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Saturday, February 7th, 2004, 07:28 PM
"Russia is sublime -- a universal, ordered chaos." — Dostoevsky in 1871

"The primeval tomtom still beats while the atom bomb ticks. Russia is straddling the centuries, in victory more than ever pounding backward to Peter the Great and racing to overtake Henry Ford . . . before she has caught up with Thomas Jefferson." — Anne O'Hare McCormick

"There are no experts on Russia — only varying degrees of ignorance." -- Paul Winterton

"Moscow: those syllables can start
A tumult in the Russian heart." — Alexandr Pushkin

"No one can love or understand the Russian people who does not love orthodoxy." — Dostoevsky

"We are dealing with people who are unpredictable and, at times, they are just practically inexplicable, so far as we are concerned." — Dwight D. Eisenhower.

"They [the Russians] came to the court balls dropping pearls and vermin." — Thomas Macaulay, History of England

". . . A night in Russia,
When nights are longest there." — Measure for Measure, II, i

"Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
who rules the World-Island commands the world." — Sir Halford Mackinder

"Russia is not a State, but a World." — Czarist Proverb

"Russia -- a freak of nature . . ." — Dostoevsky

"An adversary in good faith is inconceivable to the Russian Communist." — Ignazio Silone

"There are at the present time two great nations in the world, which started from different points, but tend toward the same end. I allude to the Russians and the Americans. . . . Each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe." — Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835

"The Soviet Union has changed the entire mentality of the Russian people in a single generation, an accomplishment . . . without parallel in history." — Dorothy Thompson

"Russia . . . an alien planet." — Leslie C. Stevens

"The Russian soldier is perhaps the most faithful modern parallel to the Spartan. He would let the wolf tear at his vitals without uttering a groan." — Lord Curzon in 1889

"Scratch a Russian and you get a Tatar; scratch a Tatar and you get — a Tatar." -- Old Proverb

"The conquest of Central Asia is a conquest of Orientals by Orientals." — Lord Curzon in 1889

"I like the Russian people, but I abhor the Russian system of government and I cannot trust the word of those at the head." — Theodore Roosevelt in 1905

"Russia is always defeated, but never beaten." — Czarist Proverb

"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." — Winston Churchill

"I’d say the Soviet Union was one of the most disgusting and awful things that was ever created, certainly this century. And its death was one of the most wonderful things that has happened." — Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonian Foreign Minister 1998

"The great mass of ordinary Russians have a deep yearning for stability and order....this at present outweighs even the desire for social justice, let alone wounded nationalism and hopes for the restoration of the Soviet Union. This is a tired, depressed and apathetic people, not one yearning for great deeds of revolutionary conquest." — Anatol Lieven, Freedom and Anarchy, CITY PAPER No. 29 July/August 1997

"Russia is like a dinosaur. A lot of time is needed for change to reach the tail from the head." — Alexandr Lebed in 1995

"It’s incredible that people could behave in ways so blatantly self-destructive, but the Russians have so little to believe in that those credulous souls who must believe in something are believing eighteen lethal things before breakfast." — Bruce Sterling, Wired

"Don't you forget what's divine in the Russian soul — and that's resignation." — Joseph Conrad (1857–1924), Polish-born English novelist

"But these Russians are too romantic—too exaltιs; they give way to a morbid love of martyrdom; they think they can do no good to mankind unless they are uncomfortable." — H. Seton Merriman (1862–1903), English novelist

"There is no man who desires as passionately as a Russian. If we could imprison a Russian desire beneath a fortress, that fortress would explode." — Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821), French diplomat, philosopher

"I suddenly realized that the devout Russian people no longer needed priests to pray them into heaven. On earth they were building a kingdom more bright than any heaven had to offer, and for which it was a glory to die." — John Reed (1887–1920), U.S. journalist, author. Ten Days That Shook the World, ch. 10 (1926), on the mass burial of five hundred soldiers and workers in Red Square, Nov. 1917

"In Russia, people suffer from the stillness of time." — Tatyana Tolstaya (b. 1951), Russian author

"One question that people always ask at home is never asked here: "What happened to Communism in Russia?" Everybody yawns when a visitor brings it up, because the answer is so obvious to every Russian. The answer is that there never was Communism in Russia; there were only communists." — Arthur Koestler (1905–83), Hungarian-born British author. The Trail of the Dinosaur, pt. 2, "The Shadow of a Tree" (1955; first published 1953)

