Writing history and the end of the Soviet era: the secret lives of Natan Eidel'man.
The article opens with an introduction to Eidel'man's life and work, followed by a brief analysis of his recently published diary, the document on which much of the subsequent discussion rests; an overview of Eidel'man's formation as a Soviet historian; a discussion of the problem of secrecy in Eidel'man's scholarship and in Soviet society after 1956; an exploration of Eidel'man's writing on political dissidence under the old regime and an analysis of the ways that his writing indirectly depicted Soviet-era dissent; a commentary on Eidel'man's ambiguous status as an assimilated Jew writing Russian history and on his sensitivity to renascent antisemitism in the Soviet Union; an analysis of various aspects of Eidel'man's role as public intellectual during the perestroika era; and a suggestion that Eidel'man's life and death strangely mirrored the history of the Soviet Union itself.
The article opens with an introduction to Eidel'man's life and work, followed by a brief analysis of his recently published diary, the document on which much of the subsequent discussion rests; an overview of Eidel'man's formation as a Soviet historian; a discussion of the problem of secrecy in Eidel'man's scholarship and in Soviet society after 1956; an exploration of Eidel'man's writing on political dissidence under the old regime and an analysis of the ways that his writing indirectly depicted Soviet-era dissent; a commentary on Eidel'man's ambiguous status as an assimilated Jew writing Russian history and on his sensitivity to renascent antisemitism in the Soviet Union; an analysis of various aspects of Eidel'man's role as public intellectual during the perestroika era; and a suggestion that Eidel'man's life and death strangely mirrored the history of the Soviet Union itself.
The article is based on two assumptions: first, that the careful reading of a scholar's diary and published work can provide insight into the political subtexts of that work; and second, that intellectual biography is one valid method among many others for understanding Soviet cultural and political history. In the present case, the biographical approach is the one best suited to analysis of certain elusive cultural phenomena: the fetishization of secrecy and concealment in Russian historical scholarship; the persistent yet often repressed longing of intellectuals to break selectively with Soviet codes of secrecy, to transgress ideologically enforced and culturally determined taboos affecting public life; and finally, the difficulties experienced by non-Russian intellectuals, especially Jews, in writing about imperial Russian history from a critical perspective.
A Scholar's Legacy
During the final quarter-century of Soviet power, Natan Iakovlevich Eidel'man occupied a unique position, at once enviable and perilous, in the turbulent world of the Moscow intelligentsia.
Eidel'man was a prolific historian of that period of the Russian empire between the early 18th and mid-19th centuries when political authority reposed as much in the collective will of the court and palace guard as it did in the august individuals occupying the throne. His classic biography of the Emperor Paul and his brilliant book on the Decembrist Lunin showed how brutal the era of palace coups could be. (1) He was also one of the leading Soviet experts on Alexander Herzen as revolutionary publicist. Three of his books explored Herzen's efforts through the Free Russian Press in London to print exposes of Russian social conditions and of the Romanov dynasty's seamy hidden history. (2)
Alongside his major achievements as a political historian, Eidel'man was an important scholar of Russian literary culture. He published a splendid facsimile edition of Prince Mikhail Shcherbatov's On the Destruction of Morals in Russia and Aleksandr Radishchev's Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, (3) an insightful meditation on Nikolai Karamzin as historian, and three volumes on Aleksandr Pushkin that rank--just below the books of Iurii Tynianov, Boris Tomashevskii, and Iurii Lotman--among the most erudite contributions to Pushkiniana of the 20th century. (5) Like Lotman, Eidel'man was interested in the place of Karamzin and Pushkin in the formation of Russian national literary culture and in the contributions made by various genres, especially history and poetry, to Russia's political culture. For him, as for Lotman, Pushkin was the Urheimat of the cultured citizen.
Although Eidel'man was a lover of historical and literary archives, especially of Pushkin House (Pushkinskii dom) in Leningrad and of the rich Decembrist collections in Irkutsk, he strove to reach a broader audience than that normally cultivated by professional historians or literaturovedy. His prose--peppered by references to familiar literature, especially by lines from favorite poets, punctuated by imaginative leaps in theme and chronology, characterized above all by a highly personal, informal, almost conversational tone of voice of the kind heard in Moscow kitchen talk--earned him a wide readership among the Soviet Union's large, variegated technical and service intelligentsia but also among factory workers. He energetically promoted his books, and himself, in public appearances, where, sizing up his listeners, he would tailor his remarks to the social configuration of the crowd and, as a matter of principle, would sometimes stay after his speech for as long as an hour to answer individual questions. Perhaps it should be no surprise that he experimented with popular history, writing books on three of his beloved heroes from the Decembrist movement: Sergei Murav'ev-Apostol, Vladimir Raevskii, and Ivan Pushchin. Each of these books carried the subtitle of povest', a term generally connoting a short fictional narrative. (6) For a time, friends in Moscow regarded his hautes popularisations as welcome, historically reliable alternatives to the sensationalized novels of Valentin Pikul'.
Finally, Eidel'man's fame as a scholar and creative writer prompted figures from the film industry and from television to seek his advice on historical themes. More than once, he submitted screenplays for production by the Soviet cinema or served as scholar-consultant to directors of television documentaries. His involvement in the visual mass media, not unlike that of composers such as Sergei Prokof'ev and Al'fred Schnittke, reflected its growing power in a cultural arena where the written word and classical music had formerly shared preeminence.
Eidel'man's prominence in the ideologically sensitive field of political history, his importance as an expert on Pushkin, and especially his visibility in Russian popular culture brought him a large reputation and not inconsiderable material rewards. With fame, however, came constant pressure to produce new books, to publish on an expanding range of subjects, to invent new devices to keep his audience's attention. Inevitably, he felt unwelcome political scrutiny from the watchdogs of the party establishment, from publishers, and from portions of the reading public itself. Like many other talented Soviet writers, he had internalized his profession's rules of self-expression, and therefore of self-censorship. He was a master at the art of the historical allusion (namek) to current Soviet conditions. Yet, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he experienced an acute inner tension between the truths he knew and those that he was permitted to express, so that in 1986 and 1987, he enthusiastically seized on Gorbachev's perestroika as an opportunity at long last to speak honestly. In those years, so pivotal to the Soviet Union's survival, he promoted roundtable seminars to discuss the "blank spots" of Soviet history, and he himself stirred up a political tempest over renascent antisemitism with a letter critical of the novelist Viktor Petrovich Astaf'ev's Russocentrism. In short, between the mid-1960s, when he arrived on the academic scene, and his death in 1989, Eidel'man's activities served as an indicator of the creative possibilities and limits of Soviet literary and popular culture.
Eidel'man's Diary and Its "Authorized" Interpretation
Eidel'man's life and career can now be studied in detail, based on the recent publication of his diaries by his second wife and widow, Iuliia Moiseevna Madora. (7) The original texts, according to Iuliia Madora, consist of seven large-format notebooks entitled Dnevniki but properly constituting something like "working notebooks," filled with the author's almost unreadable handwriting. The entries were jotted down "on the fly," with many words abbreviated and names generally indicated only by initials. (8) So far as one can tell, Eidel'man wrote the diary chiefly to construct a record of his thoughts and activities for his own future reference. It was a means of "taking stock" of his achievements during a given year and a reminder of tasks to be done. It was a place to ruminate briefly about his personal failures and to record his personal ambitions. Sometimes, he used it to project the themes of a book or essay. Perhaps inevitably under Soviet conditions, it was also a laconic chronicle of political events, of rumors circulating among intellectuals about politics, of anecdotes--things that it would have been convenient for a politically savvy intellectual to remember. There is no evidence that Eidel'man intended the diary for publication: particularly in the early years the entries are generally too concise, too elliptical, for others to decode without substantial help.
Although Iuliia Madora has provided selected entries for the years 19 0, 1955, 1956, and 1957, the diaries are not systematic until 1966 and even then the entries are somewhat irregular. Only from 1976 to 1989 do Eidel'man's comments begin to hint at the full range of his frenetic activity, and only then do the diaries become a more or less reliable monitor of the country's political and social situation as perceived by Eidel'man. Consequently, the editor has chosen to interject into the text her own gloss on events and, at times, to interpolate parallel entries from her own diary. She has estimated that, of the finished text (approximately 500 pages), roughly one-third consists of her commentaries, corrections, additions, and "clarifications." Friends to whom she showed the finished draft responded to it variously: some complained that her interpolations had no place in the text; others told her than her commentaries were "essential" and "organic" to Natan Iakovlevich's own diaries. (9) This reviewer's impressions are that many entries of Eidel'man's diaries would have remained forever inaccessible without Iuliia Madora's explanations, but that her commentaries are occasionally intrusive, argumentative, or biased to the point of being misleading. For better or worse, however, the Eidel'man of the diaries is Iuliia Madora's co-creation, her redaction of the man behind the cloud of words. She is to him, as Simone de Beauvoir was to Jean-Paul Sartre, intimate companion, apostle, literary champion, embalmer.
Eidel'man's Formation as a Historian
Natan Eidel'man was born in Moscow on 18 April 1930 and educated at Public School 71. He grew up in the book world of the Moscow intelligentsia, encouraged to advance himself by his doting mother Mariia Natanovna, a school teacher, and shown the way to advancement by his ruthlessly ambitious father, the journalist and theater critic Iakov Naumovich Eidel'man. Until 19 1, his childhood was happy. He took pride in his father, apparently unaware that Iakov Naumovich was deeply embroiled in the sanguinary literary politics of the purge era: in 1936, Iakov Naumovich publicly denounced Boris Pasternak for the ideological crime of "formalism."
The war disrupted the family's unity. After 22 June 1941, Iakov Naumovich volunteered to fight the Germans, sending wife and son to the countryside for shelter. He did not return home until late 1945, after having been transferred from the European to the Japanese front. Like so many other frontoviki, Iakov Naumovich returned from war a changed man: proud of his contributions to the Soviet cause but chastened by the horrors of battle. He put away his battle decorations, wearing them only on 9 May, a national holiday. Meanwhile, during the war Eidel'man fils kept thick notebooks in which he recorded the main battles on the eastern front as reported by Soviet newspapers. Memorizing the sketchy details of the conflict, Natan Iakovlevich showed the first signs of his emerging interest in history.
