The Deception



Another wonderful quote from the website Laudator Temporis Acti:

“Fleetwood, you are too much alone. I hear people talk of the raptures of solitude; and with what tenderness of affection they can love a tree, a rivulet, or a mountain. Believe me, they are pretenders; they deceive themselves, or they seek, with their eyes open, to impose upon others. In addition to their trees and their mountains, I will give them the whole brute creation; still it will not do. There is a principle in the heart of man which demands the society of his like. He that has no such society, is in a state but one degree removed from insanity. He pines for an ear into which he might pour the story of his thoughts, for an eye that shall flash upon him with responsive intelligence, for a face the lines of which shall talk to him in dumb but eloquent discourse, for a heart that shall beat in unison with his own. If there is any thing in human form that does not feel these wants, that thing is not to be counted in the file for a man: the form it bears is a deception; and the legend, Man, which you read in its front, is a lie. Talk to me of rivers and mountains! I venerate the grand and beautiful exhibitions and shapes of nature, no man more; I delight in solitude; I could shut myself up in it for successive days. But I know that Christ did not with more alacrity come out of the wilderness after his forty days’ sequestration, than every man, at the end of a course of this sort, will seek for the interchange of sentiments and language. The magnificence of nature, after a time, will produce much the same effect upon him, as if I were to set down a hungry man to a sumptuous service of plate, where all that presented itself on every side was massy silver and burnished gold, but there was no food.”—William Godwin, Fleetwood: or, The New Man of Feeling (1805)


Children of the Nobility Wearing Russian Peasant Costumes

Children of the Nobility Wearing Russian Peasant Costumes

What happened to the Russian nobility after the October Revolution of 1917? Either they escaped the Soviet Union, or they became targets for extermination under Stalin. Around 1918 Grigory Zinoviev declared that as much as ten percent of Russia’s then population of ten million would have to be annihilated as being “counterrevolutionaries.” As Zinoviev’s colleague Martin Latsis said:

Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words…. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.

Ironically, after the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934, Zinoviev was ordered to be arrested and tried during the first of the big show trials what became Stalin’s purges. Of course, he was found guilty and executed, along with thousands of others.

In a new book by Douglas Smith entitled Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy, a brief description entailed what happened to one noble family, the Obolenskys:

Prince Vladimir Obolensky was killed at his estate in early 1918; later that year his older brother Alexander was shot at the Fortress of Peter and Paul in Petrograd. Prince Mikhail Obolensky was beaten to death by a mob at a railroad station in February 1918. Prince Pavel Obolensky, a cornet in the Hussars, was shot by the Bolsheviks in June 1918 and left for dead…. Princess Yelena Obolensky was killed at her estate in November 1918; her dead body was burned along with her manor house. Many more Obolenskys suffered similar horrific fates; they included seven members of the family who perished in Stalin’s prisons years later.

Particularly brutal were the fates of those aristocrats who sided with the White Army during the Civil War that followed the Revolution. And then along came Stalin, who did his best to demolish what remained.

This is not to say that there weren’t survivors, former aristos who “blended in” with the proletariat and lay low to avoid the attention of the Chekhist agencies of the Red Terror. What is astonishing was that the Bolsheviks and Stalinists found it necessary to execute an entire class which had already forfeited all its powers and wealth. But then, that’s what tyranny is all about: It is not above kicking you when you’re already down.