The arguments by Srdja Trifkovic against the addition of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to NATO (Cultural Revolutions, August) are reminiscent of my variation of an old Noel Coward ditty: “Don’t let’s be beastly to the Russians / For you can’t deprive a gangster of his gun. / Though they’ve been a little nasty to the Czechs and Poles and such. / (But I don’t suppose those people really mind it very much.)”

The fact is that those people do mind it very much. Before the Bolshevik gangsters, there were the Romanov gangsters, and if the commissars of Sovietdom were murdering swine, so were the ministers of the czars. Poland, in particular, was occupied for nearly 200 years by the Russians; and any Polish historian will tell you that Reds and Whites were both enslaving sadists of the first magnitude. How, we must ask Trifkovic, did it happen that Russia was the place where the Bolsheviks got to power by indigenous forces? Would he claim, à la the Black Hundred enthusiasts of Pamyat, that it was all due to some “Jewish conspiracy”?

The fact is that Russia was and is an ideal place for totalitarian rule. Trifkovic glories in the wonders of Russian Orthodoxy. Tell that to someone who is ignorant of its history. Russian Orthodoxy is one part Constantinople and two parts Karakorum. The Patriarch of Moscow, Aleksey II, for some years was a ranking member of the KCB, and his predecessors in the czarist years cheerfully applauded genocide in the Caucasus and in Central Asia, pogroms of Jews and Poles, and bloody imperial expansion everywhere. Recently, the Duma has excluded both Catholicism and Protestantism from acceptable religions in the new Russia (in the interests of multiculturalism, they permit not only Russian Orthodoxy but Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism). Yes, there needs to be a cordon sanitaire around Russia. Only in this way will the Russian people have a chance to look inward, see what it is that has enslaved them until now, and decide whether they arc willing to take a chance on freedom.

In the United States, we have bridges. cities, and counties named after Kossuth, Pulaski, and Kosciuszko. I am unaware of anybody here wanting to name something after Suvorov, Romanov, or Tukhachevsky. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have been part of the West for 1,000 years. If they were relegated to Russian occupation for 45 years following World War II, that only intensified the wishes of the people from these countries to be recognized as what they have always been: the guardians of the eastern borders of the West. Those who would deny them their place in NATO simply because it is feared that the Russian bear might be offended are more than a little bit despicable. By taking the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians into NATO, we redeem the honor that Russophilie appeasers besmirched at Yalta.

There is this curious thing we have in the West, Mr. Trifkovic, called honor. Deal with it.

        —James R. Thompson
Professor, Rice University
Houston, TX

Dr. Trifkovic Replies:

Professor Thompson does not disclose his academic specialty, but let us hope it is not history, lest his students remain in the dark as to how “Russia was the place where the Bolsheviks got to power by indigenous forces.” They would not be told that Marxism itself was a Western import into Russia’s body-politic, and that it would not have “got to power” without the aid of non-indigenous forces such as the Kaiser’s government, the bayonets of several hundred thousand freed German and Austrian POWs, and the propaganda and monetary contributions of “progressives” the world over.

Professor Thompson’s students should be intrigued by his claim that Russia occupied Poland “for nearly 200 years.” In fact, Russia acquired majority Polish territories only at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, barely 100 years before Poland’s rebirth as a sovereign state in 1918. Russia’s previous annexations had consisted of lands inhabited overwhelmingly by Orthodox Byelorussians, Ukrainians, and Great Russians, which had been conquered by the Poles before 1772, During the previous three centuries, these people had experienced at the hands of the Poles—supposedly members of a “higher” Western civilization—a degree of oppression that exceeded anything with which the pre-Soviet Russian state can be charged. This oppression continued unabated under Pilsudski and his successors in this century, fatally undermining Poland’s moral standing and survivability in the run-up to the tragedy of September 1939.

