Russia Taught the World
How to Persecute
by David Allen White, Ph.D.
This is an edited excerpt from Dr. White's conference speech:
"The Errors of Russia Predicted in Russian Literature" (Solzhenitsyn).
Now a couple of other points about these errors that were spread [from Russia]. I’m going to read a couple of excerpts from the Gulag Archipelago because they delineate very clearly errors that Russia spread: Atheism, materialism, false utopias— and here’s another one. I quote Solzhenitsyn:
“Here is one vignette from those days as it actually occurred. A district party conference was underway in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with ‘stormy applause, rising to an ovation.’
"For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the ‘stormy applause rising to an ovation’ continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin.
"However, who would dare be the first to stop? The Secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform and it was he who had called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who‘d been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD [an early form of the KGB] men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first.
"And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the leader, the applause went on — six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks. At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly — but up there with the presidium, where everyone could see them?
"The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter …
"Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a business-like expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.
“That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed the Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him:
‘Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding!’”1
What is the error here? A different kind of collectivism. It is the notion that we are indeed sheep in a herd and we will follow whoever frightens us. We will not follow those who are strong, independent, truthful, those who have a genuine sense of the absurdity of living under falsehood. We will just go along.
There are other ways of forming collectives than forming collective farms. And perhaps the most frightening collectivism that Russia has spread throughout the world is collective thought and action, where we are all thinking the same, doing the same, afraid to do anything.
Now I’m going to read you a series, this again is from the Gulag, of things that people got arrested for. And one reason I am doing this is simply to make very clear we need to be prepared for serious persecution.
What is it that Russia has taught the world? How to persecute. I quote Solzhenitsyn again:
“A tailor laying aside his needle stuck it into a newspaper on the wall so it wouldn’t get lost and happened to stick it in the eye of a portrait of Kagonavich, [a Soviet official]. A customer observed this. Article 58, ten years (terrorism).
“A saleswoman accepting merchandise from a forwarder noted it down on a sheet of newspaper. There was no other paper. The number of pieces of soap happened to fall on the forehead of Comrade Stalin. Article 58, ten years…
“The village club manager went with his watchman to buy a bust of Comrade Stalin. They bought it. The bust was big and heavy. They ought to have carried it in a hand barrel, both of them together, but the manager’s status did not allow him to. ‘All right, you’ll manage if you take it slowly.’ And he went off ahead. The old watchman couldn’t work out how to do it for a long time. If he tried to carry it at his side, he couldn’t get his arm around it. If he tried to carry it in front of him, his back hurt and he was thrown off balance backward. Finally he figured out how to do it. He took off his belt, made a noose for Comrade Stalin, put it around his neck and in this way carried it over his shoulder through the village. Well, there was nothing to argue about. It was an open-and-shut case. Article 58, terrorism, ten years.
“A deaf and dumb carpenter got a term for counterrevolutionary agitation. How? He was laying floors in a club. Everything had been removed from a big hall, and there was no nail or hook anywhere. While he was working, he hung his jacket and his service cap on a bust of Lenin. Someone came in and saw it. 58, ten years.”2
This goes on for pages, and it is positively horrifying. But you come to understand how tens and tens and tens of millions were sent to the camps. And you also understand why people began reporting on their neighbors. If I were to report on you, then that means I am a good guy. So I have to report on you before you report on me. And you develop a system of thought that is sick and totally opposed to Christian charity. Not love thy neighbor as yourself, but report on your neighbor, get your neighbor arrested before your neighbor can report on you.
Now this insanity we may look at as something crazy, but I will tell you that any of you who flew here, experienced this error of Russia spreading out to the West. I had seen in my travels elderly women, the age of eighty, being taken off to be strip-searched in airports. I had seen the official take the shoes off a six-month old baby to examine them for bombs. And on my way here, I was forced to drop my trousers when a twenty-two-year-old girl had insisted that I had set off the metal detector and they could find no metal anywhere on me. This is insanity. And the reason it is being done is to turn us into a herd so we will not complain, and get used to whatever they will lay upon us. And we are doing it. It is an error. It comes from Russia. It is only the beginning.
1. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. The Gulag Archipelago (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), pp. 69-70.
2. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander, The Gulag Archipelago, II (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), pp. 293-294.