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Russia, Arts and Literature


With Chekhov and Tolstoy, Russia sets the standard of narrative. All writers of fiction place themselves on the continuum with Chekhov and Tolstoy, starting with one and ending with the other. Chekhov's flawless little stories, the master of the shorter form, invites us into some corner of a household at some discreet hour in which the entire human condition is suddenly within reach, and heart-breakingly so. Is there a work greater in scope than War and Peace which moves so deftly from the living room to the battlefield and back again? That so fully investigates how the individual is shaped by history, and history by the individual? No new author will ever supplant the alpha and omega of these two authors' narratives.

Act one, Scene one by Tchaikovsky of The Nutcracker, 'picture yourself on Christmas Eve having celebrated with friends in a room dressed with garlands, Clara sleeps soundly on the floor with her magnificent new toy. But at the stroke of midnight, with the one-eyed Drosselmeyer perched on the grandfather clock like an owl, the Christmas tree begins to glow... Dark cold and snowbound Russia has the sort of climate in which the spirit of Christmas burns brightest. This is why Tchaikovsky seems to have captured the sound of it better than everyone else. Not only will every European child of the twenty first century know the melodies of The Nutcracker, they will imagine their Christmas just as depicted in the ballet, and on Christmas Eve in later life, Tchaikovsky's tree will grow from the floor of their memories until they are gazing up in wonder again.'

Every country has its grand canvas which sums up the national identity for generations to come. France has

Delacroix's Liberty leading the People; Rembrandt's Night Watch; for the Americans, Washington Crossing the Delaware; for the Russians is is a pair of twins; Nikolai Ge's Peter the Great interrogating Alexei and ilya Repin's Ivan the Terrible and His Son. In one our most enlightened Tsar studies his oldest son with suspicion, on the verge of condemning him to death; while in the other, unflinching Ivan cradles the body of his eldest, having already exacted the supreme measure with a swing of the sceptre to the head.

Putin, the richest man in the world, placed two ardent right wing nationalists, through social media manipulation, in charge of western democracies. Russia's 2016 hack of the Democratic Party - Hillary Clinton's emails just prior to the US Presidential election through Wikileaks ensured a right wing nationalist victory. Cyberwarfare, the prelude to outright warfare, ensures Putin will seek to restore the Russian Empire. Putin's kleptocracy is alarming.

Source; A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles, Windmill Books 2016

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