For at least the last half-century of its existence, that Russian-ruled Kingdom of Poland—not sovereign, but autonomous, with its own governmental system and army—was short on freedoms but long on liberty. Pre-1914 Warsaw was a true hotbed of intellectual and artistic creativity. Yes, it was under those czarist “murdering swine” and “enslaving sadists of the first magnitude” that Europe witnessed the flowering of a vibrant Polish national culture epitomized in Sienkiewicz, Prus, and Orzeszkowa, and their modernistic offspring of the Young Poland movement. (As for bloodshed, fewer people were executed for crimes in the Kingdom of Poland between 1867 and 1914 than in those Polish lands ruled by the presumably benevolent Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns during that same period.)

Let us also hope that Professor Thompson does not teach religion. Anyone who thinks “Russian Orthodoxy is one part Constantinople and two parts Karakorum” evidently has no notion of what Orthodox Christianity—whether Russian, Greek, Serbian, Romanian, or, for that matter, American—actually is. If the professor is even remotely interested in understanding Orthodoxy, perhaps he should visit us here at Rose Hill College m Aiken, South Carolina.

Six millennia of civilization have produced three supremely great literatures: Greek, English, and Russian. Trying to exclude the culture which produced the last one from the common legacy of Euro-Christian civilization is as futile as it is ludicrous. The Russians know the darker side of humanity, but they also understand the extraordinary capacity of the human soul for sacrifice and love, and they possess the ability to accept both sides of man with greater equanimity than many Westerners. They still value humility over pride, and approach God in a spirit of meekness. They gave depth and feeling to formal movements initially intended only for the aristocracy of Europe, and turned ballet into an uplifting and popular art. Their music still stirs hearts all over the world. These manifestations of beauty, which Russia produced so brilliandy, are perhaps what we need to rediscover now, to offset the coldness and impersonality of a brazenly materialistic, secular modern world.

Finally, I am thankful to Professor Thompson for the timely reminder that “there is this curious thing we have in the West . . . called honor.” We Orthodox Christians need to be reminded, indeed, because “this curious thing” has been too frequently absent from Western attitudes to us for centuries now. The Crusaders’ sack of Orthodox Constantinople in 1204, in lieu of the liberation of Jerusalem, opened the floodgates to the Turk. Before the first Cossack rode into the Mazowian plain, we saw two truly murderous and ruinous “Western” conquests of Moscow (by the Poles in 1612 and Napoleon exactly two centuries later). When we are subjected to real genocide —as the Serbs were at the hands of Croatian Ustashi between 1941 and 1945—insult is added to injury by retrospectively turning victims into culprits. As for those “Russophilic appeasers” of Yalta, were they not the ones who signed the death warrant for millions of Russian POWs and anticommunists, by having them forcibly repatriated to Stalin’s firing squads and the Gulag?

Amid the unprecedented collapse of Christian civilization all over the “Western” world, to Professor Thompson and his ilk, the enemy is still in the East. The Serb yesterday, the Russian today. . . . and the Greek had better take notice, lest the Turk be unleashed once again. This dishonorable strain of Western tradition barkens back to the later Middle Ages, when “Byzantine” became equated with duplicity and perfidy. Gibbon extended the meaning to all of Slavic orthodoxy, while in this century Toynbee espoused the infamous “fossil thesis” which held that the Byzantine Empire, and by extension those peoples who received their formal culture from it—i.e., the rest of us honorless Orthodox Christians—were simply inferior to the West. It lacked Nordic blood, you see, so Byzantium could not effect the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages to modernity. Besides, Byzantinism leads to autocracy, which in turn leads to communism—so it’s genetic, too!

The irony is that for all this bombast about Homo byzantinus and his politics, the United States has become the chief practitioner of “Byzantine” politics, at home and abroad. But Thompson et al., are not content with the moral, spiritual, and demographic wasteland of what used to be Christendom. To the infinite delight of a newly resurgent Islam at our gate, they are plotting new cordons sanitaires against an enfeebled Russia, which can only lead to the final showdown, the completion of the suicide of our race, our culture, and our common Christian civilization, which was initiated in 1789 and began in earnest in 1914.