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(20) Kyaneos

I watched a presentation by Count Nikolai Tolstoy about the Ukraine. Tolstoy is an amiable old duffer, being in his 90s, but he has probably been an old duffer all his life—not all old duffers are old. As such, he lives in another age—partly in the age of the Tsars, partly in the age of the Cold War. For Tolstoy, Putin’s Russia is just Communism continued—Putin is a thug. Tolstoy belongs to that Jünger-esque sensibility, a recognisable type, who used to be a lot more common, who say things like, “When the Germans arrived in the Ukraine they were welcomed as liberators—all those polite disciplined Christian officers, you know. That was before the thugs got there. I don’t know what people mean by ‘Nazi’ today, unless you espouse that ideology—of course, Hitler’s Germany was much less worse than the USSR; so long as you were not a Jew and kept your mouth shut you were okay. But Hitler and Stalin were the same type really—that’s why they got on so well.”

Tolstoy, who is related to “that” Tolstoy, basically lives in another age—as an émigré child he grew up in this parallel White Russian society that continued to think and act like it was 1884 well into the 1950s. This is charming—and Tolstoy produced a suitably archaic book about Merlin and his Hartsfell retreat; however, there is a kind of wilful unworldliness about men like Tolstoy. It is not the Cold War anymore—does he really think America is Christian? What values does he think are promoted in the West? It is still 1978 or 1884 for Tolstoy—the Americans are the best we have against the USSR.

There is a certain arrogance to men like Tolstoy, very similar to Vladimir Nabokov (whose father was a classical liberal politician just before the revolution)—they never introspect and ask, “Why did the revolution happen, anyway?” and they maintain their hauteur even in exile. This is delusion.


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