Translation: I. A. Ilovayskaya
WWW: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/solzhenitsyn/harvard1978.html

Text of Address by
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
at Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises,
Thursday, June 8, 1978

I am sincerely happy to be here with you on
this occasion and to become personally acquainted
with this old and most prestigious University. My
congratulations and very best wishes to all of
today's graduates.
Harvard's motto is "Veritas." Many of you
have already found out and others will find out in
the course of their lives that truth eludes us if
we do not concentrate with total attention on its
pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion
still lingers of knowing it and leads to many
misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant;
it is almost invariably bitter. There is some
bitterness in my speech today, too. But I want to
stress that it comes not from an adversary but
from a friend.
Three years ago in the United States I said
certain things which at that time appeared
unacceptable. Today, however, many people agree
with what I then said...

    A World Split Apart

The split in today's world is perceptible
even to a hasty glance. Any of our contemporaries
readily identifies two world powers, each of them
already capable of entirely destroying the other.
However, understanding of the split often is
limited to this political conception, to the
illusion that danger may be abolished through
successful diplomatic negotiations or by achieving
a balance of armed forces. The truth is that the
split is a much profounder and a more alienating
one, that the rifts are more than one can see at
first glance. This deep manifold split bears the
danger of manifold disaster for all of us, in
accordance with the ancient truth that a Kingdom -
in this case, our Earth - divided against itself
cannot stand.

    Contemporary Worlds

There is the concept of the Third World:
thus, we already have three worlds. Undoubtedly,
however, the number is even greater; we are just
too far away to see. Any ancient deeply rooted
autonomous culture, especially if it is spread on
a wide part of the earth's surface, constitutes an
autonomous world, full of riddles and surprises to
Western thinking. As a minimum, we must include in
this category China, India, the Muslim world and
Africa, if indeed we accept the approximation of
viewing the latter two as compact units. For one
thousand years Russia has belonged to such a
category, although Western thinking systematically
committed the mistake of denying its autonomous
character and therefore never understood it, just
as today the West does not understand Russia in
communist captivity . It may be that in the past
years Japan has increasingly become a distant part
of the West, I am no judge here; but as to Israel,
for instance, it seems to me that it stands apart
from the Western world in that its state system is
fundamentally linked to religion.
How short a time ago, relatively, the small
new European world was easily seizing colonies
everywhere, not only without anticipating any real
resistance, but also usually despising any
possible values in the conquered peoples' approach
to life. On the face of it, it was an overwhelming
success, there were no geographic frontiers to it.
Western society expanded in a triumph of human
independence and power. And all of a sudden in the
twentieth century came the discovery of its
fragility and friability. We now see that the
conquests proved to be short lived and precarious,
and this in turn points to defects in the Western
view of the world which led to these conquests.
Relations with the former colonial world now have
turned into their opposite and the Western world
often goes to extremes of obsequiousness, but it
is difficult yet to estimate the total size of the
bill which former colonial countries will present
to the West, and it is difficult to predict
whether the surrender not only of its last
colonies, but of everything it owns will be
sufficient for the West to foot the bill.


But the blindness of superiority continues in
spite of all and upholds the belief that vast
regions everywhere on our planet should develop
and mature to the level of present day Western
systems which in theory are the best and in
practice the most attractive. There is this belief
that all those other worlds are only being
temporarily prevented by wicked governments or by
heavy crises or by their own barbarity or
incomprehension from taking the way of Western
pluralistic democracy and from adopting the
Western way of life. Countries are judged on the
merit of their progress in this direction.
However, it is a conception which developed out of
Western incomprehension of the essence of other
worlds, out of the mistake of measuring them all
with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our
planet's development is quite different.
Anguish about our divided world gave birth to
the theory of convergence between leading Western
countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing
theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds
are not at all developing into similarity; neither
one can be transformed into the other without the
use of violence. Besides, convergence inevitably
means acceptance of the other side's defects, too,
and this is hardly desirable.
If I were today addressing an audience in my
country, examining the overall pattern of the
world's rifts I would have concentrated on the
East's calamities. But since my forced exile in
the West has now lasted four years and since my
audience is a Western one, I think it may be of
greater interest to concentrate on certain aspects
of the West in our days, such as I see them.