After the war the Eidel'mans returned to Moscow, where they enrolled Natan in Public School 110. There he met a set of remarkable young men, some of whom would become lifelong friends: the future actor and theater director Vladimir Levertov; the future mathematical physicist Voldemar Smilga; the future surgeon and writer Iulii Krelin; the future oceanographer Igor' Belousov; the future doctor of arts and screenwriter Iurii Khaniutin; and the future journalist Iurii Brazilskii. This variegated cohort came to constitute Natan's reference group, his "first audience." Iuliia Madora makes clear that Eidel'man's circle of friends was "an exclusively male company that did not recognize females as members." (10)
After graduating from high school in 1947, Natan Iakovlevich began to suffer from the political complications arising from the Zhdanovshchina and the "anti-cosmopolitan campaign." In spite of an excellent performance on his university admission examination, he was admitted to the Moscow University history faculty only on conditional terms, and then after a vigorous protest from his father. Then, in 1949, Iakov Naumovich was arrested "for spreading Zionist propaganda"--a standard pretext for detention of Russian Jewish intellectuals in that year. Iakov Naumovich's arrest might easily have led to Natan's expulsion from Moscow University, but the local party bureau decided it "had no desire to conduct a witch hunt [among students]." (11) Nevertheless, in spite of a very strong academic record and the moral support of the historian Petr Andreevich Zaionchkovskii, Natan Iakovlevich understood that, "as a non-party Jew with an arrested father," he had no realistic prospect for entering graduate school.
on graduating from university in 1952, Eidel'man looked for work as a high-school teacher. He found a job in a village not far from Moscow where the local school principal was willing to overlook his questionable dossier. Instrumental in his hiring was his uncle's inspired scheme of offering the school a much-needed ton of cement in return for Natan's employment. (12) The school principal predicted at the hiring interview that Natan would do no worse than the teacher he would be replacing: "I look at you and know you will drink with the students, only after lessons: your predecessor drank during lessons." (13) In the mid-1950s, Eidel'man transferred from the rural school to a job at Moscow Public School 93. His six years as a high-school teacher gave him an invaluable "feel" for the mentalities of his future reading public, including common people for whom education was more than a professional credential, for whom it was sometimes the sole reward in a difficult life. Apparently, Eidel'man was an inspiring teacher who dramatized his lessons by inventing fictional narratives about social life in other societies. In the 1960s, he collected these narratives and published them under a pseudonym. (14)
In spite of his father's arrest, before 1956 Eidel'man seemed untroubled about Soviet political realities. Iuliia Madora informs us that his acquaintances "quarreled constantly, but never about political issues, because we thought absolutely alike, in complete conformity to what was written in Pravda. Only the 'doctor's plot' introduced confusion into our thoughts ... but even this we did not discuss." (15) In 1956, however, we find Eidel'man "fed up" with his fellow intellectuals and celebrating Tolstoi's "devastating book" Resurrection precisely because it involved "tearing off all and every kind of mask(s)." (16) In March 1956, he described the 20th Party Congress, with its criticism of the Stalin "cult of personality," as a set of "the most enormous leaps forward in Russia's consciousness." He called an opponent of these exposes a "thick-headed Marxist," an indication that Eidel'man had now moved beyond his earlier uncritical conformity to the Stalinist outlook. In the diary he alluded to the political confusion surrounding the dissemination of Khrushchev's "secret speech" outside the party congress: at his high school teachers were warned by the local party committee not to discuss the speech, an order with which he privately disagreed. (17)
In the wake of the 20th Party Congress, a group of young academics led by Lev Krasnopevtsev, Boris Mikhailevskii, and Nikolai obushenkov organized a series of private discussions about "the essence of our [Soviet] system and society." These discussions had a crucial historical dimension. In March 1957, Krasnopevtsev prepared for the group's consideration an overview of late imperial history, entitled "Osnovnye momenty razvitiia russkogo revoliutsionnogo dvizheniia 1861-1905 gg." (Important Moments in the Development of the Russian Revolutionary Movement from 1861 to 1905), which suggested that both the autocracy and the revolutionary movement had fought to destroy liberal democratic Russia and concluded that between the autocratic and the red dictatorship there was little substantive difference. In June 1957, the Krasnopevtsev group wrote and distributed a pamphlet calling for a purge of the remaining Stalinists from the Communist Party and for the introduction in the Soviet Union of certain political rights--such as the right to a public trial, the right to strike, and workers' control within factories. In August 1957, Krasnopevtsev wrote a paper entitled "Krizis sotsializma" (The Crisis of Socialism), in which he praised the religious and ethical side of socialism as opposed to the materialistic, politically centralizing heritage of Marx and Lenin. Soon after the police discovered the June 1957 pamphlet they arrested the leaders of the Krasnopevtsev group. Soon thereafter, 11 promising young scholars went to prison and then to hard-labor camps for their involvement with the circle. (18)
In the initial phase of the Krasnopevtsev affair, Eidel'man had taken part in the group's discussions. Obushenkov later recalled: "Eidel'man entered our circle" in the spring of 1956, just after Khrushchev's "secret speech." (19) According to Iuliia Madora, Eidel'man had not actually been a member of the Krasnopevtsev circle but rather had "consulted [with members] on issues of illegal revolutionary technique"--a subject he had studied at university. (20) Nevertheless, from Iuliia Madora's commentary we know that Eidel'man's name surfaced repeatedly in police interrogations of the circle's arrested members, that his apartment was searched, and that he himself was detained for questioning. In the end, the police decided not to jail Eidel'man, probably because arrested members of the circle bravely refused to implicate him in their conspiracy and because he himself exhibited great presence of mind and self-control under questioning. Still, he lost his job as a high-school teacher. His future was in grave jeopardy.
Good fortune and the kindness of major scholars rescued Eidel'man from this misfortune. By and by, he found a modest job as assistant museum director in the former Novyi Ierusalim monastery complex, built by the 17th-century Patriarch Nikon in the small town of Istra near Moscow. Eidel'man's undergraduate mentor, Zaionchkovskii, urged him to use the museum library to study Herzen's Free Russian Press. In the museum's basement archives Eidel'man discovered two unpublished letters to Herzen from Iu. N. Golitsyn. He showed the letters to the distinguished literary critic Iulian Oksman, who was then gathering material for a volume of Literaturnoe nasledstvo to be devoted to Herzen. Oksman befriended Eidel'man, not only publishing the precious letters but introducing him to the senior historian Militsa Vasil'evna Nechkina.
In the early 1960s, Nechkina's collective at the Moscow branch of the Academy of Sciences Institute of History undertook publication of facsimile editions of Herzen's major journals: Kolokol (The Bell), Poliarnaia zvezda (Polar Star), and Istoricheskii sbornik (Historical Anthology). Nechkina asked Eidel'man to supply commentaries to various sections of these volumes. According to Eidel'man's friend and confidant Andrei Tartakovskii, in these publications and commentaries "were concentrated in embryonic form all Eidel'man's themes, subjects, and heroes; his entire historical-literary research program; all of Decembrism, Pushkinism, and the entire 18th century ... virtually everything that he did until the end of his life." (21)
It is worth noting that Eidel'man's simultaneous scholarly association with Zaionchkovskii and Nechkina was very unusual. The two senior scholars were bitter rivals: Zaionchkovskii regarded Nechkina as a supporter of a highly ideological brand of Soviet history that had sharply departed from the canons of classical imperial Russian historiography which Zaionchkovskii revered and with which he insisted his students identify themselves; for her part, Nechkina saw Zaionchkovskii as a mere faktolog and his "school" as a potentially worrisome "deviation" from sound Soviet scholarly traditions. That Eidel'man managed to bridge the gap between these scholars is testimony to his professional tact and proof that the murderous ideological wars that had riven the historical profession in the 1930s had yielded after 1956 to an unsteady detente. (22)
In any case, Eidel'man shrewdly parlayed his liaisons with Zaionchkovskii, Oksman, and Nechkina into admission to graduate school, where he wrote a candidate's dissertation on a "safe" topic, Herzen as publisher. In the relatively "liberal" intellectual climate connected with the 22nd Party Congress, he quickly transformed the dissertation into two short manuscripts and got them published. (23) By the age of 33, he had succeeded in rehabilitating his scholarly career.
Here it is crucial to notice the nuances of that rehabilitation. First, although he had not done prison time, he was still a person with an undesirable record: a Jew with an arrested father, a scholar known to have close connections to political criminals. Therefore, even though he could now publish in major journals and at academic presses, he could not secure a highly prized position as university teacher or researcher in the Academy of Sciences. Since "normal" channels of academic advancement would remain closed to him, he had little incentive to write a major historical monograph that would earn him the coveted rank of doktor istoricheskikh nauk.
Second, the closure to Eidel'man of official work venues led him to cultivate individual scholars in the disciplines that most interested him. Zaionchkovskii, with his growing "school" of imperial historians extending throughout central Russia, afforded Eidel'man contacts in and access to major archives and libraries. It did no harm that Eidel'man's first wife, Eleonora Aleksandrovna Pavliuchenko, had been one of Zaionchkovskii's first graduate students. Meanwhile, Nechkina gave Eidel'man a degree of protection and assistance so long as he confined himself to her favored themes--the history of the Decembrist movement, the poet Aleksandr Griboedov, the early socialists (Herzen and Ogarev), and the "revolutionary democrats" (Nikolai Chernyshevskii and the nihilists). Oksman offered entry into the refined world of the Soviet Pushkin experts; due to Oksman's offices, Eidel'man would in future work alongside the Pushkin textologist Tat'iana Tsiavlovskaia, one of the main authors of the Pushkin biographical chronicles. (24) In subsequent years, Eidel'man cultivated the Leningrad historian Vladislav Glinka, the director of the Russian section of the Hermitage Museum; he also befriended the playwright and screenwriter Sergei Ermolinskii. In the diary entry for 18 February 1983, Eidel'man claimed to have had "five fathers" (his biological father Iakov Naumovich, Oksman, Zaionchkovskii, Glinka, Ermolinskii) and "two mothers" (his biological mother, Mariia Natanovna, and Tsiavlovskaia). (25) In fact, if Eidel'man was emotionally close to these individuals, he bonded with many others as well. The list of his protectors and admirers in various fields could be extended almost indefinitely. (26) Partly out of his powerful inner need for approval and partly out of his objective realization that the widest possible connections were a professional necessity in his tenuous circumstances, Eidel'man turned networking, Soviet style, into an art form.
Third, Eidel'man's situation as a professionally credentialed but politically suspect scholar encumbered him with an almost impossible challenge. on the one hand, he would have to be ideologically prudent, for one slip of the pen could mean final banishment from scholarship. On the other hand, as a writer operating outside traditional professional collective structures and seeking to find his own untraditional audience, he would have to demonstrate both originality and some political daring. Eidel'man responded brilliantly to this challenge by employing subtle allusions to contemporary events in his historical writing and by dealing with powerfully resonant, recurrent themes in Russian culture. Throughout his life, but especially after his brush with the police in 1957, Eidel'man focused on secrecy, both public and private; on the government's treatment of dissenters; and on the phenomena of honesty and dishonesty in Russian civic life. To these themes we now turn.
Secrecy in Russian History and in Eidel'man's Personal Life
In one way or another, virtually every major work by Eidel'man treated the problem of secrecy. His first large monograph on Herzen began by observing that Herzen "was probably the most fortunate Russian writer of the past century, since for many years he wrote what he wanted, to the full measure of his talent and knowledge, knowing no other censor than his own judgment and lacking neither the means to survive nor an audience of good readers. Several generations of Russian writers have lacked that good fortune." (27) Yet Eidel'man immediately added that Herzen, with all his freedom from personal censorship, could not have made his distinctive contribution to Russian letters without piercing the imperial censorship apparatus at two points: within Russia, where he developed a network of secret correspondents who provided information about the government's forthcoming peasant policies and sent exposes revealing the hidden evils of serfdom; and outside Russia, where he established a clandestine network of travelers who smuggled copies of Poliarnia zvezda and Kolokol back into the empire. Indeed, Herzen's twilight battle with the regime to create a general climate of glasnost' was the real subject of Eidel'man's 1966 book, Tainye korrespondenty "Poliarnoi zvezdy" (Secret Correspondents of Polar Star). When he returned to Herzen in his 1973 book, Gertsen protiv samoderzhaviia (Herzen against the Autocracy), he explored Herzen's efforts to publicize secrets of the royal house, especially on the basis of sensational documentary sources like the Dolgorukii papers. In fact, Eidel'man's original title for the book was Sekretnaia dinastiia (Secret Dynasty), a title rejected by the chief editor of Mysl' Publishers. (28)
Much of the remarkable book on the Emperor Paul dealt with political conspiracy. Eidel'man observed that Paul's first two decades of life were littered with secrets of one sort or another: the future emperor's genealogy was uncertain because of rumors surrounding his paternity; the death by strangulation of his "father" Peter III in 1762 was a closely held secret; Catherine II's desire to rule by her own right rather than as regent of Paul was deliberately obscured until he reached his majority in 1772; and in 1773, during the Pugachev rebellion, Paul himself laid secret contingency plans to "escape" to Cossack country to join the rebels, if the political situation so warranted. (29) In the mid-1790s, as speculation swirled over the succession in the event of Catherine's death, two rival groups laid secret plans to bring their favored candidate to the throne; meanwhile, Catherine herself was rumored to have prepared a secret testament expressing her desire for her grandson Alexander to succeed to the throne. on her death in 1796, Paul's "party" seized power on his behalf, this act of conspiracy being necessary to secure what he regarded as his legitimate rights. As Eidel'man tartly put it: "In 1796, Paul did not acknowledge his own dismissal from power." (30) The entire second half of Eidel'man's book analyzed the conspiracy of March 1801 that resulted in Paul's murder and Alexander's installation as emperor.
