War notes
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War notes

Dostoevsky — permission for murder

From a post of Sergii Kostezh

I confess.

In my teenagehood and youth I read a lot of classical Russian literature. All Dostoevsky, Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” from the first to the last page, Chekhov, Chaadaev, Fet, Herzen, Tyutchev, Pushkin. I can’t count all of them.

I repent, I read more Russian classics in 2000s than French, British, German all together. Yes, it is very sad, I got acquainted with some textbook samples of French and British prose of the XIX century at a more mature age.

However, even then I did not leave the feeling that I was reading something wrong. With each work I read, my aversion to the artistic value of literature grew and simultaneously the historian’s interest in analyzing the concepts of literature “by the bones” grew.

From any work of Russian classics one thing permeates — the eternal whining about your own meanness and inability (and unwillingness) to influence not only what is happening around you and with you, but also your own responsibility for what you do and what you reflect on. But there is something more behind it — a little more about it below…

Practically the majority of the characters of classical Russian prose are moral impotents, who are engaged in the eternal justification of their own incompetence, indecision, or thievery. This is Bezukhov in Tolstoy, and Uncle Vanya in Chekhov, and almost all in Dostoevsky (the brightest, by the way — it’s not Raskolnikov, but the main character of “The Player”, as well as all the characters of “Devils”). “Devils” is probably the only thing I would recommend reading to understand Russia and the Russians. That’s where Russia is. As they say, “total totality”.

So at some point I just got fed up with this not very appetizing dish, and stopped reading Russian literature, probably in my third year of the University. And immediately my life changed for better! Appetite appeared, sleep improved, the first scientific achievements began, the first car, the first realty and the first participation in public life (not counting the Orange Maydan, of course).

But the grain sown by the Russian literature germinates in unexpected places. Recently, my good acquaintance Evgen Dykyj described the history of communication with his acquaintances among intellectuals from St. Petersburg, who when asked how they feel about the horror of the Russian army in Ukraine answered literally: “Well, think about the victims in peaceful cities from the bombing, and imagine — what mental anguish the pilot who is sent to bomb these peaceful cities feels”.

Bloody “mental torments”! So now we have to hug that unfortunate pilot with his torn soul, kiss and cry with him in his arms? Seriously?

And then I realized what so tormented me in the Russian classical literature — it’s an indulgence to murder. Dostoevsky justifies Raskolnikov in 500 pages and tries to make the reader feel sorry for him, instead of handing this bastard over to the police in half a page. All Russian culture and literature in particular is about how to excuse one’s own participation in inhuman cruelty, game, murder, rape, robbery, how to justify one’s abomination and inability to disobey a criminal order or the weakness of not succumbing to cruel temptation.

Intellectuals from St. Petersburg are not interested in the fact that the pilot may not obey the order. That he can refuse to do what he is instructed to do. Who should be held accountable for the crime he committed. That what he did was a CRIME. For them it is important — “mental anguish”. And who is to blame for them? The criminal commander who gave the criminal order? No. Or the moral impotent who carried out this order? No.

From the point of view of “mysterious Russian soul” Ukrainians are guilty. Because they have to be killed and bombed. No matter what. “Nazis”, military, civilians from Ivankiv and Irpin, pregnant women from the Mariupol maternity hospital … It’s like Dostoevsky, where for some reason it is not the Demons themselves who are to blame, but some incomprehensible “order” with which they are “fighting” without understanding what it is and why they do it.

This is what Russian literature teaches.

The puzzle is complete.

This is not literature.

This is a manual on the self-justification of criminals and accomplices. This is a guide to shifting responsibility and justifying one’s irresponsibility.

That’s what it is.

Can it be read? Yes, and even necessary to understand the behavior of Russian invaders. It is necessary to know and understand the enemy.

But this is not what children should be brought up on. Therefore, there is a REQUEST to the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine and the leadership of the government Denis Shmygal to work to ensure that Ukrainian children after the war are not educated on such “works” at school. All Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin and other Chekhovs must disappear from textbooks. Because they are shells that fly to Kharkiv, bombs that fall on the five-story buildings of Chernihiv, and rockets that fly to maternity hospitals in Mariupol. Pale as death, Dostoevsky’s face peeks into every school through a hole from an artillery shell, and the “God-bearing people” of Leo Tolstoy supports and justifies any war crimes of his soldiers, telling about it in comments in a telegram and Facebook. All these perverts — both those who kill and those who justify — were brought up and raised on Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Pushkin. Therefore, all these educators of murderers and rapists must stop admitting Ukrainian children to their heads and souls.

They can and should be replaced in the school curriculum by more vivid examples of Western literature, which really nurtures a responsible person with a full range of emotions and feelings, rather than cultivating self-love and eternal search for those responsible for their own irresponsibility. This is what I am writing, a man who in his youth so lacked quality Western literature, and who had to overcome Russian literature and culture in himself at a more mature age, making up for lost time.

And of course, all these inspirators of the “Russian world”, which raised more than one generation of murderers and robbers, must be swept away from the names of Ukrainian streets, and all creative unions of all kinds of Pushkinists and others must be closed and banned. Yes, I have long opposed this, because I believed that Ukraine has the right to claim its share (and quite significant) in the historical heritage of the Russian Empire, but Russia simply did not leave us a choice. The presence of all these people directly in the daily life of Ukraine is unacceptable. All metro stations, streets, squares, which are still named after all Russian artists, should be renamed in honor of the heroes of the current war.

There is not a way back.

Ukrainian version

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Olegh Bondarenko

Olegh Bondarenko

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Researcher, DSc, expert in Radiation Protection, Ecology, Air Quality Monitoring, Project Management, Data Science and other — orcid.org/0000-0001-8214-4654