    A Decline in Courage [. . .]

...may be the most striking feature which an
outside observer notices in the West in our days.
The Western world has lost its civil courage, both
as a whole and separately, in each country, each
government, each political party and of course in
the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is
particularly noticeable among the ruling groups
and the intellectual elite, causing an impression
of loss of courage by the entire society. Of
course there are many courageous individuals but
they have no determining influence on public life.
Political and intellectual bureaucrats show
depression, passivity and perplexity in their
actions and in their statements and even more so
in theoretical reflections to explain how
realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually
and even morally warranted it is to base state
policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in
courage is ironically emphasized by occasional
explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part
of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak
governments and weak countries, not supported by
anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any
resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed
when they deal with powerful governments and
threatening forces, with aggressors and
international terrorists.
Should one point out that from ancient times
decline in courage has been considered the
beginning of the end?


When the modern Western States were created,
the following principle was proclaimed:
governments are meant to serve man, and man lives
to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example,
the American Declaration). Now at last during past
decades technical and social progress has
permitted the realization of such aspirations:
the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted
the desired freedom and material goods in such
quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in
theory the achievement of happiness, in the
morally inferior sense which has come into being
during those same decades. In the process, however,
one psychological detail has been overlooked: the
constant desire to have still more things and a
still better life and the struggle to obtain them
imprints many Western faces with worry and even
depression, though it is customary to conceal such
feelings. Active and tense competition permeates
all human thoughts without opening a way to free
spiritual development.
The individual's independence from many types
of state pressure has been guaranteed; the
majority of people have been granted well-being
to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could
not even dream about; it has become possible to
raise young people according to these ideals,
leading them to physical splendor, happiness,
possession of material goods,
money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom
of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this,
why and for what should one risk one's precious
life in defense of common values, and particularly
in such nebulous cases when the security of one's
nation must be defended in a distant country?
Even biology knows that habitual extreme
safety and well-being are not advantageous for a
living organism. Today, well-being in the life of
Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious

    Legalistic Life

Western society has given itself the
organization best suited to its purposes, based, I
would say, on the letter of the law. The limits of
human rights and righteousness are determined by a
system of laws; such limits are very broad. People
in the West have acquired considerable skill in
using, interpreting and manipulating law, even
though laws tend to be too complicated for an
average person to understand without the help of
an expert. Any conflict is solved according to the
letter of the law and this is considered to be the
supreme solution. If one is right from a legal
point of view, nothing more is required, nobody
may mention that one could still not be entirely
right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to
renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless
risk: it would sound simply absurd. One almost
never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody
operates at the extreme limit of those legal
frames. An oil company is legally blameless when
it purchases an invention of a new type of energy
in order to prevent its use. A food product
manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons
his produce to make it last longer: after all,
people are free not to buy it.
I have spent all my life under a communist
regime and I will tell you that a society without
any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed.
But a society with no other scale but the legal
one is not quite worthy of man either. A society
which is based on the letter of the law and never
reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage
of the high level of human possibilities. The
letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a
beneficial influence on society. Whenever the
tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations,
there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity,
paralyzing man's noblest impulses.
And it will be simply impossible to stand
through the trials of this threatening century
with only the support of a legalistic structure.

