Never Compromise

In his work of historical fiction on Russian politics during World War I, Solzhenitsyn portrays Andrei Ivanovich Shingarev–a leader of the reformist Constitutional Democratic party–as agonizing:

Власть ли очнётся?….Это поразительное непонимание безпощадного хода истории! Что уступить всё равно придётся, так лучше же вовремя, лучше же мягче? — нет! Ни вершка не уступят, пока их не разнесёт! Не призна˛т, что лестницы прогресса никому не миновать! И теми же ступенями, изжитыми на Западе, поплетёмся и мы, всё равно. [Октябрь Шестнадцатого 276 on

If only the regime would come to its senses!….It’s astounding, this inability to understand the relentless march of history! To see that if you’ve got to give way in the end, it’s best to do it in good time, while the going’s good. No, they’ll wait till they’re smashed to smithereens before they give an inch. They just don’t recognize that there’s no avoiding the ladder of progress. Like it or not, we shall have to struggle up the same steps that the West has left behind it. [Willets, tr., November 1916, 283.]

His colleague Minervin explains, in Solzhenitsyn’s portrayal:

С исторической необходимостью торговаться опасно: чем дальше, тем меньше она уступает! И кто не хочет читать Книгу Судеб в её естественном порядке, тот дорого заплатит за последние страницы, за страницы развязки!! [277.]

It is dangerous to haggle with historical necessity: the longer you carry on, the more stubborn it becomes. Whoever refuses to read the Book of the Fates in the proper order will pay dearly for the last pages, for the denouement!! [284.]

Barely a year later, the Tsarist regime would of course pay the price of refusing to “understand the relentless march of history,” Shingarev would become a victim of the Bolshevik revolution, and the Russian people would be bloodied by its struggle up “the ladder of progress.”


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