Eidel'man's books on the Decembrists also dealt with secrecy: with the multiple conspiracies against Alexander I between 1816 and 1818; with the tsar's semi-secret half-wish to grant Russia a constitutional charter in 1818; with the actions of the Northern and Southern societies; and with the idiosyncratic ways in which the Decembrists combined secrecy and honesty. For example, he analyzed the "open secret" of Mikhail Lunin's expressed willingness in 1816 to abduct and kill the tsar as a function of Lunin's commitment to Roman Catholicism and of his chivalric passion for moral transparency. (31) At one point in the book Eidel'man defined the Union of welfare as a "semi-secret union, a conspiracy of the good." (32) Eidel'man's posthumously published anthology of articles on Russian politics, Iz potaennoi istorii Rossii XVIII-XIX vekov (From the Hidden History of Russia in the 18th and 19th Centuries), contained many meditations on the clandestine aspects of Decembrism: witness his short biographical sketch of Sergei Murav'ev-Apostol and his monographic article analyzing the government's investigative commission on the Decembrist affair--the so-called Imperial Committee on Criminally Seditious Societies (Vysochaishe utverzhdennyi komitet o zloumyshlennykh obshchestvakh). (33)
Eidel'man's diary casts light on three additional aspects of his fascination with secrecy: his interest in the grave of Alexander I; his desire to uncover the riddles of Stalinism; and his furtive private life. Concerning Alexander I, there circulated the legend that the tsar had not in fact died at Taganrog in 1825, that he had instead traveled the country incognito as the itinerant hermit-preacher Fedor Kuz'mich, and that therefore not the tsar's body but that of an imposter had been transported to Petersburg for burial in late 1825. Eidel'man had heard that, early in the Soviet era, party authorities in Petrograd had unsealed the tsar's grave in the Peter-Paul Fortress and perhaps had then moved the body to an undisclosed location. whenever Eidel'man visited Leningrad for an extended stay, he sought to unravel this double-mystery. Thus in 1974, we find him seeking secret entry into local party archives to find clues to the "real" grave of the tsar. (34) In 1977, he sought out the poet Nadezhda Pavlovich, who had thirdhand evidence of the grave's unsealing in 1921, apparently by officials "seeking valuables." (35) Later that same year, Eidel'man told the great historian of old Russia Dmitrii Likhachev that "everyone wants Alexander to have walked away [from Taganrog]." (36) In 1981, Eidel'man gathered further thirdhand testimony on the disinterment, this time from the journalists Eduard and Lidiia Grafov(a). (37) Eidel'man's dogged pursuit of this sensational story was a function of his burning curiosity about the unknown and of his interest in the historical milieu that had "devoured" Alexander I. (38) Perhaps it was also a vicarious means of dealing with the problem of death in a secular society where Orthodox Christian faith in the afterlife had been displaced by interest in the legendary posthumous careers of historical personages.
Eidel'man's diary is circumspect in speaking about Stalin, and yet there are a surprising number of passages in which he records anecdotes about the leader. In 1966, Eidel'man noted that Stalin had received from historians a commissioned report purporting to trace Peter the Great's origins from the Georgian royal house. (39) In 1970, Eidel'man recorded an "American version of the conspiracy against Lenin," in which Stalin played the lead role. (40) In 1971, via the graphic artist Boris Zhutovskii, he reported unfriendly encounters between Khrushchev and Stalin. 1 In May 1972, he noted Stalin's anger over the authorization without his approval of a film on the poet Zhukovskii. (42) In 1975, he recorded a story by Marshal Georgii Zhukov to the effect that Stalin wanted to lead the 1945 victory parade through Moscow on a white horse. (43) In 1980, he wrote down (inaccurately) an incident from Dmitrii Shostakovich's purported "memoirs" concerning Stalin's "gift" of 20,000 rubles to the pianist Mariia Iudina for her extraordinary recording of Mozart's 20th Piano Concerto. (44) In 1982, there followed a story about Stalin's gift of an automobile to Grigorii Speranskii, a physician who had treated Stalin's young daughter, Svetlana. (45) That same year, the diary carried a long entry on Stalin's preference for poison as a means to rid himself of opponents within the party. (46) Again in 1982, Eidel'man wrote anecdotes about Stalin's unpleasant habit of mocking other party officials at parade functions. (47) In 1983, Eidel'man noted that in 1922, Stalin had apparently removed words praising the Jews as a "gifted people" from an article by Lenin cited by Maksim Gor'kii. (48)
The pattern of these diary anecdotes about Stalin suggests that Eidel'man was struck by Stalin's vanity (the self-comparison to Peter the Great, the desire to ride a white horse at the 1945 victory parade), his ostentatious generosity (the gifts to Iudina and Speranskii), his tendency to mock political friends, his ruthlessness toward rivals, and his antisemitism. None of these traits distinguished Iosif Vissarionovich from his tsarist predecessors in power. Meanwhile, none of Eidel'man's diary entries between 1957 and 1986 hinted at Stalin's responsibility for the great purges of 193 -38, yet Eidel'man was clearly aware of Stalin's criminality and privately told Iuliia Madora that he wanted "to talk frankly about 1937 [in public]. I know much about which I'm silent." Eidel'man held his tongue "for his daughter's sake," but also for his own sake. (49) Thus the diary can be taken as a partial record of superficial "secrets" from the Stalin era that passed as conversational coin of the realm among Soviet intellectuals of the post-Stalin era. Even in a private diary a person like Eidel'man did not dare record the deeper, more unpleasant truths about Stalin.
The diary also shows that in his private life Eidel'man often preferred secrecy to transparency. There were certain painful episodes about which he was reluctant to speak. For example, as a literary critic he could not fail to be aware that in 1936 and 1937 his father had attacked Pasternak during the "anti-formalist campaign" in the writers Union. (50) Still, he did not speak of this embarrassing affair and did everything possible to protect his father's reputation, even after it became clear to him that in 1936 Pasternak, not Iakov Naumovich, was a truth-teller. On 27 February 1967, Natan Iakovlevich's diary discussed Pasternak's "naturalness" in 1937 in not denouncing Andre Gide as an "enemy" of socialism, and it also mentioned the dishonesty of those Soviet writers who had repudiated Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago in 1958. The same entry is silent about Iakov Naumovich's conduct in 1936-37. (51) Apparently, Eidel'man wanted to repress the consciousness of his father's culpability. When later we find Eidel'man quoting Pasternak's lines in his diary--"Silence, you are the best / Thing of all I've heard"--the words stand for us as ironic counterpoints to Eidel'man's own silence about a family secret. (52)
In the 1950s, Eidel'man had married Eleonora Pavliuchenko, and he remained married to her until his divorce in January 1985. From December 1970, however, he conducted an affair with Iuliia Madora, an affair that entailed setting up a separate residence in Moscow and traveling outside the city with his mistress, all the while deceiving his wife about the activity. (53) Eidel'man told Madora that he wished to maintain the fiction of his loveless marriage for his daughter Tamara's sake, (54) but to the reader of his diary it is obvious that he also sought excitement through deception. Still, many diary entries reveal that Eidel'man was tormented by his own dishonesty and secretiveness. Whenever he fought with Iuliia Madora or fell into depression over the dishonesty of his personal life, he turned for inspiration to volume 53 of the Academy edition of Lev Tolstoi's works. After reading Tolstoi's intimate diaries from the late 1890s, he found the determination to declare: "I cannot live in a lie, I am losing my identity." (55)
In his fascination with secrecy Eidel'man resembled many other Soviet citizens; and his attitude toward it was, also like theirs, wildly inconsistent. At times he accepted its necessity without cavil, and in his personal life he even seemed to prefer it to the pain of full self-disclosure; at other times he fought to unmask it, to get at the precious truths that such secrecy obscured. In his historical scholarship he revered truth-tellers and lionized those who had managed to tell embarrassing truths about the old regime. Not infrequently he embraced unlikely conspiracy theories as possible "hidden explanations" for difficult-to-fathom historical events. This inconsistency in thinking about secrecy is not surprising, for Soviet citizens had always lived in a culture full of taboos to which they had, willy-nilly, to accommodate themselves but which they often could not emotionally accept. Perhaps this inconsistency became more pronounced after Khrushchev's "secret speech," which partially tore the veil of secrecy protecting Stalin and the party inner circle, thus indirectly legitimizing private citizens' efforts to probe official political accounts in search of hidden verities. But the "secret speech" by no means brought an end to party secrecy or removed the legal prohibitions against unfettered public debate over the country's history. The paradoxical effect of the "secret speech" was to revalorize or even to fetishize secrecy, and so Eidel'man's behavior constituted a reliable indicator of a broad cultural-political phenomenon.
Dissent in Russian History and in Contemporary Soviet Life
Although the Soviet ruling elites rested their historical legitimacy on self-identification with the heroes of the Bolshevik Party who had helped engineer the October 1917 Revolution and, at a deeper level, on the logic of historical change with which the "vanguard of the proletariat" was deemed to have cooperated, they also sanctioned historical research into the less immediate, more chronologically distant origins of the revolution. The visible result, of course, was an enormous outpouring of scholarship on the precursors of and first participants in the Russian revolutionary movement--that is, on the history of Russian social thought and political activism from Radishchev on. To the degree that this research was regulated ideologically from above and / or that scholars voluntarily conformed to written and unwritten expectations governing their investigations, the effect of this scholarship was to create in the imperial period a longer, carefully domesticated, politically safe narrative justifying the October Revolution as the fervent wish of imperial Russia's most admirable, farsighted inhabitants. For talented scholars of social thought, however, the effort to understand the 18th and 19th centuries sometimes became an end in itself; and in a few cases involving the most outstanding scholars, the history of the empire became a refuge from the ideological poisons of the 20th century or, alternatively, the source of invidious comparisons with 20th-century developments and thus of an inchoate political dissidence. (56) In Eidel'man's case, study of the late 18th and early 19th centuries entailed intense encounters with dissidents of the imperial era and the construction, surely conscious, of parallels between their lives and the thought and phenomena of the Soviet era. In the intricate process of searching out historical analogies, of fabricating historical mirrors, Eidel'man sometimes seemed simultaneously to inhabit both past and present; on some occasions he clearly preferred the imperial to the Soviet era, but on others vice versa.
Virtually all Eidel'man's books commented on political opposition during the pre-emancipation period. Analysis of dissent was the primary purpose of his books on the Decembrists and Herzen. His biography of Paul I also examined political opposition, this time opposition situated in the court and imperial family itself. It is no exaggeration to say that Eidel'man sometimes seemed to describe the future Emperor Paul as a rebel against his despotic mother and her favorites. Each of the books encouraged readers to identify themselves with Eidel'man's dissident heroes: his narrative on the Decembrist Vladimir Raevskii began in the first person, with a conversation about Raevskii's impending arrest, to strengthen that identification; (57) the essay on Herzen and his "secret" correspondents imagined the young publicist as the embodiment of freedom campaigning against a conservative empire; the book on Paul treated the emperor sympathetically, as a man eager to break with corruption and bureaucratic routines for the sake of bettering the lives of a backward people. Here Eidel'man's tactic of using the past to comment on the present required little imagination from his readers. In other works, however, his methods were less obvious.
