What for?

by Andrea Elizabeth

The first chapter and 100 pages of The Gulag Archipelago identifies who was rounded up by the Soviets. Pretty much everyone. There was no way to please them except to become an informant. Better them than me? The victims didn’t feel that way. Better me than my family is how many of them signed coerced confessions. The scale of what happened is staggering, as I am one of the last to find out in detail. Here is what Metropolitan Philaret said last January on the second anniversary of his becoming Patriarch of Moscow about the present and the Orthodox who suffered and died under the Soviets.

Just as the Church opposed the atheism of the past and canonised the New Martyrs and Confessors who withstood torture and massacre, the Russian Orthodox Church has taken a clear stance against the tide of liberal secularism, sweeping in from the Western world and creating the ‘apocalyptic tension’ of which he spoke. Depravity leading to abortion, Alcoholism and mafiatype Corruption are the names of the three-headed demon haunting post-Soviet Russia. The Patriarch is clearly aware that the time we have is short and precious, having been bought for the Orthodox Evangelisation of the whole world by the sacrifices of the New Martyrs and Confessors.

… Who is rebuilding Russia? It is the Russian New Martyrs and Confessors who are rebuilding Russia by their prayers, for their prayers have at last been asked for and accepted on Earth. The glorification and canonisation of the New Martyrs and Confessors is a gift of God made through the Church for the spiritual enrichment of the whole Orthodox Church, of all the Orthodox Christian peoples. (Archpriest Andrew Phillips, Colchester, England. h/t fb friend. Rest of article here)


One more thing about the book. I am conscious of Solzhenitsyn’s desire to identify. He states that he is focusing mainly on the victim’s political identification such as what national or labor group they belonged to. He also identifies them by if they lived in the city or country, their family associations, and which neighbor turned them in. In the second chapter he identifies methods of torture. Throughout he seems keenly interested in identifying motivation. This was the only thing he could utter upon his own arrest. “What for?” This is a common question among victims of tragedy. “Why me?” Such circumstances can cause a person to dig really deep to find answers. So far his tone towards the perpetrators is mostly sarcastic – Of course! The people, he says, acted out of fear. The operatives out of greed. He is also incredulous that the glorious leader had such poor judgment and that many seemed to actually respect him.

What is this blinding charisma that these leaders have? Bravado is attractive to many. They want a strong leader, even if it comes with abuse. Why does it seem that so often the choice is between strong and mean or weak and good? We must not know goodness.