    The Direction of Freedom

In today's Western society, the inequality
has been revealed of freedom for good deeds and
freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to
achieve something important and highly
constructive for his country has to move
cautiously and even timidly; there are thousands
of hasty and irresponsible critics around him,
parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he
moves ahead, he has to prove that every single
step of his is well-founded and absolutely
flawless. Actually an outstanding and particularly
gifted person who has unusual and unexpected
initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert
himself; from the very beginning, dozens of traps
will be set out for him. Thus mediocrity triumphs
with the excuse of restrictions imposed by
It is feasible and easy everywhere to
undermine administrative power and, in fact, it
has been drastically weakened in all Western
countries. The defense of individual rights has
reached such extremes as to make society as a
whole defenseless against certain individuals.
It is time, in the West, to defend not so much
human rights as human obligations.
Destructive and irresponsible freedom has
been granted boundless space. Society appears to
have little defense against the abyss of human
decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty
for moral violence against young people, motion
pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It
is considered to be part of freedom and
theoretically counter-balanced by the young
people's right not to look or not to accept. Life
organized legalistically has thus shown its
inability to defend itself against the corrosion
of evil.
And what shall we say about the dark realm of
criminality as such? Legal frames (especially in
the United States) are broad enough to encourage
not only individual freedom but also certain
individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished
or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of
thousands of public defenders. When a government
starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public
opinion immediately accuses it of violating the
terrorists' civil rights. There are many such
Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of
evil has come about gradually but it was evidently
born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent
concept according to which there is no evil
inherent to human nature; the world belongs to
mankind and all the defects of life are caused by
wrong social systems which must be corrected.
Strangely enough, though the best social
conditions have been achieved in the West, there
still is criminality and there even is
considerably more of it than in the pauper and
lawless Soviet society. (There is a huge number of
prisoners in our camps which are termed criminals,
but most of them never committed any crime; they
merely tried to defend themselves against a
lawless state resorting to means outside of a
legal framework).

    The Direction of the Press

The press too, of course, enjoys the widest
freedom. (I shall be using the word press to
include all media). But what sort of use does it
make of this freedom?
Here again, the main concern is not to
infringe the letter of the law. There is no moral
responsibility for deformation or disproportion.
What sort of responsibility does a journalist have
to his readers, or to history? If they have misled
public opinion or the government by inaccurate
information or wrong conclusions, do we know of
any cases of public recognition and rectification
of such mistakes by the same journalist or the
same newspaper? No, it does not happen, because it
would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of
such a mistake , but the journalist always gets
away with it. One may safely assume that he will
start writing the opposite with renewed self-
Because instant and credible information has
to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to
guesswork, rumors and suppositions to fill in the
voids, and none of them will ever be rectified,
they will stay on in the readers' memory. How many
hasty, immature, superficial and misleading
judgments are expressed every day, confusing
readers, without any verification. The press can
both simulate public opinion and miseducate it.
Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret
matters, pertaining to one's nation's defense,
publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless
intrusion on the privacy of well-known people
under the slogan: "everyone is entitled to know
everything." But this is a false slogan,
characteristic of a false era: people also have
the right not to know, and it is a much more
valuable one. The right not to have their divine
souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A
person who works and leads a meaningful life does
not need this excessive burdening flow of
Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic
disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere
else this disease is reflected in the press. In-
depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the
press. It stops at sensational formulas.
Such as it is, however, the press has become
the greatest power within the Western countries,
more powerful than the legislature, the executive
and the judiciary. One would then like to ask: by
what law has it been elected and to whom is it
responsible? In the communist East a journalist is
frankly appointed as a state official. But who has
granted Western journalists their power, for how
long a time and with what prerogatives?
There is yet another surprise for someone
coming from the East where the press is rigorously
unified: one gradually discovers a common trend of
preferences within the Western press as a whole.
It is a fashion ; there are generally accepted
patterns of judgment and there may be common
corporate interests, the sum effect being not
competition but unification. Enormous freedom
exists for the press, but not for the readership
because newspapers mostly give enough stress and
emphasis to those opinions which do not too openly
contradict their own and the general trend.

    A Fashion in Thinking

Without any censorship, in the West
fashionable trends of thought and ideas are
carefully separated from those which are not
fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not
fashionable will hardly ever find its way into
periodicals or books or be heard in colleges.
Legally your researchers are free, but they are
conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no
open violence such as in the East; however, a
selection dictated by fashion and the need to
match mass standards frequently prevent
independent-minded people from giving their
contribution to public life. There is a dangerous
tendency to form a herd, shutting off successful
development. I have received letters in America
from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher
in a faraway small college who could do much for
the renewal and salvation of his country, but his
country cannot hear him because the media are not
interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass
prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous in
our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-
deluding interpretation of the contemporary world
situation. It works as a sort of petrified armor
around people's minds. Human voices from 17
countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia
cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the
pitiless crowbar of events.
I have mentioned a few trends of Western life
which surprise and shock a new arrival to this
world. The purpose and scope of this speech will
not allow me to continue such a review, to look
into the influence of these Western
characteristics on important aspects on [the]
nation's life, such as elementary education,
advanced education in [?...]


