Donald Hank
Did Putin read Tolstoy's philosophy of history?
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By Donald Hank
May 8, 2014

On April 20, 2014, the New York Times reported on its front page that photographs had surfaced linking pro-Russian separatists with Russia. The report included photographs purporting to demonstrate this.

On April 24, the New York Times admitted that these photos were discredited. Despite this, Kerry stated in a speech later that day:
    Some of the individual special operations personnel, who were active on Russia's behalf in Chechnya, Georgia, and Crimea have been photographed in Slovyansk, Donetsk, and Luhansk.
A recent blog article claims that the US brought Europe to the brink of war intentionally. Whether it was intentional or not, there can be no doubt that it intended at least to further "contain" Russia in keeping with the Wolfowitz doctrine. Rather than intentional brinkmanship, I think this is one of many examples of the unexpected consequences of doing what the liberal left does as naturally as pulling on their socks in the morning, namely, reacting in accordance with their ideology and ignoring realpolitik.

I have said before that Russia's cardinal sin in the eyes of Western demagogues (including Republican ones) is disobedience, and that this disobedience is best represented by its flat out refusal to accept same sex marriage and "gay" propaganda as being "on the right side of history." Several readers have poo-pooed that theory, but this is because they do not understand how important social Marxism is to the Left. Fundamentally transforming America is not only about making us poor and hence dependent on welfare or about waging war on fiscal conservatives. It is also about continuing the century-old war on Judeo-Christian beliefs and values. That is why Obama once derided Americans for clinging to God and guns, and it's why John Kerry recently mocked Christians for believing in something "written down 2000 years ago." There are smart analysts out there who understand the Left in terms of its war on capitalism and the Constitution, but these same people haven't a clue as to the enormous role social Marxism has played since the earliest times and at least since the founding of the Fabian society. I note in passing that most of my Russophobe friends completely ignore the phenomena of social Marxism on exhibit throughout the West, such as the obvious curtailment of Christian speech in the public square, the coddling of Muslims in the West and the Middle East, and the remarkably consistency of Western intervention in that region with the disappearance of indigenous Christian populations. To put it bluntly, Western policies are in fact genocidal to Christian populations and if the UN were consistent in its jurisprudence, it would have condemned NATO and the US a long time ago for the crime of genocide.

On the other hand, the Russians know something about history because they had a hand in initiating social Marxism in the West, and in addition, many have read Part II of Tolstoy's War and Peace, which deals with the philosophy of history.

Tolstoy starts out by acknowledging that the old habit historians once had of interpreting human events as guided by the Divinity was no longer acceptable even then (the book was published in 1869). Tolstoy then proceeds to run through an exhaustive list of the various interpretations of history by the historians then considered "modern," including the great man theory, the culture theory, the theory of abstractions, such as freedom, equality, enlightenment, progress, civilization and culture (how familiar these theories sound to us today!), the theory that the people invest their power in just leaders and withdraw it from unjust ones, etc. He also devotes a good bit of his treatise to the dichotomy of freedom vs necessity. He proceeds to criticize each of these theories one by one, proving that they do not tally with historical reality.

This last part of the novel, ending as it does with a nihilistic-sounding renunciation of all theories, leaves the reader with the sense that human events are essentially meaningless and historians will therefore never truly understand history; and as if that were not a dismal enough conclusion, Tolstoy also ultimately shows that freedom is an illusion. Obviously, G.W. Bush did not read Tolstoy.

But while the uninitiated reader may derive from this a depressing sense of fatalism, anyone who has studied Tolstoy's life up to the time of that writing knows that he was in fact a deeply Christian intellectual. He therefore certainly believed that the old discredited approach including God as the author of history was in fact the only correct one, even as he pretended to dismiss it. His genius lay in this subtleness and minimalism.

He provides a glimpse of this in the following short passage in the last chapter:
    Like Voltaire in his time, the unsolicited champions of the law of necessity [necessity refers here to the inevitability of events predestined by natural laws – Don] today use the law as a weapon against religion, though the law of necessity in history, like the law of Copernicus in astronomy, far from destroying, rather strengthens the foundations on which the institutions of church and state are founded.
Although he does not develop this argument as clearly as one might have wished, it is clear that his whole thesis rests on an acceptance of faith, without which history and all political ideologies are meaningless.

Could it be that Putin has read that part of War and Peace? Based on his actions, it is hard for me to imagine that he has not or that he has not taken the message seriously.

But whether or not he has, the fact that he behaves as though he has read and accepted Tolstoy's assessment of history is precisely what has gotten him in such trouble with our Western "leadership."

© Donald Hank

 

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Donald Hank

Until July of 2009, Don Hank was operating a technical translation agency out of his home in Wrightsville, PA. He is now retired and residing in Panama with his wife and daughter.

A former language teacher, he holds an undergraduate degree in French and German from Millersville State University (PA), a Master's degree in Russian language and literature from Kutztown State College (also in PA), has studied Chinese for 3 years in Taiwan at the Mandarin Training Center, and is self-taught in other languages, having logged a total of 8 years abroad in total immersion situations.

He is also the founder of Lancaster-York Non-Custodial Parents, a volunteer organization that provides Christian counseling for non-custodial parents.

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