There is a pile of books on Ruslan Khasbulatov’s desk, all devoted to Russia. One can see Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s How to Rebuild Russia, Nikolai Berdyaev’s Russian Destinies and his Origins and Essence of Russian Communism, Ivan Bunin’s Cursed Days, Maxim Gorky’s Untimely Thoughts, and also an array of Russian newspapers and magazines, and a number of foreign publications.
Two books, from the early twentieth century, caught our attention: Secret Thoughts and To Fathom Russia by Dmitrii Mendeleev. The books were not published throughout the Soviet period: the views of the outstanding chemist were ignored for ideological reasons, and they are not even mentioned in the lengthy entry devoted to Mendeleev in the latest edition of the Large Soviet Encyclopaedia.
‘To be able to make a professional judgement of the current change in Russia, one must have a good understanding of the country,’ says Khasbulatov. ‘Busy as I am, not only do I have to keep an eye on current affairs, but I also have to dip into the works by Sergei Witte, Peter Stolypin, Mendeleev, Berdyaev, Solzhenitsyn, anyone who has in one way or another written about Russia’s problems. Contrary to Tyutchev’s dictum “One cannot understand Russia with the mind”, we have to use our minds to understand the country.’
How would you define the essence of the period we are living through?
Mendeleev’s term ‘Russia’s transitional state’ accurately defines the current period. In my view, we are abandoning the ‘communist’ mode of production for a system based on common sense, perhaps a genuinely ‘socialist’ one? I would not call it ‘capitalist’, although that is one of the labels which is being pinned on us. One thing is clear: it is not going to be a communist society, but a drastically different society, characterised by a consumer-led economic system.
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Publication information: Book title: The Struggle for Russia:Power and Change in the Democratic Revolution. Contributors: Richard Sakwa - Editor, Ruslan Khasbulatov - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 18.
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