For the great and powerful Russian language, the language
of Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov?
Oh yes, after all it was none other than Pushkin
who wrote to Chaadaev
(and everyone reads this poem in school)
about the debris of despotism. We can recall
others of his sterling works as well, for instance,
the ode “Liberty“, or the last chapter of “Eugene Onegin”,
all sorts of stuff, where the sun of Russian poetry
speaks out unequivocally
on the subject of political freedoms and civil rights.
Lermontov, also in the purest Russian, bade farewell
to the land of slaves and masters, heading off
for active duty in the Caucasus. His bitterness- and
rage-filled lines on the death of Pushkin –– you remember, all of you,
of course you remember––make your heart and fists clench, as if
they were written only yesterday.
And Tolstoy, excommunicated from the Orthodox church, tearing
all and sundry masks from the ruling ideology,
Tolstoy –– mirror
of the 1905 revolution?
And Dostoevsky’s axe, thrown into circumterrestrial orbit,
that same one,
from “Brothers Karamazov” that maids in the deep frost
give their lads to kiss?
And Chekhov, Chekhov with his gallery of melancholics yearning
for a beautiful life
lovely depoliticised intelligentsia
toiling away or losing their minds?
You, looking into trips to Togo or Tunisia, Pakistan or Thailand,
reading in your spare time about the standard of living and civil
liberties in developed
capitalist countries and Third World countries,
feeling insulted for your nation, which gave this world
Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov,
have you ever
asked yourself what their heroes are doing?
What are they doing – those badly-paid country doctors
What are they doing – the convicts from Sakhalin Island?
What are they doing – the students in the brothel?
What are the ones attending them there doing?
What are the well-bred officers in “Three Sisters” doing?
Soon they’ll all be sent off to the front, to the imperialist
slaughterhouse, where they will die honourably for the tsar and the fatherland,
in other words,
for the sales outlet, the colony and other geopolitical
and financial interests,
and where they will undoubtedly be wanting
great powerful noble ––
though in part already grown common ––
Russian language, but also
the dry language of numbers.