"Let it be clearly understood that the Russian is a delightful person till he tucks in his shirt. As an Oriental he is charming. It is only when he insists on being treated as the most easterly of western peoples instead of the most westerly of easterns that he becomes a racial anomaly extremely difficult to handle." — Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), British author, poet. Life's Handicap, "The Man Who Was" (1891)

"The so-called new Russian man is characterized mainly by his complete exhaustion. You may find yourself wondering if he has the strength to enjoy his new-found freedom. He is like a long-distance runner who, on reaching the finishing line, is incapable even of raising his hands in a gesture of victory." — Ryszard Kapuscinski (b. 1932), Polish journalist. Independent on Sunday (London, 27 Oct. 1991)

"I do not believe I am exaggerating in affirming that the empire of Russia is a country whose inhabitants are the most miserable on earth, because they suffer at one and the same time the evils of barbarism and of civilization." — Marquis de Custine (1790–1857), French traveler, author. Empire of the Czar: A Journey Through Eternal Russia, ch. 37 (1843; rev. 1989)

"Nothing is impossible in Russia but reform." — Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author

"In our country the lie has become not just a moral category but a pillar of the State." — Alexander Solzhenitsyn (b. 1918), Russian novelist

"As a result of half a century of Soviet rule people have been weaned from a belief in human kindness." — Svetlana Alliluevya (b. 1925), writer, daughter of Josef Stalin. Only One Year, "The Journey's End" (1969).

"For us, the best time is always yesterday." — Tatyana Tolstaya (b. 1951), Russian author. Independent (London, 31 May 1990), said of the Russians

"Nobody in the world knows what [vodka] is made out of, and the reason I tell you this is that the story of vodka is the story of Russia. Nobody knows what Russia is made of, or what it is liable to cause its inhabitants to do next." — Will Rogers, notes from Rogers' 1924 trip to Russia

"Russians can give you arms but only the United States can give you a solution." — Anwar Sadat

"It is a property of the Russian people to indulge in philosophy. ...[but] the fate of the philosopher in Russia is painful and tragic." — Nikolai Berdyaev, The Russian Idea

"You do not, I see, quite understand the Russian public. Its character is determined by the condition of Russian society, which contains, imrpisoned within it, fresh forces seething and bursting to break out; but crushed by heavy repression and unable to escape, they produce gloom, bitter depression, apathy. Only in literature, in spite of our Tartar censorship, there is still some life and forward movement. This is why the writer's calling enjoys such respect among us, why literary success is so easy here even when there is little talent. This is why, especially among us, universal attention is paid..to every manifestation of any so-called liberal trend, no matter how poor the writer's gifts...The public...sees in Russian writers its only leaders, defenders and saviors from dark autocracy, Orthodoxy and the national way of life..." — Vissarion Belinsky, Open letter to Gogol, 15 July 1847

"Nowhere else in the world is poetry accorded such religious reverence or the poet so celebrated as priest and oracle as in Russia. If ordinary people escape into alcoholism, intellectuals flee into books, especially poetry, finding there the spiritual compensation for the ennui of ordinary life. "We have no philosophers or political commentators in your sense, no folk singers with moral messages, and no religion for most people," Voznesensky observed to Ann and me one evening...."So there is a vacuum. People need something for their spirit, and they turn to poets. Some come for entertainment and others for religion or politics or philosophy. They expect all this from the poet. That's why he is so important in Russia. And he always has been, under czarism as well as Communism. For daring poetry- or daring art of any kind- teeters on the line of controntation between tyranny and talent, where censorship and creativity inevitably collide. People come to a poetry reading to see how far the poet dares defy the political laws of gravity and whether he will keep his balance on the high wire or lose it and suffer the consequences. This becomes a cat-and-mouse game between Authority and the intelligentsia, natual enemies through Russian history." — Hedrick Smith, The Russians

"My spirit will remain in Afghanistan, even though my soul will go to Allah. My last words to you, my son and successor, are: Never trust the Russians." — Abdur Rahman Khan, Amir of Afghanistan (1880-1901)