr. Mazza presents his arguments as an expert on Russia and the causes of the present war. But his article closely follows the argument of John Meersheimer and the Leftist Noam Chomsky, two of the better-known so-called “realists,” whose position is that it’s all the West’s fault. This is too simplistic and closely overlaps with Russian propaganda.

I write as someone who lived and worked in the ex-USSR from 1997 to 2010, speaks Russian, have been (many times) to Ukraine, the Baltic States, the former Central Asian Soviet republics and founded and operated a business in Moscow for many years. Although I am not a professional historian, I do hold two degrees in History from Cambridge University in England. My reading is deep and broad on the subject of Russia, its history and government.

The “Wicked NATO” Narrative

First of all, let us tackle Dr. Mazza’s central line, which is that wicked NATO has encircled Russia and seeks to end it as a nation. He uses Solzhenitzyn to support his thesis.

The trouble is, Solzhenitsyn’s comments come from the highly-problematic final few years or so of his life, when he was already back in Moscow, was in a deep depression and reacted with (justifiable) revulsion to the rampant materialism and sexual hedonism that accompanied the country’s collapse into post-Soviet banditry. During this period he had several long conversations with Putin and was evidently persuaded by him of certain things. Yet, in his earlier writings, Solzhenitsyn had taken a very different view, particularly with regard to Ukraine.

Here is what he wrote years before in The GULAG Archipelago:

Why are we so exasperated by Ukrainian nationalism, by the desire of our brothers to speak, educate their children, and write their shop signs in their own language? Given that we have not succeeded in fusing completely; that we are still different in some respects (and it is sufficient that they, the smaller nation, feel the difference); that however sad it may be, we have missed chance after chance, especially in the thirties and forties; that the problem became most acute not under the Tsar, but after the Tsar — why does their desire to secede annoy us so much? Can’t we part with the Odessa beaches? Or the fruit of Circassia?

For me this is a painful subject. Russia and the Ukraine are united in my blood, my heart, my thoughts. But from friendly contact with Ukrainians in the camps over a long period I have learned how sore they feel. Our generation cannot avoid paying for the mistakes of generations before it.

Nothing is easier than stamping your foot and shouting: “That’s mine!” It is immeasurably harder to proclaim: “You may live as you please.” We cannot, in the latter end of the twentieth century, live in the imaginary world in which our last, not very bright Emperor came to grief. Surprising though it may be, the prophecy of our Vanguard Doctrine [that is, Marxist-Leninist ideology] that nationalism would fade has not come true. In the age of the atom and of cybernetics, it has for some reason blossomed afresh.

Like it or not, the time is at hand when we must pay out on all our promissory notes guaranteeing self-determination and independence — pay up of our own accord, and not wait to be burned at the stake, drowned in rivers, or beheaded. We must prove our greatness as a nation not by the vastness of our territory, not by the number of peoples under our tutelage, but by the grandeur of our actions. And by the depth of our tilth in the lands that remain when those who do not wish to live with us are gone.

The Ukraine will be an extremely painful problem. But we must realize that the feelings of the whole people are now at white heat. Since the two peoples have not succeeded over the centuries in living harmoniously, it is up to us to show sense. We must leave the decision to the Ukrainians themselves — let federalists and separatists try their persuasions. Not to give way would be fool-hardy and cruel. And the gentler, the more tolerant, the more careful to explain ourselves we are now, the more hope there will be of restoring unity in the future. Let them live their own lives, let them see how it works. They will soon find that not all problems are solved by secession.[1]

Mazza has cherry-picked Solzhenitsyn from the problematic last few years of his life, when he reversed himself and, sadly for his legacy, became in some ways one of the Fathers of Putinism.

The Problems of Putinism

By any measure, Putinism is just another form of fascism. The Putin Youth, the State ideology of worship of the Second World War and its dead, the militarism and rampant nationalism, the bestial levels of hatred expressed daily towards “Anglo-Saxons,” Jews and Ukrainians who refuse to accept that they are really country bumpkin Russians; the swift move since February 24th from authoritarianism to open totalitarianism – these are all classic hall-marks of fascism.