In his essay on Karamzin, Eidel'man emphasized the great historian's boldness in Zapiski o staroi i novoi Rossii (Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia), for there Karamzin broke a long-standing taboo by attacking Peter the Great's Secret Chancellery for making "torture and capital punishment serve as means for implementing our glorious political transformation." Eidel'man also noted in his discussion of Karamzin's Istoriia gosudarstva rossiiskogo (History of the Russian State) that the author, despite his praise of autocracy as a system of government necessary for Russia, had also underlined the importance of the ideal of liberty in Russian history. (58) Moreover, Eidel'man devoted a short chapter to Karamzin's portrait of Ivan Iv the Terrible (1533-84) as a warning against despotism. In his opinion, Karamzin was the first Russian historian to write candidly about Ivan the Terrible as a "torturer," and about his henchmen as "murderers." (59) His reference to those Soviet historians who had accused Karamzin of exaggerating the vices of Ivan Iv and of failing to note the comparable bloodshed by 16th-century western princes was a reminder of the early Soviet equation of Ivan the Terrible and Stalin. Elsewhere, in his book Pushkin i dekabristy (Pushkin and the Decembrists), Eidel'man supported the conjecture that, in early 1826, during the investigation of the Decembrists, Karamzin petitioned the government not to arrest Pushkin for the poems "Kinzhal" (The Dagger) and "Andre Chenier. ("60) Karamzin's attitude toward Pushkin's freethinking was expressed to friends in April 1826, when he described it as youthful "thoughtlessness" that would pass. (61) Under Eidel'man's gaze, therefore, Karamzin, usually dismissed as a staunch conservative, a fervent supporter of autocracy and of serfdom, became a highly placed semi-dissident, a partisan of freedom.
The Eidel'man diary helps us understand his admiration for Karamzin. On 5 June 1981, he exclaimed: "Enjoyment of the rarest kind from studying Karamzin: the course of his life, a vivid era, the moral context. For a long time I haven't enjoyed myself so much." Later that month, he noted: "A mass of splendid ideas, connected with Karamzin. I pass my life with Karamzin: endlessly instructive." (62) Apparently, Eidel'man discovered in Karamzin a moral exemplar for himself. This supposition is supported by Iuliia Madora's interpolated commentary: "Karamzin's personality exerted an extraordinary attraction on Natan. He found in Karamzin's life, actions, relations with others, with his wife, an inimitable model." (63) Incidentally, when the Karamzin essay appeared in print in 1983, it immediately fell under ideological attack--confirmation that Eidel'man's positive treatment of the "conservative" historian had touched a nerve. Eidel'man took solace from Karamzin's noble aphorism: "I have no time for critics." (64) when the criticism did not abate, Eidel'man wrote a letter of self-defense to General Secretary Iurii Andropov, in which he said testily that Karamzin's character and contribution to Russian culture "cannot be abolished by fiats from above." (65)
Eidel'man's descriptions of Pushkin as a political thinker were done with exceptional care. In his opinion, the young Pushkin was ideologically drawn to the radical Decembrists, but after the confinement in Mikhailovskoe, the poet had begun to distance himself from them. To be sure, Pushkin remained an opponent of arbitrary government and he continued to share the Decembrists' desire to abolish serfdom. But he could no longer contemplate revolutionary violence as a means to achieve those ends. His poem "Andre Chenier" was a meditation not on the need for regicide but on the dangers of Jacobinism--a repudiation of Pestel's republicanism. In Eidel'man's telling, Pushkin's famous conversation with Nicholas I on 8 September 1826 was the occasion when the poet expressed both appreciation for Nicholas's decision not to imprison him and open support for sweeping political reforms of the kind the "moderate" Decembrists had advocated. Later, in the fall of 1826, Pushkin even sent the tsar a secret memorandum spelling out the most needed reforms. (66) At this point in his life, Pushkin was a moderate liberal who fancied, however briefly, that he could count on the tsar's good will. Eidel'man showed that this momentary good will quickly dissipated under the influence of the poet's enemies, who falsely denounced him to the police. In reading Eidel'man's analysis of Pushkin, one is hard pressed to avoid the impression that Eidel'man was indirectly chronicling his own fate as a young historian, drawn to the Krasnopevtsev circle, recoiling from its radicalism, falling prey to "liberal illusions" about the Soviet regime.
This supposition of concealed identity between Pushkin and Eidel'man is strengthened by contemplating Eidel'man's plans for a "main book" to be modeled on Herzen's memoirs, a book that would perhaps have ended on 18 April 1930--Eidel'man's birthday and the day of Stalin's fateful telephone conversation with Mikhail Bulgakov. To understand the "mystical" link among Pushkin, Bulgakov, and Eidel'man, one has to recall several facts from Bulgakov's literary biography. (1) During Stalin's first years in power, Bulgakov's dramas were banned from the Soviet stage one after another, ending in March 1930 with the banning of his play Moliere. (2) On 28 March 1930, Bulgakov sent a letter to "The Government of the USSR," in which he confessed that the literary critics had been correct in accusing him of being a writer incapable of writing a "communist play." (3) In the same letter Bulgakov appealed to the government's "humanity" to allow him to "abandon" the USSR. (4) Bulgakov's appeal to the government was answered by Stalin personally on 18 April 1930, when the general secretary told Bulgakov that a Russian writer cannot live outside the motherland. Then Stalin arranged a job for Bulgakov as assistant director of the Moscow Arts Theater (MKhAT), the main dramatic theater in Moscow. (67) (5) A year later, Bulgakov wrote personally to Stalin, asking Stalin "to become my first reader"--a direct allusion to Nicholas I's comment to Pushkin on 8 September 1826, "I shall be your censor." (68) Eidel'man's interpretation of the Stalin-Bulgakov conversation as a mirror reflection of the Nicholas-Pushkin conversation a century earlier tells us not only that Eidel'man subscribed to an extreme version of the historical continuity thesis, but that he saw himself as an example of the archetypal artist in a tense but symbiotic relationship with power.
As a student of political opposition in Russia, Eidel'man was a connoisseur of political trials. In the book on Raevskii, he noted that the Decembrists' trial, for holding subversive opinions, was "neither the first nor the last" in Russia. He mentioned the trials of Maksim Grek, of Archpriest Avvakum and of Patriarch Nikon, of Peter's son Aleksei, of the magnates Artemii Volynskii and Burkhard Munnich, and of the rebel Pugachev. He knew that his readers would add to the list the purge trials of the 1930s, the Brodskii trial of 1964, the Siniavskii-Daniel trial of 1966, and many others. (69) He knew that such political trials were formal events, dramatic encounters between an all-powerful state and a lonely individual, in which the outcomes were arranged behind the scene by the political authorities. In Eidel'man's oeuvre the most remarkable depiction of such a contest may be found in part 2 of his Lunin biography, which recounted the questioning of Lunin by the police and the decision to sentence him made by the tsar's investigative commission. Eidel'man treated Lunin's interrogation as a cat-and-mouse game between police inspectors and their suspect, with the crucial evidence for the police being provided by Lunin's fellow defendants who, for various reasons, implicated him in their conspiracy and testified to his plotting against Emperor Alexander's life. As Eidel'man laid bare the logic of the government's investigation, he showed his readers how easily other Decembrists, by refusing to name fellow conspirators, might have thwarted the police. Behind this exposition one senses an effort by Eidel'man to tell future Soviet arrestees how to behave in police custody. The alert reader of Eidel'man's diary will see immediately that the narrative of Lunin's interrogation is also a vicarious replay of Eidel'man's own experience at police hands in 1957.
Eidel'man's analysis of Lunin's sentencing proceeded by showing how the panel of bureaucrats on the imperial investigating commission judged each defendant, from the "most responsible" to the least. At issue for the bureaucrats was more than the degree of each defendant's guilt: they also weighed their own political advantage in determining the sentences. Thus, Eidel'man suggested, the Decembrists' fate in the criminal justice system was a function of the relative "conservatism" or "liberalism" of each official on the sentencing commission, a measure of each official's bureaucratic cynicism or careerist ambitions. (70) while reading this exposition, an alert reader can hardly help thinking about the cynicism of Soviet tribunals. The Eidel'man diary shows that, as he gathered material for the Lunin book in 1967 and 1968, he was following the trials of dissidents in contemporary Moscow. He twice mentioned the Aleksandr Ginzburg trial, for example, and he noted the Soviet government's latest antidote for the bad publicity entailed by political trials--namely, the incarceration of dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. (71) Eidel'man's account of Lunin's judicial process was so transparently applicable to the Soviet system that Nechkina, using her authority as ideological enforcer, felt obliged to ask Eidel'man to cut the discussion of Lunin's trial from his book. Remarkably, Eidel'man rejected her request, telling her that he had accurately reported the facts of the case: "To write about [Lunin's] trial is just like underlining that Engels supported Marx's theory of surplus value or that Lenin married Krupskaia." Nechkina yielded to Eidel'man's judgment--an outcome that caused him to remark: "Militsa loved me, she loved me; otherwise, one word from her and she could have destroyed my book, but she chose not to." (72) on this occasion, Eidel'man was lucky.
For all his knowledge of and sympathy with the imperial Russian opposition movement, and in spite of his awareness of the Soviet human rights movement, Eidel'man did not consider himself a dissident. Early on, he admired the novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: in 1966, Eidel'man recorded in his diary the wish that the writers Union would support publication of Cancer Ward. (73) In 1967, he read a samizdat copy of The First Circle. (74) The diary provides no evidence, however, that Eidel'man ever considered speaking on Solzhenitsyn's behalf in the writers Union or in any other public venue. Eidel'man recorded Solzhenitsyn's 197 expulsion from the USSR without comment. (75) In 1977, he read Solzhenitsyn's fragment Lenin in Zurich, remarking that it was "not stupid" but that the most interesting section--the characterization of Lenin--was simply "a projection of the author's personality." (76) About the human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, Eidel'man had even less to say. On 30 December 1986, in a summary of the year's events he recorded Sakharov's release from exile in Gor'kii. His only comment was: "A feeling of change, of politics [in the air], of modernity." (77) There is no evidence from the diary that he linked Sakharov's return from Gor'kii with the return of the Decembrists from Siberia, an obvious comparison made in other quarters at the time. Eidel'man did not comment on Sakharov's renewed efforts for political change in the USSR, even though Eidel'man himself began to tell friends the country might experience "a revolution from above." (78) From outspoken dissidents like Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov, Eidel'man felt psychologically alien. When he learned that his own name had been printed in a samizdat "Dictionary of Dissidence," he snapped: "where is this coming from? what nonsense!" (79) Eidel'man felt closer to Iurii Liubimov, the famous theater director at the Taganka, to the poet and singer Bulat Okudzhava, and to other trendy but officially tolerated intellectuals than he did to committed dissidents. Indeed, well into the Gorbachev era Eidel'man could have been described by the Russian term poludissidentstvuiushchii--a nominalized adjective literally meaning "semi-dissident" but implying a lack of firm commitment even to modest political dissidence.
