Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Leo Tolstoy and Chechnya War

On January, 29 Financial Times published an article by Michael Church ‘A Thistle in Russia’s Side’. The author reviews a book called ‘The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus’, by English journalist John F. Baddeley that was written a 100 years ago and finds a lot of similarities between Chechen-Russian wars of the 19th century and modern day Chechnya conflict. I don’t want to analyze this article as it strikes me as very shallow and biased but there is one passage there that is worth special attention.
Mr. Church writes about a famous story by Leo Tolstoy ‘Hadji Murat’: “Tolstoy's heart was with the ordinary Chechens… He lets us get to know the inhabitants and breathe the peaceful air of a Chechen village, then shows what the Russians do in a morning of carefree violence with fire, bayonet, and gun: they also make a point of fouling the mosque. The survivors, writes Tolstoy, "experienced feelings stronger than hatred. It was the refusal to recognise these Russian dogs as people. And the desire for their destruction, like the desire for the destruction of rats, poisonous spiders and wolves, was just as natural a feeling as the feeling of self-preservation."
This is the sixth time when I find this passage about ‘Russian as dogs and rats’ in articles and books about Chechnya and every time the author, who cites these words, uses them as an example that Tolstoy liked and felt sympathy towards Chechens. This is rightly so but exactly here in ‘Hadji Murat’ Tolstoy uses these words to illustrate the idea – the moment Chechens started feeling that killing Russians is the same as killing rats or poisonous spiders, they committed moral suicide. They become rats and spiders themselves. They loose the right to be named humans.
I would like to stress it again – Tolstoy was a true Christian and he is known not only for his great novels but also for his belief in non-violence when facing oppression. Tolstoy’s ‘Hadji Murat’ is actually a story of how a person starts believing that all Russians are dogs and then how he gradually becomes a dog himself.
This idea in ‘Hadji Murat’ is so simple that I wonder why journalists like Michael Church do not recognize it. Just make a simple acid test: replace words ‘Russians’ with ‘Jews’ and ‘Chechens’ with ‘Palestinians’. How about this passage: “After what the Israeli Army did in the Palestinian refugee camp X. the survivors experienced feelings stronger than hatred. It was the refusal to recognise these Jewish dogs as people.” Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it?
“Did Vladimir Putin not read Hadji Murat at school? It's not too late”, - writes Mr. Church but I would recommend Mr. Church to read Hadji Murat himself. If he reads it with open eyes and mind not biased by russophobic ideas he would realize that Beslan was not a tragic exception but quite a predictable episode. The moment you start treating people of any nationality – no matter if they are Chechens, Russians, Jews or Navajos – as dogs and spiders, you become a moral corpse, a zombie that can only kill, kill and kill.

15 comments:

Muhammad said...

I totally agree, you cannot fight oppression with more oppression, however the oppression must be stopped first. how do we get that done.. certainly by standing by and waiting for it to end. That's a bigger question.

A perfect example is that of the Jews and their victimisation by Hitler... and now the oppressed have become the oppressors.

Peace.

M.

Muhammad said...

i meant "certainly NOT by standing by and waiting for it to end..."

I like your writing. Blog on!
M.

Konstantin said...

I think that problem is not about fighting oppresion but about one's attitude towards the enemy. Tolstoy believed that you are no longer a moral being when you start regarding some group of people (nation, race, ethnic group) as 'dogs and spiders'. Compare - when Inuits kill a bear they ask it for forgiveness because otherwise their kids would be hungry. And Islamic fundamentalists who treat Western civilization in whole as criminal so that any means are good to fight "oppresion". Actually Western civilization DID opress Islam.

Lady in R3d said...

Good writing. I've liked Tolstoy ever since discovering him in h.school. Fascinating blog!

robert68 said...

In your discussions of cultures and oppressions of people, i began to wonder what you might say about the Aztec people of Mexico and their practice of human sacrifice. My ancestors come from that region, but i do not know which side they were from, the abused or the abusers. Nor do i want to know, i am just glad that such a culture has been obliterated that would do such a thing to people. My point is to suggest that your analyses of Chechens vs. Russians, comparing them to Israeli's vs. Arabs seems to ignore the underlying depravity that does corrupt people of all nations-but some more than others. Maybe the Spaniards were morally lacking in themselves, but that does not mean that the destruction of Aztec authority was a bad thing. The Israeli authority may be morally lacking, but that does not negate the attempts of many Arab AND Muslim nations surrounding Israel to destroy the Jewish people for the last century.

Those poor palestinians may just be guilty of fostering a desire to destroy the Jewish state for the wrong reason, not just because Israel fought back and won.

LBSBLOG said...

The Second War Against the Jews is now being fought by the Arab allies of Christian Europe and Christians beyond. All people defend their lands. Israel was never an Arab place. A Muslim Europe if the dream of all Jews, it will be your just reward in this life. Jews do not get even we get back. And what happened 2000 years ago in Israel, nothing anyione can prove and the Sermon on the Mount is an ancient Jewish writ that has existed for more than 2000 years. In the meantime Christians have killed more than 100 million Christians in the past 2000 years.

Michael Church said...

As the unwitting provoker of this debate, may I simply say, 'Point taken!' Your Jewish analogy was well-chosen.

Good wishes to you!

Michael Church

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Viagra Online said...

Was that written 100 years old ago? it's really interesting because I had other references, I think I should search a bit more about it.

Trent said...

As Yeats put it ...

Too long a sacrifice
Will make a stone of the heart ...

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Margaret Piton said...

I enjoyed this blog post, but I'm not sure about Tolstoy being a true Christian. He was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church, and he was certainly a misogynist. I haven't read anywhere near everything he wrote, and I admire him in many ways, but I don't believe he was a Christian in his later life.