- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

Solzhenitsyn's unfortunate flaw imperialism

I agree with much of what Semyon Reznik has to say about Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his book review "Russian icon through Western lens" (Books, Sept. 23). Mr. Solzhenitsyn's view of Russia is that of an imperialist for whom the idea of national sovereignty is an empty word when it does not refer to the Russians.

Mr. Solzhenitsyn's worshipful attitude toward Pyotr Stolypin in "The Red Wheel" is accompanied by a hostile and patronizing attitude toward his assassin, "Mordka" Bogrov, a point that Mr. Reznik rightly emphasizes. I could add that Stolypin displayed similar hostility toward other nations that had been conquered by czarist Russia and forcibly incorporated into the Russian empire. (I discussed this in "Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism," Greenwood, 2000).

Indeed, Mr. Solzhenitsyn's early writings, especially "The Gulag Archipelago," deserve respect and admiration. But as Mr. Reznik rightly notes, "The Red Wheel" and other works written in exile view the history of Russia in a way that can be described as an unreconstructed imperial perspective.

Mr. Solzhenitsyn has never acknowledged that the extreme chauvinism and imperialism of czarist Russia were partly responsible for the October Revolution. Stolypin was not only an enemy of Jews, but also of other non-Eastern Orthodox peoples and nations, primarily of Roman Catholics (Poles and Lithuanians) and Greek Catholics (Ukrainians and Belarusians). His policy was to suppress anything that was not "Russian" (i.e., did not have Russian as a mother tongue and did not profess Eastern Orthodoxy as the faith of choice).

I find it sad indeed that so great a figure as Mr. Solzhenitsyn has never come to terms with his country's imperialistic past and present. (Consider the Chechens, who have been driven to desperation by the Russian army's barbarism in their republic). I find it even sadder that the American biographers of Mr. Solzhenitsyn have been so meekly following the interpretations of Russian history provided by Russians, rather than seeing that country as a colonial empire unwilling to come to terms with its imperial desire for controlling militarily other people's lands.



Ewa M. Thompson is a professor of Slavic studies at Rice University in Houston and the editor of Sarmatian Review, a scholarly journal of the history, culture and society of Central and Eastern Europe.

Pakistan has little influence over Taliban

Letter writer Rajesh Raheja's use of the phrase "[Pakistans] baby the Taliban" betrays his morbid humor. He conveniently forgets to mention what his country India did in Sri Lanka in the early '80s ("Pakistan's monkey business with Taliban," Sept. 25). Its support of the Tamil minority was also "monkey business."

Pakistan, as recent events affirm, had only limited influence with the Taliban. Whatever little leverage Pakistan had on the Taliban was used to moderate the Taliban's conduct of their domestic policy. This was, however, to no avail, as Islamabad's advice against the demolition of Buddha statues or the labeling of Hindus with badges shows.

The Taliban proved to be fiercely independent-minded extremists, who are as much an anomaly to the Muslims as to the outsiders. They have been indiscriminate in threatening Muslims and non-Muslims alike. If the Taliban were Pakistan's baby, they would not have threatened Pakistan as they did recently, nor would Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf have agreed to assist the international community in the fight against terrorism.



Did an impostor write Geyer's column?

I've read Georgie Anne Geyer's column in the Commentary section for some time now. I consider it a "must read" whenever it appears, whatever the subject happens to be. In the absence of any other explanation, I can only assume that her Sept. 24 column was written by an impostor in order to embarrass and discredit her.

Did she really say that "'the adults' have now overnight taken over from 'the kids' in the [Bush] administration"? This, of course, is the all too appropriate phrase used to describe the evolution of the early Clinton administration. However, only one bent on building up the former president by tearing down his successor would apply it today.

Miss Geyer characterizes the administration's foreign policy up to Sept. 11 as childish and belittles the importance of missile defense. She claims that the administration has "sniffed at" the idea of good relations with foreign leaders, as if the well-being of mankind necessitates sipping tea with the sociocrats of Europe, while cultivating a partnership with President Vincente Fox of Mexico is a waste of time. She calls Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "mature" and the president "chastened" (read "immature").

Miss Geyer describes the president before the attack as "obsessed, to the exclusion of the big picture, with Social Security, lock boxes and guest-worker programs." This, of course, is what is known as "domestic policy." Miss Geyer is most interested in the world at large, but her characterization of missile defense, Social Security reform, fiscal policy, immigration reform and relations with Mexico as frivolous is beneath her.

Though the column was couched in praise for the president today, the vitriol on display in much of it was uncalled for and borderline bizarre. I'll stick with my phantom author theory until it is proven otherwise.



Banking industry supports executive order

Your coverage of the president's executive order freezing terrorist assets overlooked the U.S. banking industry's strong support for the effort ("Bush freezes financial assets of terrorists," Sept. 25).

In a statement released within hours of the president's announcement on Monday, the American Bankers Association said: "We will do everything we can to swiftly implement the executive order issued today requiring financial institutions to freeze and block the assets of persons who commit, threaten to commit or support terrorism."

Yet neither your front-page story nor a sidebar with a grossly misleading headline reflected this resolve. In fact, our call for greater international cooperation on terrorism and the freezing of financial assets was misinterpreted to somehow be a criticism of the president's plan.

I want to set the record straight. The banking industry is 100 percent behind the president. We are committed to helping make his plan work.


ABA Senior Counsel

Regulatory and Trust Affairs

American Bankers Association


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