Eidel'man's Jewishness: The Dilemma of Assimilation
Under religious law and by notation on his Soviet passport, Eidel'man was Jewish. As we observed earlier, his father, Iakov Naumovich, had been arrested on the pretext of spreading Zionist propaganda, but the real offense was being a Jewish intellectual. Natan Iakovlevich himself had faced various professional impediments because of his Jewishness. Moreover, his reference group from high school was a set of mostly Jewish intellectuals. His longtime mistress and second wife, Iuliia Madora, was half-Jewish. In spite of these social markers of his Jewishness, however, Eidel'man seems to have identified himself first as a Soviet citizen and a Russian writer, only second as a Jew. In the diary he manifested little knowledge of religion or interest in Jewish traditions. He did not observe special days on the Jewish calendar. He did not try to give his father a traditional Jewish burial or say kaddish after Iakov Naumovich's death. His view of Judaism and other religions was negative. In the early 1970s, together with Marina Zaretskaia of the Detskaia literatura publishing house, he urged Iuliia Madora to write an anti-religious book for money. He even drew up "an impressive list of subjects" for the project. (80) when his father lay dying in 1978, Eidel'man wrote: "I do not believe in God, but I understand how it [faith] occurs." (81)
As a historian of the late 18th/ early 19th century, Eidel'man concentrated on the origins of Russian national consciousness and on the political opposition that sprang, in those days, almost exclusively from the Russian nobility. He made little effort to explore the history of national or religious minorities as reflected in intellectual history. Thus, if he did not actively avoid Jewish thinkers and themes, neither did he seek them out. In all these respects, he followed the pattern of countless assimilated Soviet Jews in the late Stalinist and post-Stalinist periods.
Nevertheless, the diary shows that Eidel'man manifested a selective curiosity about Jewish history and culture, and it demonstrates that he nursed a deep sensitivity to antisemitism. In July 1967, Eidel'man read the Israeli prosecutor Gideon Hausner's book on the 1961 trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. (82) He commented that the scene in the book where an SS death-camp guard ordered a Jewish mother to "select one" of her three children to avoid the gas chamber was "perhaps the most terrible story of World War II." (83) Eidel'man's comment must be weighed against the background of a mountain of Soviet books on Stalingrad, the Leningrad blockade, and other horrific events, events that he marked but did not consider so terrible as Hausner's tale. That same year, Eidel'man singled out for praise the writer Evgenii Dolmatovskii, who "alone did not sign the [collective] letter against the Jews" during the antisemitic craze of 1953. (84) In November 1967, Eidel'man faulted the head of the Glavlit censorship committee, Pavel Romanov, for eliminating Josephus Flavius's Jewish War from a list of historical documents proposed for publication. (85) In October 1976, Eidel'man and Iuliia Madora read aloud Thomas Mann's Joseph und Seine Bruder, a book about which he commented: "Delight, power, humor, his [Mann's] usual mystery ... My love for the Bible and for Egypt (for encountering those books that one must encounter)." (86) In November 1979, he took note of Solzhenitsyn's "growing antisemitism" and of the publication of the antisemite Vasilii Rozanov's Opavshie list'ia (Fallen Leaves). (87) In July 1980, he complained about a "storm of antisemitism" in the USSR, and noted rumors that the then village writer Viktor Petrovich Astaf'ev had asked correspondents in an interview, "Are there any kikes [zhidy] here?" (88) In 1981, when the literary critic Aleksandr Lebedev complained, "I didn't know [Iurii] Tynianov was a Jew," Eidel'man reacted tersely: "Akh, the same old story." (89) In 1982, when Nechkina fell ill and was sent to the Fedorov Eye Clinic, "She was taken for a Jew, to her horror," Eidel'man reported. He added sarcastically, "Apparently, antisemitism does exist in our country!" (90) In 1983, he made notes in the diary accusing Stalin and Khrushchev of antisemitism. (91) In 1985, he visited Babi Yar, the site outside Kiev where more than 30,000 Jews had been killed by Einsatzgruppen in September 1941. His comment: "A poor and vulgar monument." (92) Late the same year, he confided to the diary after hearing about an attack on Jews in a Moscow club, "In general, everywhere waves of antisemitism." (93)
Reading Eidel'man's diary and analyzing his exasperation over the failure of Soviet culture to accept Jews unreservedly, one involuntarily recalls Hannah Arendt's mordant observation: "In a society on the whole hostile to Jews ... it is possible to assimilate only by assimilating to antisemitism also.... If one really assimilates, taking all the consequences of denial of one's own origins and cutting oneself off from those who have not or have not yet done it, one becomes a scoundrel." (94)
Eidel'man as Public Intellectual: The Polemic with Astaf'ev over Antisemitism
Before the Gorbachev era, Eidel'man experienced an acute inner tension that grew out of his conflicting desires. Should he commit himself whole-heartedly to exposing secrets in his private life and in public life or should he uphold such secrets selectively, at the cost of dishonesty? Should he make clearer his admiration for the tsarist regime's political opponents and for semi-dissidents like Karamzin and Pushkin, making them explicit models for contemporary intellectuals, or should he continue to hide his inner convictions behind the masks of political loyalty and scholarly objectivity? Should he advertise his pride in being Jewish and publicly indicate his disapproval of antisemitism, or should he keep quiet, remembering the goal of assimilation under the banner of Soviet internationalism? Iuliia Madora tells us that such questions pressed on Eidel'man with greater force every year. She describes "Natan's oppressive feeling, growing stronger over time, that in him there lives an inner editor who will not permit him to write Russian history as he considers necessary, because he is a Jew and any ethnic Russian historian or reader might say: 'How dare that little Jew make such a judgment about our history!' This thought tormented Natan and hindered him in the writing of books." (95) Eidel'man himself formulated his inner division in 1978: "Duality, deception, ambivalence, nervousness, presentism--this is the form of existence of a historian committed to truth." (96)
So long as the party state maintained the old ideological discipline, so long as the regime continued to appear viable, Eidel'man listened to his "inner editor." But it was not easy to do so. In 1977, he darkly reflected on the "coefficient of falsehood" in the Soviet system. (97) In 1979, he confessed his own "moral inadequacy" and noted the "counterfeit quality, the proneness to criticism of our times, where everyone--even anointed masters--is second-rate." (98) By 1980, he felt "apocalyptic times in the air. A sensation of the late Roman end of time." (99)
In 1985 and early 1986, Eidel'man underwent a spiritual crisis of sorts. The diary offers a litany of events that fueled this crisis: the actor Mikhail Kozakov's public recital of Anna Akhmatova's Requiem in January 1985; (100) the exclusion of Eidel'man's (Jewish) friend, the scholar Sara Zhitomirskaia, from the Manuscript Division of the Lenin Library and her replacement by an ethnic Russian; (101) an emotional visit to Kiev and Babi Yar; (102) the publication of Anatolii Rybakov's novel Children of the Arbat; (103) a 1986 visit to Magadan and Kolyma, the sites of the most brutal Soviet labor camps. (104) The recital of Requiem and the publication of Children of the Arbat offered hope of political change; the words of Akhmatova and Rybakov, the visits to Babi Yar and Magadan, and the exclusion of Zhitomirskaia illustrated the cost of political stasis. Eidel'man came to feel that he and his country now stood at a crossroads. He told himself that even if he had not lied in his books, he had not told the whole truth: "I have been in hiding my entire life," he confessed. He was now "spoiling for a fight." (105)
In the last years of his life, Eidel'man undertook certain scholarly initiatives. He gave lectures and presided over a series of scholarly roundtables on "blank spots" in Soviet history. In November 1986, he spoke at the House of Film, where he compared ongoing changes of the Gorbachev era to changes launched by the 20th Party Congress; provocatively, he examined "zones of free thought and the elevated character of falsehood" in the two eras. (106) In January 1987, he chaired a roundtable on the tsarist prime minister Petr Stolypin, at which the party historian Vladlen Loginov appropriated Stolypin's approach to economic development as a potential model for the Soviet system. (107) In April 1987, Eidel'man chaired a second roundtable on the repressions of the 1930s. At this gathering the young archivist Dmitrii Iurasov revealed details of the arrest and execution of the theater director Vsevolod Meierkhol'd. Eidel'man noted that Meierkhol'd's arm had been broken and that he had been forced to drink lye before being shot in 1940. (108)
Another intellectual initiative was Eidel'man's 1986 polemic with the village prose writer Astaf'ev over Russian nationalism and antisemitism. Three factors prompted Eidel'man to initiate this debate. The first was his general concern about antisemitism in Soviet life and his personal frustration as a Jew in being unable to respond publicly to it. The second was the association of the village school of writers with antisemitism and with a nostalgic, ethnic Russian nationalism that made Eidel'man intensely uncomfortable. Although the village writers cannot be held solely responsible for the rise of Russian nationalism in the 1980s, several of the school's proponents--Astaf'ev, Vasilii Belov, and Valentin Rasputin--made public antisemitic remarks in the 1980s. (109) Astaf'ev's 1986 novel, Pechal'nyi detektiv (The Sad Detective), permitted a dialogue attacking "little Jews" (evreichata) for studying literature alongside Astaf'ev's ethnic Russian hero at a provincial school. (110) Astaf'ev's ethnic slur triggered protests from three literary critics other than Eidel'man, one of whom accused Astaf'ev of "homegrown chauvinism." (111) As we observed above, in 1980 Eidel'man had already remarked in his diary about Astaf'ev's antisemitism, so he had reasons for vigilance in reading Astaf'ev's prose.
The third factor behind Eidel'man's engagement in debate with Astaf'ev was the emergence, in the increasingly fluid context of the Gorbachev reforms, of the Russian question itself. In his 1981 novel, Ostrov Krym (The Island of Crimea), Vasilii Aksenov had already warned about growing Russian nationalism in the Soviet security services. By 1986-87, as the political commentator and scholar John Dunlop has shown, Soviet conservative elites, many of them clandestine Russian nationalists, felt that Gorbachev and his allies "had launched a sweeping preemptive strike directed largely against them." They responded with a militant assertion of conservative values, including the right to defend Russian values against "false democrats" and the concomitant right to raise the "Jewish question." The literary spearheads of the conservative reaction were the novelist Vasilii Belov and the poet Stanislav Kunaev. (112) The political leader of the reaction was Egor Ligachev, whose hostility toward Gorbachev and democratic perestroika led in 1988 to the notorious Nina Andreeva letter. (113) Thus in 1986, Eidel'man had good reasons to be alarmed by the conservative drift among certain groups in the Soviet establishment. His polemic with Astaf'ev was probably over-determined.
