‘It Loves Blood, The Russian Earth . . .’

A concise, powerful explanation why ‘Auschwitz’ is an inadequate symbol for European genocide here in the West. We concur.

During the Soviet period we stood on the ridge line outside Kiev at Babi Yar. 60 years later the Western mind has yet to grasp fully the magnitude of it all. Tears fail even to touch the surface of grief.

We Will Remember You

BABI YAR

By Yevgeni Yevtushenko
(Translated by Benjamin Okopnik (10/96))

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o’er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself. *1*
The Philistines betrayed me – and now judge.
I’m in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I’m persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

I see myself a boy in Belostok *2*
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.

O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The “Union of the Russian People!”

It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I’m in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other’s eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed – very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

-“They come!”

-“No, fear not – those are sounds
Of spring itself. She’s coming soon.
Quickly, your lips!”

-“They break the door!”

-“No, river ice is breaking…”

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I’m every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.

No fiber of my body will forget this.
May “Internationale” thunder and ring *3*
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that’s blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that’s corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!

_____________
**************************************************

NOTES
—–

1 – Alfred Dreyfus was a French officer, unfairly dismissed from service in 1894 due to trumped-up charges prompted by anti- Semitism.

2 – Belostok: the site of the first and most violent pogroms, the Russian version of KristallNacht.

3 – “Internationale”: The Soviet national anthem.

Comments

  1. Anon says

    As someone who was on the receiving end of the CIA’s meddling in South America, I can say that in spite of the horrible things CIA helped Pinochet, Galtieri, Medici and others do, I can’t really be too mad at them. Mao and Stalin were worse by many orders of magnitude. Still, fascism and rabid nationalism were very toxic to my birth continent. Those idiots speaking lightly of stuff my older relatives saw first hand are beyond pathetic.

    The thing is though, South America and the CIA had pure evil to battle and try to counter. Some chose authoritarianism because the risk of losing was so great. There is no such clear choice today. Authoritarianism is no longer the lesser of two evils. It is the only evil around. The choice is pretty clear now, to any thinking person now, of any political leanings IMHO. And doesn’t favor the “deathers”.

  2. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Saw the Wajda movie ‘Katyn’ tonight – it is now out on DVD with English subtitles. It’s a powerful portrayal of the Soviet murder of 15,000 Polish officers taken prisoner when they invaded Poland together with Nazi Germany in September 1939. Anne Applebaum’s thoughtful review is here:

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21012

    The tragedy and its reverberations within occupied Poland after 1945 speak for themselves. What struck me most watching it is how ashamed one can be of America and Americans today. ‘Death Panels’, ‘Obama is a Nazi’, Jonah Goldberg’s nonsensical ‘Liberal Fascism’ — how tinny, ignorant and historically deaf. More to the point, how irresponsible and disrespectful to those souls who truly faced the murderous tyranny of the brown and the red.

    Some might say that is America’s charm – unburdened by historical memory or interest it forever molts into something new. A legitimate question is whether that process produces a viable society or as Applebaum quotes Wajda , just ‘a crowd of strangers’.

  3. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Random, it is a bit disappointing. We’ve not spoken to or even seen Sorensen in a very long time. We expected better even at this date and agree he is brilliant. Loyalty does count, too, as you note.

    This item just seems clumsy. In a Caroline sort of way. And contrary to intent, it also seems to confirm the junk bond status of the Kennedy ‘Mystique.’

    Our reaction is that the silliest part is his confidence in U.S. monitoring and intelligence. (You’re surprised, right?) The one thing we can count on is ‘strategic surprise’, especially in the nuclear direction. Forgetting Russia and ’49, we had South Africa, Israel (Johnson’s look the other way aside), and so on. Most recently India and Pakistan. Not to mention we had no clue about A.Q. Khan and the entire international infrastructure.

    Second, Sorensen notes but ignores the significance that transitory U.S. technological advantage played in Kennedy’s posturing. When we rolled out Minuteman and MRVs all in response to a non-existent missile gap (an instance where CIA got it right but military intelligence [sic] wanted more toys) we didn’t need the city busters as Sorensen says. But what Sorensen doesn’t say is that in 1963 we believed our technological advantage would last for some time and like say iPods, the ‘product path’ would lead to MIRVs and then MARVs. So we would militarily be advantaged by Kennedy’s posturing.