It is almost universally recognized that the
West shows all the world a way to successful
economic development, even though in the past
years it has been strongly disturbed by chaotic
inflation. However, many people living in the West
are dissatisfied with their own society. They
despise it or accuse it of not being up to the
level of maturity attained by mankind. A number of
such critics turn to socialism, which is a false
and dangerous current.
I hope that no one present will suspect me of
offering my personal criticism of the Western
system to present socialism as an alternative.
Having experienced applied socialism in a country
where the alternative has been realized, I
certainly will not speak for it. The well-known
Soviet mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the
Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant
book under the title Socialism; it is a profound
analysis showing that socialism of any type and
shade leads to a total destruction of the human
spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death.
Shafarevich's book was published in France almost
two years ago and so far no one has been found to
refute it. It will shortly be published in English
in the United States.

    Not a Model

But should someone ask me whether I would
indicate the West such as it is today as a model
to my country, frankly I would have to answer
negatively. No, I could not recommend your society
in its present state as an ideal for the
transformation of ours. Through intense suffering
our country has now achieved a spiritual
development of such intensity that the Western
system in its present state of spiritual
exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those
characteristics of your life which I have just
mentioned are extremely saddening.
A fact which cannot be disputed is the
weakening of human beings in the West while in the
East they are becoming firmer and stronger. Six
decades for our people and three decades for the
people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have
been through a spiritual training far in advance
of Western experience. Life's complexity and
mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper and
more interesting characters than those produced by
standardized Western well-being. Therefore if our
society were to be transformed into yours, it
would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but
also a change for the worse on some particularly
significant scores. It is true, no doubt, that a
society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness,
as is the case in our country. But it is also
demeaning for it to elect such mechanical
legalistic smoothness as you have. After the
suffering of decades of violence and oppression,
the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and
purer than those offered by today's mass living
habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of
publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music.
All this is visible to observers from all the
worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is
less and less likely to become the leading model.
There are meaningful warnings that history
gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are,
for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of
great statesmen. There are open and evident
warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of
your culture is left without electric power for a
few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of
American citizens start looting and creating
havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin,
then, the social system quite unstable and
But the fight for our planet, physical and
spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a
vague matter of the future; it has already started.
The forces of Evil have begun their decisive
offensive, you can feel their pressure, and yet
your screens and publications are full of
prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the
joy about?


Very well known representatives of your
society, such as George Kennan, say: we cannot
apply moral criteria to politics. Thus we mix good
and evil, right and wrong and make space for the
absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world. On
the contrary, only moral criteria can help the
West against communism's well planned world
strategy. There are no other criteria. Practical
or occasional considerations of any kind will
inevitably be swept away by strategy. After a
certain level of the problem has been reached,
legalistic thinking induces paralysis; it prevents
one from seeing the size and meaning of events.
In spite of the abundance of information, or
maybe because of it, the West has difficulties in
understanding reality such as it is. There have
been naive predictions by some American experts
who believed that Angola would become the Soviet
Union's Vietnam or that Cuban expeditions in
Africa would best be stopped by special U.S.
courtesy to Cuba. Kennan's advice to his own
country - to begin unilateral disarmament -
belongs to the same category. If you only knew how
the youngest of the Moscow Old Square [1]
officials laugh at your political wizards! As to
Fidel Castro, he frankly scorns the United States,
sending his troops to distant adventures from his
country right next to yours.
However, the most cruel mistake occurred with
the failure to understand the Vietnam war. Some
people sincerely wanted all wars to stop just as
soon as possible; others believed that there
should be room for national, or communist, self-
determination in Vietnam , or in Cambodia, as we
see today with particular clarity. But members of
the U.S. anti-war movement wound up being involved
in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a
genocide and in the suffering today imposed on 30
million people there. Do those convinced pacifists
hear the moans coming from there? Do they
understand their responsibility today? Or do they
prefer not to hear? The American Intelligentsia
lost its [nerve] and as a consequence thereof
danger has come much closer to the United States.
But there is no awareness of this. Your
shortsighted politicians who signed the hasty
Vietnam capitulation seemingly gave America a
carefree breathing pause; however, a hundredfold
Vietnam now looms over you. That small Vietnam had
been a warning and an occasion to mobilize the
nation's courage. But if a full-fledged America
suffered a real defeat from a small communist
half-country, how can the West hope to stand firm
in the future?
I have had occasion already to say that in
the 20th century democracy has not won any major
war without help and protection from a powerful
continental ally whose philosophy and ideology it
did not question. In World War II against Hitler,
instead of winning that war with its own forces,
which would certainly have been sufficient,
Western democracy grew and cultivated another
enemy who would prove worse and more powerful yet,
as Hitler never had so many resources and so many
people, nor did he offer any attractive ideas, or
have such a large number of supporters in the West
- a potential fifth column - as the Soviet Union.
At present, some Western voices already have
spoken of obtaining protection from a third power
against aggression in the next world conflict, if
there is one; in this case the shield would be
China. But I would not wish such an outcome to any
country in the world. First of all, it is again a
doomed alliance with Evil; also, it would grant
the United States a respite, but when at a later
date China with its billion people would turn
around armed with American weapons, America itself
would fall prey to a genocide similar to the one
perpetrated in Cambodia in our days.

