From the Times: Shaw’s fascination with Stalin

12 Sep

“But underlying all of this, there was an even stronger impulse: the fantasy of Russia itself. Long before the Bolshevik Revolution gave the dream a very particular political content, Shaw was primed to expect a global spiritual resurrection that would begin in Russia. This hope was not as fanciful as it may now seem: In the late 19th century, when Shaw’s political and artistic consciousness was being formed, Russian music, drama and literature were at the leading edge of modern Western culture. [My emphasis.]  As he later wrote to Maxim Gorky, “I myself am as strongly susceptible as anyone to the fascination of the Russian character as expressed by its art and personally by its artists.”’

When you’ve understood the urgency with which a mediaeval theocracy at the edge of the world moved to center stage of European culture in little more than a century, you’ve understood most of what’s Russian: then and — maybe more importantly — now.

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