When Russia Expelled Its Intellectuals, Freethinkers

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 23, 2007 | Go to article overview

When Russia Expelled Its Intellectuals, Freethinkers


Byline: Martin Rubin, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The 20th century had more than its share of ruthless despots, but it's a pretty good bet that Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov, better known by his soubriquet Lenin, will always have a place near the top of any list of them. When the writer Maxim Gorky, himself a supporter of the Bolsheviks, went to plead with Lenin for the life of one of the Romanov Grand Dukes, who were then being shot en masse on the grounds that he was a fine historian, Russia's new ruler told him that the revolution had no need of historians.

Apparently, Lenin's twisted worldview also had no use for free-thinking intellectuals in general, and "Lenin's Private War," the latest book by Lesley Chamberlain, that most insightful of historians now studying the newly revived history and culture of Russia, tells the extraordinary story of the mass expulsion from their motherland of its finest economists, philosophers, scientists and thinkers. In short, the intelligentsia, that word so associated with Russia, was no longer wanted there after the Bolshevik Revolution.

In fact, there were so many of these people and their families that there was not just one "philosophy steamer": Two German ships had to be chartered to take them across the Baltic at the end of September 1922 to the German port of Stettin. In a sense, these early refugees from totalitarian tyranny were lucky.

Not for them the agony of the S.S. St. Louis, unable to deliver its human cargo to its intended place of salvation: They were well received not only in Germany but in the various places some of them traveled on to from there, particularly France and Czechoslovakia. And of course, they well knew that they were fortunate, all things being relative, to escape a harsher judgment at home. As Leon Trotsky put it in his inimitable way to Louise Bryant, the widow of John Reed:

"You ask me what the explanation is of the decree to expel abroad elements hostile to the Soviet regime . . . they are potential weapons in the hands of our possible enemies. In the event of new military complications . . . all these unreconciled and incorrigible elements will turn into military-political agents of the enemy. And we will be forced to shoot them according to the regulations of war. This is why we prefer in a peaceful period to send them away in good time. And I hope that you won't refuse to accept our far-sighted humanity."

To Russia's new masters, any dissent was treason, and by their reckoning it was important to sweep independent

thinkers out of the country. The timing of this is significant: The expulsion occurred three months before the proclamation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Dec. 30, 1922. Clearly the new Communist state was not going to be a paradise for freethinkers.

Ms. Chamberlain is an expert on the rich idealist heritage of 19th-century Russia, which was so much a part of the European intellectual vortex. She believes that in order to transform the nation - and indeed the region - as it expanded into the Soviet empire it was necessary to stifle the vibrant philosophical tradition that had flourished in Czarist Russia, for all its repressiveness as a society:

"Now clearly Russia's misfortune after the Revolution was the loss of a rich cultural life. . . . The country was extraordinarily creative in the two decades Lenin plotted to seize power but when he succeeded in grasping it the culture began to shrink. Lenin's insistence on intellectual conformism was why later critics would lament the 'lumpenization' and 'banalization' of the country after 1922."

So if the exile of this creme de la creme of Russia's intelligentsia was a misfortune for them, its ripples set the scene for a wider tragedy in the country they loved and to which they had contributed so much:

"The sailing of the Philosophy Steamer signalled to millions of Russians over the next four generations that in 1922 their country began to shut the door to the outside world. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

When Russia Expelled Its Intellectuals, Freethinkers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.