    What no one before Dallas foresaw was that due to the usual superior espionage, anger at humiliation over Cuba, and native theoretical talent, the Sovs once again surprised us. Their own primitive MRVs and even MIRVs appeared during the first Nixon Administration. When the Sovs started marrying MRVs and MIRVs to monster ICBMs like the SS-9 and SS-18, suddenly it was we who were f**ked. Add boomer submarines popping out like Octo Mom’s kids, etc.? We needed SALT. By the end of the 1970s, the land-based leg of the U.S. deterrent was essentially a hostage to a Soviet first strike. Remember all the silly ideas for MX basing – racetracks, etc. and the debates whether fratriciding incoming Soviet MIRVs might allow silo spacing with specific overpressures to ride it all out, etc.?

    Based on our personal knowledge — and we are loathe to concede it given other matters — but historical truth compels us to state that Pipes was right when he wrote in 1977 “Why The Soviets Think They Can Win A Nuclear War”. Even the Sovs/ex-Sovs copped to it. Sometimes paranoid Poles are on to something. (Pipes would never allow his daughter to be J. Fred Muggs).

    But this is all digression (as usual). Central system nuclear exchanges no longer define super powers. That’s the lesson of 1991. The whole world knows it. The point today is different. An Iranian bomb, a North Korean bomb, or a Saddam bomb deters U.S. conventional littoral access/regime change and permits coercive regional diplomacy. (Indians and Paks just want to wipe each other out).

    That’s what makes Obama’s flimsy proposals different from Kennedy’s rhetorical posturing and Reagan’s genuine moral abhorrence. This time all the major nuclear powers know they are naked (and squandered national treasure). Check out a fairly reasonable Brookings estimate on how much the French spent on viagra fielding their force de frappe on the Plateau d’Albion, etc. (Brookings does not mention the costs we incurred giving the French whats is called ‘negative guidance’ when their firecrackers wouldn’t go bang – or the gastric distress they suffered having to need it from us).

    http://www.brookings.edu/projects/archive/nucweapons/appendixd.aspx

    Sorenson really misleads with “Kennedy-Obama”. Arnold gave an interview years ago. He described what it was like after he married into the Kennedy clan. He lost interest in attending clan get togethers. He said sure, being married to a Kennedy was a dream come true for an Austrian boy. But Arnold said he was still hungry for life, he wanted to move forward, and be in his word bigger than what he saw there. He said he saw a group of people marking time, lost in nostalgia. Seeing Sorenson grasp at Obama’s coat tails like this just confirms it for us.

  4. Anon says

    a reminder that his Cassandra-like prediction has already viciously come to pass in at least one poor country

    Oh more than one, sadly. North Korea has been doing it to this day.

  5. inquire says

    A stunning link, information that should be well known by all as a primer for the terror of the 20th century. One remark to bring it to relevance to the 21st.

    They did so in ways that seem appalling and obscene to us today, but which were sufficiently plausible to motivate large numbers of believers at the time. Food is no longer scarce, at least in the West; but other resources are, or will be soon. In the twenty-first century, we will face shortages of potable water, clean air, and affordable energy. Climate change may bring a renewed threat of hunger.

    If there is a general political lesson of the history of mass killing, it is the need to be wary of what might be called privileged development: attempts by states to realize a form of economic expansion that designates victims, that motivates prosperity by mortality. The possibility cannot be excluded that the murder of one group can benefit another, or at least can be seen to do so. That is a version of politics that Europe has in fact witnessed and may witness again. The only sufficient answer is an ethical commitment to the individual, such that the individual counts in life rather than in death, and schemes of this sort become unthinkable.

    One could say that Snyder is addressing Europe, however, it is written in the NYRB. In light of these two paragraphs, and recent history, how could he possibly ignore the million+ Iraqis who were in the way of they oil fields they happened to live on and were required to eliminated over the past ~20 years. Even if the central motivation is admitted not to be about oil for the Bush-Clinton-Bush policy in Iraq, “the possibility cannot be excluded that the murder of one group can benefit another, or at least can be seen to do so.” Just as the Poland/Ukraine policy of Stalin/Hitler was but an off-shoot of the ideological core, the consequences are the same – state killing on a large scale in a contents over resources.

    Snyder’s very appropriate warning rings hollow if one is to ignore the suffering of the Iraqis particularly since the entire thrust of his essay is to adjust memory to align with history. There is, of course, no comparison in scale between B-C-B in Iraq and H-S in Poland or the Ukraine, but the overall point, and the glaring omission, I think stands. If it is not stated by the author, it bears his readers to make a reminder that his Cassandra-like prediction has already viciously come to pass in at least one poor country.

  6. Anon says

    When you are fighting against a regime that can mass murder 10-20 million people, is hard to not think “anything goes” in your efforts to stop it. Yet not even Nixon tried to legalize torture to fight them.

    How ironic that Warlord’s US would blatantly throw away Geneva and HR for just a drop in the bucket, compared to the ocean of deaths from Stalin and Mao.

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