In August 1986, at his dacha outside Moscow, Eidel'man wrote a private letter of protest to Astaf'ev, taking him to task for a lack of sensitivity toward non-Russians and for his offensive portrayals of Georgians, of descendants of the Mongols (Kalmyks, Tatars, Buriats, Kazakhs), and of Jews. Astaf'ev responded by private letter, bluntly rejecting Eidel'man's criticisms and accusing him of sending a "dark letter filled to overflowing not only with hatred but with boiling fury of Jewish ultra-intellectual arrogance." On 28 September, Eidel'man sent Astaf'ev a second letter accusing him of "primitive beastly chauvinism" and "elementary ignorance." In December 1986, Eidel'man decided to make the epistolary exchange public. (114) It circulated in Moscow in samizdat form and was published in Paris in 1987 by Andrei Siniavskii's Sintaksis. (115) The polemic touched a nerve among Soviet publishers: the respected journal Novyi mir returned to Eidel'man an article already accepted for publication. The broader public was divided: one defender of Astaf'ev attacked Eidel'man for his "Zionism"; (116) meanwhile, Eidel'man's partisans suggested that Astaf'ev had concocted an "antisemitic, pathologically nasty letter." (117) Most painfully for Eidel'man, he was verbally accosted in February 1987 at a lecture in Pushkin House in Leningrad--an outburst that left him "in shock." (118)
Before leaving the Eidel'man-Astaf'ev polemic, we must analyze an important but misleading remark by Iuliia Madora to the effect that "Natan was least of all upset about the antisemitic theme in Astaf'ev; he was probably more offended for the Georgians and Armenians." (119) In the narrow sense, Madora was correct: Eidel'man devoted only one, 12-line paragraph of his four-page letter to Astaf'ev's comment in Sad Detective about "ten little Jews," and this toward the end of the letter. (120) It is also true that Eidel'man posed his criticism of Astaf'ev's antisemitism within a broader commentary on Astaf'ev's negative treatment of national minorities (inorodtsy) generally and of Astaf'ev's depiction of a Georgian character, Goga Gertsev, whom Astaf'ev had described as "worse than all drunkards and murderers taken together," in particular. (121) However, Astaf'ev's portrait of Goga Gertsev--as an arrogant merchant-entrepreneur who preyed on credulous Russians, as a penny-pincher at home but outside the family a big spender who whored after foreign goods, as a rich man among the poor--came very close to invoking the terms of common 19th-century antisemitic tracts. Eidel'man must have noted with alarm the resemblance in stereotypes, for it could have been no comfort to him to watch the demonization of Georgians as surrogates for the Jews.
Eidel'man cautioned Astaf'ev that great writers "accuse themselves, take guilt on themselves," rather than blaming others, and he quoted Pushkin's remark: "I naturally detest my country from head to toe, but it pains me if a foreigner shares my sentiment." (122) Behind this advice to Astaf'ev we see Eidel'man's anxiety, as a Jew, that writing about Russia critically might trigger ethnic defensiveness among the Russians and hostility toward the Russians' perceived "enemies." Thus, regardless of its external form as a general commentary on national prejudices, Eidel'man's first letter to Astaf'ev was conditioned from beginning to end both by his offended sensibilities and by his fears as a Jew.
When Astaf'ev accused Eidel'man of "Jewish ultra-intellectual arrogance," he twisted the knife by quoting Eidel'man's own reference to "several little kikes" (zhideniata) in a recent book. (Characteristically, Astaf'ev failed to note that Eidel'man's reference was a quotation from a 19th-century manuscript by P. V. Nashchokin; in addition, Astaf'ev misquoted the page number of the citation.) (123) Astaf'ev also remarked in the letter on a Jewish atheist, Iosif Kryvelev, whom he accused of "stealing a [Christian] family name," and on the "Zionist" Iakov Iurovskii, whom he accused "along with [other] Jews and Latvians" of killing Tsar Nicholas II. (124) At several points in the letter Astaf'ev referred to Christians' gospel duty to "forgive others," but the reader of the letter involuntarily wonders if Astaf'ev intended to imply that Jews, like Eidel'man, are unforgiving. In any event, Astaf'ev's clear intention was to group Eidel'man, whom he implied was a "self-hating Jew," with those self-hating atheistic Jews whom he thought had been Russia's mortal enemies.
Eidel'man's second letter, picking up Astaf'ev's talk about forgiveness and "Christian goodness," accused Astaf'ev of behaving "like a fervent old Testament Jew demanding 'an eye for an eye.'" (125) By the end of the second letter, therefore, Eidel'man had allowed even the form of his rebuke to Astaf'ev to center on Christian-Jewish hostilities. Normally a rhetorical master who prized his self-possession, Eidel'man in this case had responded in the vocabulary of his adversary.
Although Iuliia Madora compared Eidel'man 's first letter to Astaf'ev with Vissarion Belinskii's famous 1847 letter to Nikolai Gogol', (126) the evidence does not sustain that lofty comparison. The Eidel'man--Astaf'ev letters were less about the sovereign duties of Russian writers and more about the personal and social angst occasioned by the Soviet Union's ongoing disintegration. In particular, the correspondence is a semiotic marker of the tensions between nationalistic Russians and assimilated Jews. It would also be remiss not to note that Eidel'man's decision to publish the correspondence with Astaf'ev might have been motivated in part by Eidel'man's self-interest in keeping and expanding his literary audience, in maintaining his status as spokesperson for the liberal intelligentsia in a time of turmoil. He was jealous of his generational role as Vlastitel' dum (custodian of progressive ideas).
Public Intellectual: The Fate of Revolutions from Above in Russia Eidel'man's third initiative after 1985 was his book "Revoliutsiia sverkhu" v Rossii ("Revolution from Above" in Russia), which appeared in print just a few days before his death in November 1989. We do not know exactly when he began to write the book, but the diary helps us establish rough chronological parameters for its genesis. The book must have been conceived and largely written between late October 1986 and August 1987--that is, in the period of intense debate among Soviet intellectuals over Gorbachev's campaign for perestroika and in the aftermath of Eidel'man's polemic with Astaf'ev over antisemitism. (127) Probably the book emerged organically from Eidel'man's discussions with friends over the country's political situation, (128) from a private seminar on Russian history that Eidel'man ran for a circle of young physicists at the home of Mikhail Zhadkevich, (129) from the roundtable history seminars he began organizing in early 1987, from excitement over debates in January 1987 at the Soviet Communist Party plenum, (130) from hearing Akhmatova's Requiem recited in public, from watching the film Repentance, (131) from a "heated debate" with the publicist Anatolii Strelianyi on the theme of "revolution from above," (132) and from much soul-searching concerning the phenomenon of fear in Soviet politics. (133) It is conceivable that Eidel'man only began to outline the book on 8 May 1987--a diary entry that day noted laconically "thought about 'revolution from above' "--but that must remain speculative. (134)
The book itself is a ragged text, more reflections of the sort one might encounter in conversations with colleagues and friends than a carefully crafted book. Eidel'man promised that "the center of our narrative will be events that seem to us most relevant to the present: the reforms of the late 1850s and early 1860s." (135) yet less than 40 of the book's 172 pages actually dealt with the Great Reforms. In an attempt to turn this defect to an advantage, Eidel'man asserted: "running notes [zametki] are closer to conversation, to those free Russian exchanges that are so dear to us." He implied that academic monographs often play false with the reader: "In these last decades the lie, the half-truth have more often than not taken respectable forms, so that no one would suspect their falsity or deceptiveness." (136) He asserted it was now time to speak the truth "without hinting around, in full voice, 'frankly and for all to see.'" "We repeat, not by the hint alone do honest historians live." (137) In writing the book, Eidel'man was mindful of his hero Karamzin's Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia. He also indulged himself in a literary flourish: his short book, like Tolstoi's gargantuan War and Peace, finished with two epilogues.
"Revolution from Above" in Russia argued that history moves neither linearly nor dialectically, but "as if in spirals, with each curve undoubtedly distinguishing itself from the preceding ones, yet also resembling them in some respect." (138) He attributed this theory to "wise philosophers (among them Hegel and Marx)"--an attribution that reveals either astonishing ignorance of Hegel and Marx or, more likely, an attempt willfully to deceive the censors. Eidel'man's embrace of the spiral theory of development made it possible for readers to visualize the continuities of Russian history without imputing to Eidel'man views he rejected--namely, that history literally "repeats itself" or that the Russian historical character is "frozen" and unchanging.
In the 13th century, Eidel'man contended, the Mongols had "cut Russia off from European ties, European progress." (139) when the Russian polity finally emerged from the Mongol yoke, it was highly centralized and its civil society weakly developed. In the absence of a division of powers in the government and of intermediary bodies to counterbalance the crown, the Russian tsar "had far more power over his subjects than did the French or English king." (140) Late in the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible's oprichnina became, according to Eidel'man, a permanent instrument of state, an instrument "that did not come to an end ... even in the 19th century." (141) The hypertrophied power of the Russian state meant that when reforms became necessary, they were carried out from above with the suddenness of a revolution. In Eidel'man's opinion, the Petrine reforms of 1689-1725, the Great Reforms of the 1860s, and Gorbachev's perestroika were three such "revolutions from above." Since the three cases resembled one another as similar turns of a spiral, studying them might provide jittery Soviet citizens (and their leaders) with a roadmap to the future.
According to Eidel'man, Peter's revolution from above proceeded not by following a preconceived plan but rather by trial and error. It was implemented not through the Muscovite bureaucracy but through a "parallel apparatus" that Peter constructed to circumvent bureaucratic opposition. Peter eventually succeeded in effecting the superficial Europeanization of Russia and in generating large-scale military production that made Russia competitive with other great powers. The costs of the Petrine revolution, however, were enormous: the cultural and social alienation of the nobility from the peasantry, the deaths of one in seven Russians, a tax rate three times higher at the end than at the beginning of the reign, and an economy based more heavily than earlier on forced labor. (142) In the enlightened absolutism that gradually took shape in the wake of Peter's reign, intermediate institutions still did not limit the crown; indeed, the only constraint on royal action was the omnipresent threat of a palace coup. Eidel'man quoted Germaine de Stael's quip: "The government in Russia is an autocracy, limited by strangulation." (143)
The Great Reforms of the 1860s, according to Eidel'man, had been conceived as a package, but the actual process of their drafting was accompanied by twists and turns, as the government's direction vacillated from left to right and back. Eidel'man interpreted these shifts as expressions of a historically determined mechanism by which the tsarist elites "kept political equilibrium intact." (144) He described serfdom's abolition as "an enormous progressive event" that would not have occurred in the absence of two factors: the tsar's determination to free the serfs; and pressure on the government from the progressive intelligentsia and the peasantry. (145) He praised the introduction of free labor in the countryside and the "paradoxical" partnership that had brought it about. Eidel'man devoted most of his attention, however, to two reforms that he considered models for the contemporary Soviet system: the 186 judicial reforms, which introduced an independent judiciary, elected judgeships, public access to trials, and the principle that no official stands above the law; and the university statute of 1863, which promised the universities an elected administration and autonomy vis-a-vis the government. He pleaded with his readers to consider the possibility of "creatively reviving" these reforms under Soviet conditions, for he thought such reforms would enable citizens to defend their rights in court and would help universities to turn out citizens instead of "talking machines." (146)
In the book's second epilogue, Eidel'man spelled out the historical "lessons" of his analysis: in Russia a large measure of political change has come from above; the common people have "enormous energy but much less independence and initiative" than do peoples in the west; the bureaucracy, given the lack of free speech and democracy in Russia, has often manifested "narrowly egoistic conservatism," thereby delaying or blocking necessary reforms; historical experience shows that reforms often proceed by trial and error, and are accompanied by erratic swings in political direction; personnel needed to implement reforms will always be found; the best foundation for reforms is a "reliable system of feedback (the market, free speech, democracy)"; and the progressive intelligentsia plays an "invaluable role" in the success of reforms.
Between the lines of Eidel'man's book, an alert Soviet reader would have found strong encouragement for Gorbachev's perestroika. Like other "revolutions from above," it had been initiated "suddenly" by a self-confident political leader, had quickly run into bureaucratic resistance, and had been characterized by trial and error and by sporadic shifts in political direction. Gorbachev had tried to enlist the progressive intelligentsia in support of his program, and Eidel'man now offered that support. Eidel'man championed the "feedback mechanisms" of the market, free speech, and democracy without defining them any more precisely than Gorbachev himself had done. He assured Gorbachev and the uncertain Russian public that good people would come on the scene to implement the "revolution from above," just as they had done in earlier episodes. Implicitly, Eidel'man warned Gorbachev against the violence of the Petrine model and against breaking faith with the progressive public as the government had done in the 1860s. Finally, he cautioned both Gorbachev and the public that perestroika must succeed, for the country had no other choice. (147)
In retrospect, "Revolution from Above" in Russia is a strange document. Intended to constitute a major political statement, it was haphazardly written. Meant to tell the truth "without hinting around, in full voice," it said nothing of interest about Soviet history and nothing at all about Stalin's "revolution from above." Purportedly using the past as guide to the future, the book ignored the nationality problems that had hobbled the Russian empire and that would eventually contribute to the Soviet Union's disintegration along republican lines. Eidel'man 's too-facile pen; his habit of relying on hints, allusions, and indirection; his obsessive hope as assimilated Jew that the Soviet Union, stripped of its undemocratic elements, would become a tolerant cosmopolitan society--all these factors contributed to the flaws in his didactic little book.