    Loss of Willpower

And yet - no weapons, no matter how powerful,
can help the West until it overcomes its loss of
willpower. In a state of psychological weakness,
weapons become a burden for the capitulating side.
To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die;
there is little such readiness in a society raised
in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is
left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time
and betrayal. Thus at the shameful Belgrade
conference free Western diplomats in their
weakness surrendered the line where enslaved
members of Helsinki Watchgroups are sacrificing
their lives.
Western thinking has become conservative: the
world situation should stay as it is at any cost,
there should be no changes . This debilitating
dream of a status quo is the symptom of a society
which has come to the end of its development. But
one must be blind in order not to see that oceans
no longer belong to the West, while land under its
domination keeps shrinking. The two so-called
world wars (they were by far not on a world scale,
not yet) have meant internal self- destruction of
the small, progressive West which has thus
prepared its own end. The next war (which does not
have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it
will) may well bury Western civilization forever.
Facing such a danger, with such historical
values in your past, at such a high level of
realization of freedom and apparently of devotion
to freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an
extent the will to defend oneself?

    Humanism and Its Consequences

How has this unfavorable relation of forces
come about? How did the West decline from its
triumphal march to its present sickness? Have
there been fatal turns and losses of direction in
its development? It does not seem so. The West
kept advancing socially in accordance with its
proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant
technological progress. And all of a sudden it
found itself in its present state of weakness.
This means that the mistake must be at the
root, at the very basis of human thinking in the
past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western
view of the world which was first born during the
Renaissance and found its political expression
from the period of the Enlightenment. It became
the basis for government and social science and
could be defined as rationalistic humanism or
humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced
autonomy of man from any higher force above him.
It could also be called anthropocentricity, with
man seen as the center of everything that exists.
The turn introduced by the Renaissance
evidently was inevitable historically. The Middle
Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion,
becoming an intolerable despotic repression of
man's physical nature in favor of the spiritual
one. Then, however, we turned our backs upon the
Spirit and embraced all that is material with
excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of
thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance,
did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in
man nor did it see any higher task than the
attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern
Western civilization on the dangerous trend to
worship man and his material needs. Everything
beyond physical well-being and accumulation of
material goods, all other human requirements and
characteristics of a subtler and higher nature,
were left outside the area of attention of state
and social systems, as if human life did not have
any superior sense. That provided access for evil,
of which in our days there is a free and constant
flow. Merely freedom does not in the least solve
all the problems of human life and it even adds a
number of new ones.
However, in early democracies, as in American
democracy at the time of its birth, all individual
human rights were granted because man is God's
creature. That is, freedom was given to the
individual conditionally, in the assumption of his
constant religious responsibility. Such was the
heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two
hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have
seemed quite impossible, in America, that an
individual could be granted boundless freedom
simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or
whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations
were discarded everywhere in the West; a total
liberation occurred from the moral heritage of
Christian centuries with their great reserves of
mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming
increasingly and totally materialistic. The West
ended up by truly enforcing human rights,
sometimes even excessively, but man's sense of
responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and
dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically
selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking
has reached its final dimension and the world
wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a
political impasse. All the glorified technological
achievements of Progress, including the conquest
of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth
century's moral poverty which no one could imagine
even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.

