Russian Peasants
Tolstoy idealized Russian peasants, who perhaps had their American counterpart in slaves and blacks after the civil war and before the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Russia and the South produced great writers, who came from the upper class, but who somehow drew from the strength of character of the serfs and slaves who surrounded them. Perhaps life is too easy in most of the world today to produce great literature.

We know more or less what has happened to blacks in America. For most of them life is much better, but for those who remain marginalized, they are much less connected to the upper classes than in the old days when blacks and whites lived together, if in different castes, as masters and servants. I don't know what has happened to Russian peasants. Did collective farms eliminate them during Communist rule? One of the simple qualities that made them strong was endurance. In one edition of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, he says of Dilsey the maid, "They endured." The Russians defeated Napoleon by enduring the brutal Russian winter.

Now, rather than facing threats from Western Europe, Russia is threatened from the south, in Chechnya, and the new Islam republics that used to be part of the Soviet Union. How important now is Orthodox Christianity? Probably not too important, but that was an important part of the old Russia.

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