Quotes — August 2016

“According to calculations made by my father, the eminent Burya folklore specialist and ethnographer, Sergei Petrovich Baldaev, at least fifty-eight members of his and my mother’s families died in the torture chambers of the OGPU (United State Political Administration) and the NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs), either in exile or in prison camps. These were educated people — doctors, technicians, teachers, engineers, land and mine surveyors.”

  • Danzing Baldaev, Russian Criminal Tattoo: Encyclopaedia Volume I, Foreword

“The origins of Russia’s criminal caste lie deep in Russia’s history, in the tsarist labor camps, the St. Petersburg slums, the rural poverty. But it was only in the twentieth century that the influence of their cruel, hierarchical and peculiar culture began to spread. In the 1920s, the Russian revolution, the subsequent civil war, and Lenin’s mass terror created thousands of orphans and street children: their numbers quickly swelled the criminal ranks. Then, in the 1930s, when Stalin launched the first wave of mass political arrests, ordinary Russians met the professional criminals in the labour camps that were now home to millions of people.”

  • Anne Applebaum, Russian Criminal Tattoo: Encyclopaedia Volume II, Introduction

“The art of the tattoo arrived in the Old World from the South Seas during the Age of Exploration. Imitating indigenous peoples, sailors and pirates were eager to have similar drawings on their bodies: James Cook’s were known to have practiced the art of tattooing during their first voyage around the world. Not only did the numerous tattoos worn by sailors serve to mark their occupation, but they also symbolized the bearer’s initiation into the realm of perils and fabled riches encountered in distant lands. The officers of the expeditions, who were from the highest ranks of nobility, did not neglect the opportunity to display their exotic tattoos either. In the salons of the beau monde, such tattoos gave them an air of valour and boldness. They were a permanent mark of the bearer’s thirst for adventure and demonic bravado. Travels, battles with pirates and savages, and the hardships of maritime life tested the mettle of these sea dogs. The criminal world appropriated these qualities from sailors.”

  • Alexander Sidorov, Russian Criminal Tattoo: Encyclopaedia Volume III, The Russian Criminal Tattoo: Past and Present

“In his book Kolyma Tales, referring to the terrible sights he and his fellow inmates witnessed, Varlam Shalamov wrote, ‘A human being survives by his ability to forget.’ These events are not as well known as they should be. Perhaps that has something to do with survival — which in its own way carries a particular sense of guilt. Values change in the Gulag. Reduced to their basic functions, one emaciated inmate looks much like another, harder to recognize as an individual, less than a human being, disposable. Drawings from the Gulag makes explicit the capacity one individual has to destroy another. It shows how moral borders disintegrate, and how the descent into indifference can be sanctioned, justified and excused in pursuit of a flawed ideology.”

  • Damon Murray & Stephen Sorrell, Drawings from the Gulag, Foreword

“With revolution came a paranoid obsession of counter-revolution, prompting the killing and transportation of millions of Russian citizens. Even toward its demise, as its power dwindled, the Soviet system was still dangerous. Its cankerous influence had reached every part of the Russian mind, so that any primary thought was regulated by a counter-thought. In their attempts to maintain control, the authorities used every institution, from nursery school to the KGB. Brainwashed by propaganda and paralyzed by fear, citizens would betray members of their own families as ‘spies’ rather than show disloyalty to a State that insisted it had given them everything.”

  • Damon Murray & Stephen Sorrell, Soviets, Foreword

“His education, though less severely classical than that given to Fedor and Sophia, was far better than that of the average Russian nobleman. Most important, it was perhaps the best education for a mind like Peter’s. He was not a scholar, but he was unusually open and curious, and Zotov stimulated this curiousity; it is doubtful that anyone could have done better. Strange though it may seem, when this royal prince who was to become an emperor reached manhood, he was, in large part, a self-taught man. From his earliest years, he himself had chosen what he wished to learn. The mold which created Peter the Great was not made by any parent, tutor or counselor; it was cast by Peter himself.”

  • Robert K. Massie, Peter the Great: His Life and World

“One of the rules Charlie knew all leaders should follow was: Never engage in a fight in the presence of your followers that you can’t possibly win. And this was a fight he couldn’t possibly win, at least not physically.”

  • Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full

“To be great, said Ralph Waldo Emerson, is to be misunderstood. In Law’s case, no one comprehended that his apparent indifference to public criticism over transportations was not a signal of inhumanity but rather that he was preoccupied with far more pressing concerns.”

  • Janet Gleeson, Millionaire: The Philanderer, Gambler, and Duelist Who Invented Modern Finance

“There’s no doubt that these elements, and others, contribute to varying degrees. But I believe another factor, one you haven’t heard, demands our attention. I contend that radical social ideologies are also to blame, especially when they’ve spread from the classroom to the counseling center. I once assumed campus medicine and psychology had one priority: student well-being. I’m no longer so naïve. Radical politics pervades my profession, and common sense has vanished. Not long ago, a psychiatrist might call casual sexual activity “mindless” and “empty.” Before political correctness muzzled our nation in the nineties, a campus physician might advise a student that it is love and lifelong fidelity that bring joy and liberated sensuality, and provide the best insurance against sexually transmitted diseases. An unwanted pregnancy, an abortion — these were weighty issues. We understood that men and women are profoundly different, and weren’t afraid to say so. It was clear that liaisons outside a committed relationship could be hazardous, and a young woman would be wise to wait until someone serious came along. A sexually transmitted infection, even one easily cured, was a serious matter. Self restraint built character, and character was something to strive for. Certain behaviours were abnormal, and those who practiced them needed help. Traditional marriage and parenthood were valued milestones. To search for meaning, and to make sacrifices for a higher purpose — these were noble endeavours that defined our humanity.”

  • Anonymous, M.D., Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student

“I want to know what were the steps by which men passed from barbarism to civilization.”

  • Voltaire via Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization, Volume I

This post originally appeared on my website. If any of these books caught your eye you can purchase them by clicking on their images within my quote pages.

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