    An Unexpected Kinship

As humanism in its development became more and
more materialistic, it made itself increasingly
accessible to speculation and manipulation at
first by socialism and then by communism. So that
Karl Marx was able to say in 1844 that "communism
is naturalized humanism."
This statement turned out not to be entirely
senseless. One does see the same stones in the
foundations of a despiritualized humanism and of
any type of socialism: endless materialism;
freedom from religion and religious
responsibility, which under communist regimes
reach the stage of anti-religious dictatorship;
concentration on social structures with a
seemingly scientific approach. (This is typical of
the Enlightenment in the Eighteenth Century and of
Marxism). Not by coincidence all of communism's
meaningless pledges and oaths are about Man, with
a capital M, and his earthly happiness. At first
glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in
the thinking and way of life of today's West and
today's East? But such is the logic of
materialistic development.
The interrelationship is such, too, that the
current of materialism which is most to the left
always ends up by being stronger, more attractive
and victorious, because it is more consistent.
Humanism without its Christian heritage cannot
resist such competition. We watch this process in
the past centuries and especially in the past
decades, on a world scale as the situation becomes
increasingly dramatic. Liberalism was inevitably
displaced by radicalism, radicalism had to
surrender to socialism and socialism could never
resist communism. The communist regime in the East
could stand and grow due to the enthusiastic
support from an enormous number of Western
intellectuals who felt a kinship and refused to
see communism's crimes. When they no longer could
do so, they tried to justify them. In our Eastern
countries, communism has suffered a complete
ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero.
But Western intellectuals still look at it with
interest and with empathy, and this is precisely
what makes it so immensely difficult for the West
to withstand the East.

    Before the Turn

I am not examining here the case of a world
war disaster and the changes which it would
produce in society. As long as we wake up every
morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an
everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which
has already been under way for quite some time. I
am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized
and irreligious humanistic consciousness.
To such consciousness, man is the touchstone
in judging and evaluating everything on earth.
Imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-
interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other
defects. We are now experiencing the consequences
of mistakes which had not been noticed at the
beginning of the journey. On the way from the
Renaissance to our days we have enriched our
experience, but we have lost the concept of a
Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our
passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed
too much hope in political and social reforms,
only to find out that we were being deprived of
our most precious possession: our spiritual life.
In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and
machinations of the ruling party. In the West,
commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is
the real crisis. The split in the world is less
terrible than the similarity of the disease
plaguing its main sections.
If humanism were right in declaring that man
is born to be happy, he would not be born to die.
Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth
evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It
cannot unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It
cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain
material goods and then cheerfully get the most
out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a
permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey
may become an experience of moral growth, so that
one may leave life a better human being than one
started it. It is imperative to review the table
of widespread human values. Its present
incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible
that assessment of the President's performance be
reduced to the question of how much money one
makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline.
Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise
man above the world stream of materialism.
It would be retrogression to attach oneself
today to the ossified formulas of the
Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us
completely helpless in front of the trials of our
Even if we are spared destruction by war, our
lives will have to change if we want to save life
from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising
the fundamental definitions of human life and
human society. Is it true that man is above
everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him?
Is it right that man's life and society's
activities have to be determined by material
expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to
promote such expansion to the detriment of our
spiritual integrity?
If the world has not come to its end, it has
approached a major turn in history, equal in
importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the
Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual
upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of
vision, to a new level of life where our physical
nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages,
but, even more importantly, our spiritual being
will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.
This ascension will be similar to climbing
onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth
has any other way left but - upward.


[1] The Old Square in Moscow (Staraya
Ploshchad') is the place where the [headquarters]
of the Central Committee of the CPSU are located;
it is the real name of what in the West is
conventionally referred to as "the Kremlin."