The Soviet Mind: Russian Culture Under Communism

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Brookings Institution Press, 2004 - Art - 242 pages
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Isaiah Berlin's response to the Soviet Union was central to his identity, both personally and intellectually. Born a Russian subject in Riga in 1909, he spoke Russian as a child and witnessed both revolutions in St. Petersburg in 1917, emigrating to the West in 1921. He first returned to Russia in 1945, when he met the writers Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak. These formative encounters helped shape his later work, especially his defense of political freedom and his studies of pre-Soviet Russian thinkers. Never before collected, Berlin's writings about the USSR include his accounts of his famous meetings with Russian writers shortly after the Second World War; the celebrated 1945 Foreign Office memorandum on the state of the arts under Stalin; his account of Stalin's manipulative 'artificial dialectic'; portraits of Osip Mandel ́shtam and Boris Pasternak; his survey of Soviet Russian culture written after a visit in 1956; a postscript stimulated by the events of 1989; and more. This collection includes essays that have never been published before, as well as works that are not widely known because they were published under pseudonyms to protect relatives living in Russia. The contents of this book were discussed at a seminar in Oxford in 2003, held under the auspices of the Brookings Institution. Berlin's editor, Henry Hardy, had prepared the essays for collective publication and here recounts their history. In his foreword, Brookings president Strobe Talbott, an expert on the Soviet Union, relates the essays to Berlin's other work. The Soviet Mind will assume its rightful place among Berlin's works and will prove invaluable for policymakers, students, and those interested in Russian politics, past, present and future.

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From inside the book

Contents

A Visit to Leningrad
28
A Great Russian Writer
41
Boris Pasternak
85
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Philosopher, political theorist, and essayist, Isaiah Berlin was born in 1909 to Russian-speaking Jewish parents in Latvia. Reared in Latvia and later in Russia, Berlin developed a strong Russian-Jewish identity, having witnessed both the Social-Democratic and the Bolshevik Revolutions. At the age of 12, Berlin moved with his family to England, where he attended prep school and then St. Paul's. In 1928, he went up as a scholar to Corpus Christi College in Oxford. After an unsuccessful attempt at the Manchester Guardian, Berlin was offered a position as lecturer in philosophy at New College. Almost immediately, he was elected to a fellowship at All Souls. During this time at All Souls, Berlin wrote his brilliant biographical study of Marx, titled Karl Marx: His Life and Environment (1939), for the Home University Library. Berlin continued to teach through early World War II, and was then sent to New York by the Ministry of Information, and subsequently to the Foreign Office in Washington, D.C. It was during these years that he drafted several fine works regarding the changing political mood of the United States, collected in Washington Despatches 1941-1945 (1981). By the end of the war, Berlin had shifted his focus from philosophy to the history of ideas, and in 1950 he returned to All Souls. In 1957, he was elected to the Chichele Chair of Social and Political Theory, delivering his influential and best-known inaugural lecture, Two Concepts of Liberty. Some of his works include Liberty, The Soviet Mind: Russian Culture under Communism, Flourishing: Selected Letters 1928 - 1946, Political Ideas in the Romantic Age: Their Rise and Influence on Modern Thought, and Unfinished Dialogue, Prometheus. Berlin died in Oxford on November 5, 1997.