Yet "Revolution from Above" in Russia is a volume no less incisive than Karamzin's Memoirs of Ancient and Modern Russia, and it is far more progressive in spirit. Whereas Karamzin feared the effects of radical change, Eidel'man welcomed reforms and denounced fear. If even now Eidel'man did not manage to speak "in full voice," if he failed to shed entirely his habitual secrecy, he nevertheless spoke less equivocally about contemporary politics than did most of his peers. He broke with Marxist dialectical history and joined the liberal tradition of historiography by advocating capitalism, a free civil society, and democracy as goals of Russian historical evolution. Meanwhile, like the conservative Karamzin, and like most 19th-century liberals, Eidel'man remained an intellectual elitist. He did not shrink from speaking on behalf of the "progressive intelligentsia," whose role in Gorbachev's perestroika he thought perhaps more crucial than the role of the common people. Unlike the old liberals, however, Eidel'man suspected that the long-suffering people, the sons and daughters of workers whom he had taught in high-school classes and to whom he had spoken in countless auditoriums all over the country, would prove enlightened enough to keep the new "revolution from above" on track. Perhaps Eidel'man's greatest secret was the ambition, by means of his book, to bring Russia's government and people closer to the "true day" of justice for which 19th-century intellectuals had yearned in vain.
Eidel'man's Life and Death as a Mirror of Soviet History
The relative freedoms enjoyed by Eidel'man between 1986 and his death in November 1989 were sweet. He proudly served as a sponsor for unprecedented historical roundtables; he gladly took advantage of the country's still fragile freedom of the press; and he eagerly seized the chance to travel abroad to the previously forbidden west--to Italy, France, and even the United States. But these blessings brought with them a tinge of bitterness. Eidel'man 's high visibility made him controversial, a target for perestroika's opponents. His trips to the west came belatedly. Iuliia Madora confided to the diary a remark about the couple's sightseeing in Italy in 1988: "The world opened before us too late; our curiosity had almost dried up." Eidel'man himself declared: "Akh, I needed this earlier" (Akh, nado ranee, nado ranee). (148) In Paris that year, he was preoccupied, his diary entries somber. (149) In California, Eidel'man occasionally came to life in conversations with acquaintances, such as his longtime friend Terence Emmons or with the young graduate student Semion Lyandres; he also enjoyed meeting a variety of people from Stanford and the Russian community. In the Hoover Institution archives, he read with excitement the correspondence between Boris Nicolaevsky (Nikolaevskii) and Nikolai Vol'skii (Valentinov). (150) He made a "mountain of xerox copies" for later use in the Soviet Union. Yet in the California sunshine Eidel'man could still be gloomy and self-absorbed. He and his wife focused an unseemly portion of their energies on buying a computer, which they intended to sell in Moscow to cover their large household debts.
Throughout the 1986-89 period, Eidel'man was prone to melancholia. In July 1986, as noted above, he experienced a "crisis of spirit" (krizis dushi). (151) In February 1987, after being called a "scoundrel" by a young man in Pushkin House, he returned to his hotel "very depressed." (152) In April 1987, he experienced "bad forebodings" about himself. (153) In May 1987, he recorded: "Exhaustion, fallen spirits, thoughts of suicide." (154) In Rome, in February 1988, he said of himself: "I am irritable, overweight, I do not love people." (155) In 1989, according to Iuliia Madora, Eidel'man spoke frequently of his imminent death. (156) Among the factors contributing to his melancholia was the realization that his Main Book would never be written: "Time passes, but the big book doesn't advance," he stated. (157) Eidel'man died having thought about the many themes he wanted to explore in this book, but without having recorded a plan of composition and without having written a single page of the text.
Vasilii Kliuchevskii once observed: "The most important biographical facts in a scholar's and writer's life are books; the most significant events are ideas." (158) The aphorism has usually been taken to mean that most historians' lives are undramatic, scarcely worth mentioning, that the landmark events in their otherwise bleak existences are publications. Surely, there is a grain of truth in Kliuchevskii's quip. What in his private life could compare to his Boiarskaia duma drevnei Rossii (Boyar Duma in Ancient Russia) or his magisterial Course in Russian History? But if we take Kliuchevskii literally, what biographical significance can be assigned to unpublished or unwritten books? Must we think less of Aleksandr Lappo-Danilevskii, whose masterpiece on 18th-century Russian thought still remains unpublished? (159) Or of Eidel'man, whose Main Book will never see the light of day? What existential significance can we ascribe to those authorial products whose shape has been altered by the censor's hand or distorted by an "inner editor"? Is the alteration of a book tantamount to the alteration or even destruction of a life? Does censorship of any kind, even self-censorship, "strike reason in the eye"?
These questions press heavily upon us when we take up the biography of a scholar like Eidel'man, a man formed in Soviet schools, disciplined by the police, and forced to live in an environment uncongenial to his talents. Eidel'man's entire scholarly oeuvre bears testimony to his desire to test the limits of the Soviet censorship--or, rather, to devise ways to hint at the truth of Russia's painful past and its more painful present without provoking the censor's wrath. Like other scholars in the post-Stalin era, he "played at dissent." The very word sometimes used to describe him, poludissidentstvuiushchii, was a neologism of the Brezhnev era. Yet his books, however distorted in form and substance, prove that among the Moscow intelligentsia there was a profound awareness of historical realities such as the hyper-centralized Russian state, the devastating impact of rule by fear, the relative weakness of Russian and Soviet civil society, and the costs of an economy based on forced labor. This awareness--expressed by Eidel'man in private conversations, in his diary, and indirectly in his books--helped gradually corrode the legitimacy of the Soviet system in his own mind and in that of others. Over time, it made him heartsick that he could neither write without censorship nor speak publicly "in full voice." A child of the 20th Party Congress, he waited three decades for his opportunity to settle scores with a government that had arrested his father and nearly wrecked his youth. Meanwhile, like other children of the 20th Party Congress, he benefited by the post-Stalinist government's relative indulgence of intellectuals, even "semi-dissident" intellectuals. Like them, he was an artifact of a system he half-loved, half-despised.
For such a person as Eidel'man, and for such a regime as the post-Stalinist Soviet system, Gorbachev's demand for glasnost' presented both an exciting opportunity for self-transformation and a mortal peril. Genuine freedom of speech can entail rigorous personal and national self-scrutiny. Neither Eidel'man, with his secret lives, nor the Soviet government with its hidden modes of operation, could long endure that withering self-critical gaze.
(1) See Natan Iakovlevich Eidel'man, Gran' vekov: Politicheskaia bor'ba v Rossii. Konets XVIII-nachalo XIX stoletiia (Moscow: Mysl', 1982); and Eidel'man, Lunin (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1970).
(2) N. Ia. Eidel'man, Gertsenovskii "Kolokol" (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe uchebnopedagogicheskoe izdatel'stvo, 1963); Eidel'man, Tainye korrespondenty "Poliarnoi zvezdy" (Moscow: Mysl', 1966); and Eidel'man, Gertsen protiv samoderzhaviia: Sekretnaia politicheskaia istoriia Rossii XVIII-XIX vv. i Vol'naia Pechat' (Moscow: Mysl', 1973).
(3) See AN SSSR, O povrezhdenii nravov v Rossii kniazia M. Shcherbatova i Puteshestvie A. Radishcheva: Faksimil'noe izdanie (Moscow: Nauka, 1985).
(4) See N. Ia. Eidel'man, Poslednii letopisets (Moscow: Kniga, 1983).
(5) N. Ia. Eidel'man, Pushkin i dekabristy: Iz istorii vzaimootnoshenii (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1979)--which is, despite its title, as much a literary / cultural biography of Pushkin as it is an analysis of his politics; Eidel'man, Pushkin: Iz biografii i tvorchestva, 1826-1837 (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1987); and Eidel'man, Pushkin: Istoriia i sovremennost' v khudozhestvennom soznanii poeta (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1984).
(6) See N. Ia. Eidel'man, Apostol Sergei: Povest' o Sergee Murav'eve-Apostole (Moscow: Politizdat, 1980); Eidel'man, Bol'shoi Zhanno: Povest' ob Ivane Pushchine (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1982); and Eidel'man, Pervyi dekabrist: Povest' o neobyknovennoi zhizni i posmertnoi sud'be Vladimira Raevskogo (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1990).
(7) See Iuliia Eidel'man [Madora], Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana (Moscow: Materik, 2003).
(8) "Even during so-called perestroika, he [Eidel'man] never wrote names in full ... and unfortunately one cannot always guess the subject of the [diary] entry" (Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 10).
(9) Ibid., 11.
(10) Ibid., 11-20, quotations on 20.
(11) Ibid., 20-21. Comment by Iuliia Madora.
(12) Apropos this incident, Eidel'man later quipped to friends: "I know precisely my value: one ton of undelivered cement." See ibid., 22. Undated entry.
(13) Ibid., 22-23. Undated entry.
(14) See N. Natanov, Puteshestvie v stranu letopisei (Moscow: Detskaia literatura, 1965).
(15) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 23.
(16) Ibid., 32-33. Entry for 13 January 1956.
(17) "At a seminar for teachers: an order not to discuss [the speech]! General readings [of the speech] to young Communists and non-party members have been suspended, for 'they do not know how to behave.' Total disorientation [rasteriannost']" (ibid., 34, entry for 12 March 1956).
(18) See "Vlast' i intelligentsia: 'Delo' molodykh istorikov (1957-1958 gg.)," Voprosy istorii, no. 4(1994): 106-35.
(19) Ibid., 110.
(20) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 135,346. This account of Eidel'man's indirect connection to the conspiracy was confirmed by the historian and academic Nikolai Nikolaevich Pokrovskii, a friend of Eidel'man's and one of the students arrested in 1957. Pokrovskii circumspectly described Eidel'man as "being somehow on the periphery" (kak budto na periferii) of the circle.
(21) A. G. Tartakovskii, "Istoriia prodolzhaetsia," in N. Ia. Eidel'man, Iz potaennoi istorii Rossii XVIII-XIX vekov (Moscow: Vysshaia shkola, 1993), 11-12.
(22) See John F. Barber, Soviet Historians in Crisis, 1928-1932 (London: Macmillan, 1981); A. A. Chernobaev, Professor s pikoi, ili Tri zhizni istorika M. N. Pokrovskogo (Moscow: Politizdat, 1992); and V. P. Leonov, ed., Akademicheskoe delo 1929-1931 gg.: Dokumenty i materialy sledstvennogo dela, sfabrikirovannogo OGPU (St. Petersburg: Biblioteka Rossiiskoi akademiia nauk, 1993).
(23) Eidel'man, Gertsenovskii "Kolokol"; and Eidel'man, Tainye korrespondenty "Poliarnoi zvezdy."
(24) The famous two-volume study largely compiled by Tsiavlovskaia is listed under the name of her husband, Mstislav Aleksandrovich Tsiavlovskii, Letopis' zhizni i tvorchestva A. S. Pushkina, 2 vols. (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk, 1951).