The fact that Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO resulted in a nonchalant “Who cares?” from the Kremlin shows that the war with Ukraine never had anything to do with NATO at all. It’s all about Russia’s own inability to see itself without its half-origin in Kievan Rus’: all that is left to it, without Ukraine, is to be the half-slav Child of Genghiz and the Golden Horde.

The moral equivalence between the Russian State and NATO and the West in general is one Dr. Mazza does not openly identify but certainly accepts. Yet how can there be a moral equivalence? NATO is a defensive treaty organisation of democratic States who accept the Rule of Law; Russia has shown itself to be in the sway of a demonic national hysteria of envy, resentment and hate; and is the wager of aggressive, imperialistic war on a neighbouring country it refuses to accept even is a nation. It still is “Upper Volta with rockets,” fifty years on from the famous description by an ex-British Ambassador.

Most Ukrianians Do Not Consent to Russification

But what do Ukrainians think? According to a CNN poll conducted just before the invasion, two-thirds of Ukrainians disagreed with the statement that Ukrainians and Russians are one people. There is no region or age group where the majority of Ukrainians said they and Russians are one people. Even in the region of east Ukraine, with its large Russian-speaking population, less than half said the Russians and Ukrainians are one people.

On the more pressing question of whether Russia and Ukraine should be one country, the figures are even more stark. Some 85 per cent of Ukrainians said they should be two separate countries, and only 18 per cent of people in east Ukraine said they should be one united country. Putin’s quite deliberate barbarity – the bombing of civilians, the destruction of schools, hospitals, the Stalinesque transportation of millions of Ukrainians to Siberia and the disappearance of the men into concentration camps – have only reinforced the need to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty (see here and here). (Or for those who do not trust mainstream media, see the briefings of His Beatitude, Ukrainian Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav, the other Ukrainian Catholic sources (here and here) or all Ukrainian Christians including Orthodox.)

Our Ukrainian Catholic Brethren and their Saints

Dr. Mazza logically finds himself arguing a position that in effect cheers on the Mongol horde and its countless war crimes in Ukraine. He says not a single word about the fact that Ukraine is around 15% Catholic. Most Ukrainian Catholics are members of the Greek Catholic Church, the world’s second-biggest rite after the Latin, who were viciously persecuted by the Tsars and more recently by the Soviets, giving the Church many martyrs who have since been canonised. How many American Traditionalists know now about the great and saintly Cardinal Joseph Slipyj, who spent seventeen years in the camps of Kolyma, which even Solzhenitsyn admitted were the very worst “pole” of the GULAG system; and was thrown under the bus of the Vatican’s disastrous ‘Ostpolitik’ of Paul VI?

If Putin wins his bloody war of conquest, then we can expect exactly the same persecution again, with many martyrdoms and the obliteration of the Greek Catholic Church. Think on that, Putin lovers!

Many Traditionalists have got it into their heads that Putin is a champion of Christendom and that Russia is once again a Christian nation. This claim is so risible that it really must be publicly refuted. I did so in this article some years ago.

In addition to the evidence therein presented, one can ask if the so-called ‘Champion of Christendom’ would either likely be a Man of Blood, as Putin assuredly is; or would depend on the wall of lies that his TV war-mongers spout out every day on his behalf?

Murderers, liars and deceivers cannot be from God – does one really have to spell this out?

Finally, I encourage American and other Traditionalist Catholics to learn about the various Marian apparitions in Ukraine (at least one of these is known to Dr. Mazza). The two at Hrushiv, the first in 1914 and the second, seen by many thousands of people, in 1987, specifically stated that Ukraine is particularly blessed because no other country dedicated to the Virgin had suffered so much for Our Lady than it had; and that – as Russia has not turned away from the paths of death – the eventual result will be a Third World War. See more here:

Americans: the first battles of that Third World War are being fought in Ukraine today. Wake up, banish the likes of Dr. Mazza from your minds, along with Trump, the Democrats, COVID and everything else ephemeral, and place your minds squarely in the presence of Christ and the Blessed Mother. Nothing else matters, particularly now.


Photo source.

[1] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago, trans. Harry Willetts (Harper and Row, 1976), vol. III, 45-46.

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