Bearing Russia’s Burdens

Margaret Paxson in the Wilson Quarterly (via Arts & Letters Daily):

Can a nation look for grace? Can it assign a category of persons to bear the burden of its moral tribulations, to be its collective conscience and collective sacrifice, to be its source of spiritual transcendence? In the story that Russia tells about itself, the category of people known as the intelligentsia has borne much of that burden. Members of the intelligentsia have prodded and scolded the people, sought spiritual high ground through their knowledge, and endured the loneliness of sacrifice and struggle against the powers of the state. Pushkin and Dostoyevsky and Maya­kovski and Brodsky (scolds and prophets all) were part of the intelligentsia, but so too were thousands of other souls, more modest in their orations to the people, perhaps, but no less full of longing for knowledge and truth.

And now, in the rough-and-tumble of Russia’s transformation, what is to become of this intelligentsia, so weighed down by its historical role and by a sense of its moral mission?

More here.