(25) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 307.
(26) For example, he was a close friend of Bulat Okudzhava, a man whom he called a "national treasure."
(27) Eidel'man, Tainye korrespondenty "Poliarnoi zvezdy," 3.
(28) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 122, Iuliia Madora's commentary.
(29) Eidel'man, Gran' vekov, 26-35.
(30) Ibid., 55.
(31) Eidel'man, Lunin, 40-44.
(32) Ibid., 63.
(33) See N. Ia. Eidel'man, "K biografii Sergeia Ivanovicha Murav'eva-Apostola," in his Iz potaennoi istorii Rossii XVIII-XIX vekov, 349-71; and Eidel'man, "Zhurnaly i dokladnye zapiski Sledstvennogo komiteta po delu dekabristov," in ibid., 382-409.
(34) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 103. Note by Iuliia Madora.
(35) Ibid., 145-46. Iuliia Madora's note.
(36) Ibid., 152. Entry of 27 July 1974.
(37) Ibid., 239-40. Entry for 24-25 November 1981. The Grafovs worked on the staff of Literaturnaia gazeta and were known at the time for their high standards and integrity.
(38) Ibid., 240. Entry for 24-25 November 1981.
(39) Ibid., 48. Entry of 12 December 1966.
(40) Ibid., 74. Entry of 14 July 1970.
(41) Ibid., 85-86. Entry of 18 November 1971.
(42) Ibid., 91. Entry of 25 May 1972.
(43) Ibid., 112. Entry of 3 January 1975.
(44) Ibid., 207. Entry of 13 January 1980.
(45) Ibid., 248. Entry of 21 January 1982.
(46) Ibid., 260. Entry of 2 May 1982.
(47) Ibid., 273. Entry dated "End of September/October" 1982.
(48) Ibid., 292-93. Entry of 12 October 1983.
(49) Ibid., 302. Iuliia Madora's note.
(50) The campaign, launched in early 1936, focused initially on Marietta Shaginian, Konstantin Fedin, Leonid Leonov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Boris Pil'niak, and the literary critic Viktor Shklovskii. On 13 March, Pasternak ridiculed the criticisms in a speech before the writers Union, which was never printed in the literary press; in it he made an explicit effort to defend Shaginian, whom he admired both as "a distressed and unfortunate woman" and as a courageous advocate of creative freedom. However, Iakov Naumovich Eidel'man, Valerii Iakovlevich Kirpotin, and others rebuked Pasternak for his remarks. A year later, in February 1937, in the wake of the Piatakov-Radek trial, Nikolai Tikhonov criticized Pasternak in a plenary session of the writers Union. Eidel'man summarized Tikhonov's address in Literaturnaia gazeta and took the occasion to point out that Tikhonov had been too lenient on Pasternak, who "least of all can claim to represent Pushkinian principles" in poetry. For a fuller exposition of these incidents, see Christopher Barnes, Boris Pasternak: A Literary Biography, vol. 2: 1928-1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 123-24, 140. For Eidel'man's article, see Ia. En., "Zametki i vpechatleniia: Na chetvertom plenume pravleniia SSP," Literaturnaia gazeta, 26 February 1937.
(51) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 50.
(52) Ibid., 73. Entry of 7 March 1970.
(53) Ibid., 77-78, 82, 143, and passim.
(54) Ibid., 77. Iuliia Madora's note.
(55) Ibid., 92. Entry of 21 January 1973 and Iuliia Madora's note.
(56) Iurii Lotman and his school, for example, looked at the late 18th / early 19th century as the period in which modern Russian culture came into being. They tried to understand the classical monuments of the period not as harbingers of the Bolshevik Revolution but as parts of an elaborate system of cultural signs that had begun to be elaborated during the Muscovite period and may have contributed to subsequent political developments but were nevertheless culturally specific and temporally bounded products of their age. one effect of Lotman's semiotic approach was to displace ideology from its preeminent position in scholarship and to substitute for it profound cultural erudition. In Lotman's hands the study of Karamzin and Pushkin became an end in itself. Moreover, Lotman defined culture not as the by-product of the revolutionary struggle but as a collective concept incorporating ethics and the memory of preceding experiences. Thus, to analyze the memory of past events, the scholar of Russian culture in the imperial period would, by necessity, have to look backward rather than forward. For general principles in approaching history of the period, see Iu. M. Lotman, Besedy o russkoi kul'ture: Byt i traditsii russkogo dvorianstva (XVIII-nachala XIX veka) (St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo-SPB, 1994), 5-8. To take another example, Natal'ia Mikhailovna Pirumova considered the 19th century her quiet refuge from the barbarism of the Soviet era. This attachment to a different era anchored her when, in the 1980s, she bravely encouraged her students to go beyond and even to abandon established approaches to scholarship of the empire. See Gary M. Hamburg, "Remembering Natal'ia Pirumova: on writing History in the Stalin and Post-Stalin Eras," Kritika 1, 3 (2000): 507-30. For an analysis of the way actual dissidents wrote about the history of the Russian intelligentsia, see Jay Bergman, "Soviet Dissidents on the Russian Intelligentsia, 1956-1985: The Search for a Usable Past," Russian Review 51, 1 (1992): 16-35.
(57) Eidel'man, Pervyi dekabrist, 4.
(58) Eidel'man, Poslednii letopisets, 67-68, 75.
(59) Ibid., 120-21.
(60) The conjecture can be found in M. V. Nechkina, "Lev Pushkin v vosstanii 14 dekabria 1826 goda," Istorik-marksist, no. 3 (1936): 85-100; for Eidel'man's reasoning, see Pushkin i dekabristy, 374. During this time Pushkin was living in exile on his Mikhailovskoe estate.
(61) Eidel'man, Pushkin i dekabristy, 372.
(62) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 226. Entry for "June" 1981.
(63) Ibid., 228.
(64) Ibid., 298. Iuliia Madora's note.
(65) Ibid., 302. Iuliia Madora's note.
(66) On Pushkin's "Andre Chenier," see Eidel'man, Pushkin i dekabristy, esp. 306-35; for the conversation of 8 September 1826 and the memorandum "O narodnom vosstanii," see ibid., 1-118.
(67) For the text of the famous conversation, see Ellendea Proffer, Bulgakov: Life and Work (Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1984), 322-23.
(68) For the plan of Eidel'man's so-called "Glavnaia kniga," see Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 62. "I would like to begin it with today's happy time and write the narrative backward, finishing on 18 April 1930." "Aha, your birthday." "you see, that was the day of Stalin's conversation with Bulgakov, it was not only very significant for Bulgakov but also for our entire culture... . I want the book to contain everything, collectivization, the destruction of the intelligentsia, our school, Sparta. I don't know if it will turn out, when I write it, but it will be my Byloe i dumy." For the text of Bulgakov's letter to the Soviet government, see V. I. Losev, ed., Mikhail Afanas'evich Bulgakov: Dnevnik. Pis'ma 1914-1940 (Moscow: Sovremennyi pisatel', 1997), 222-31; for Bulgakov's fragmentary letter to Stalin asking the general secretary to be his "first reader," see ibid., 240-42.
(69) Eidel'man, Pervyi dekabrist, 5-6.
(70) Eidel'man, Lunin, 201-10.
(71) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 63-64. Entry of 7 December 1967 and 17 February 1968.
(72) Ibid., 69. Entry of 5 August 1969.
(73) Ibid., 46. Entry of 23 November 1966; see also 52, entry of 9 April 1967.
(74) Ibid., 61. Undated entry, August-September 1967.
(75) Ibid., 101. Entry for 10 January 1974.
(76) Ibid., 148. Entry of 1 July 1977.
(77) Ibid., 357. Entry of 30 December 1986.
(78) Ibid., 357. Iuliia Madora's interpolation.
(79) Ibid., 330. Entry of 1 July 1985.
(80) Ibid., 91-92. Comment by Iuliia Madora.
(81) Ibid., 172. Entry of 25 July 1978.
(82) Gideon Hausner, Justice in Jerusalem (New York: Harper and Row, 1966).
(83) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 55. Entry of 21 July 1967.
(84) Ibid., 57. Entry of 4 August 1967.
(85) Ibid., 61. Entry of 20 November 1967.
(86) Ibid., 138. Entry of 25 October 1976.
(87) Ibid., 204. Entry of 8 November 1979.
(88) Ibid., 216. Entry of 8 July 1980.
(89) Ibid., 220. Entry of 10 February 1981.
(90) Ibid., 248. Entry of 17 January 1982.
(91) Ibid., 290, 292-93. Entries of 6 and 12 October 1983.
(92) Ibid., 328. Entry of 23 May 1985.
(93) Ibid., 337. Entry of 16 October 1985.
(94) Hannah Arendt, Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess, ed. Liliane Wiesberg (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 256.
(95) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 241. Comment by Iuliia Madora.
(96) Ibid., 163. Entry of 7-8 January 1978.
(97) Ibid., 157, 160. Entries of 2 October and 3 November 1977.
(98) Ibid., 203. Entry of 2 October 1979.
(99) Ibid., 210. Entry of 20 March 1980.
(100) Ibid., 322. Entry of 2 January 1985.
(101) Ibid., 328. Entry of 20-21 May 1985.
(102) Ibid., 328. Entry of 23 May 1985.
(103) Ibid., 334. Entry of 18 August 1985.
(104) Ibid., 342. Entry of 25-26 May 1986.
(105) Ibid., 346. Comment by Iuliia Madora.
(106) Ibid., 356. Entry of 4 November and 16 December 1986.
(107) Ibid., 364-65. Entry of 19 January 1986, comment by Iuliia Madora.
(108) Ibid., 376. Entry of 13 April 1987.
(109) See Kathleen F. Parthe, Russian Village Prose: The Radiant Past (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), xii-xiii, 94-96.
(110) For Parthe's analysis of the offensive passage, see ibid., 95. The term evreichata is a rarely encountered slang word, surely not as pejorative as zhid or its derivatives, but nevertheless quite offensive in polite speech. Astaf'ev, a writer specializing in village society and peasant dialect, might have defended his use of the term on the grounds of its usage in popular speech. In the normally decorous context of Soviet literature, however, the word was inflammatory, and Astaf'ev could not fail to know it.
(111) Ekaterina Starikova, "Kolokol trevogi," Voprosy literatury, no. 11 (1986), 87; quoted in Parthe, Russian Village Prose, 95.
(112) See John B. Dunlop, The Rise of Russia and the Fall of the Soviet Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 123-85. For a more extended analysis of Russian nationalism in the Soviet period, see Dunlop, The Faces of Contemporary Russian Nationalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983). On ethnic nationalism of various sorts in the early perestroika period, see Ben Eklof, Soviet Briefing: Gorbachev and the Reform Period (Boulder, Co: Westview, 1989), 133-71. Jack Matlock, Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union (New York: Random House, 1995) is singularly unhelpful, even obtuse on this topic. For his brief comments on Nina Andreeva, see 119-20.
(113) on the Nina Andreeva affair, see Baruch A. Hazan, Gorbachev and His Enemies (Boulder, Co: Westview, 1990), 9-81; and David Remnick, Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire (New York: Random House, 1993), 70-85.
(114) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 348-52. Entries of 11-12 August, 2 October, and 10-12 October 1986, and commentary by Iuliia Madora.
(115) N. Eidel'man and V. Astaf'ev, "Perepiska iz dvukh uglov," Sintaksis 17 (1987): 80-87.
(116) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 355. Entry of 1 November 1986.
(117) Ibid., 356. Entry of November 1986. See also 364, entry of 19 January 1987.
(118) Ibid., 368-69. Entry of 9-15 February 1987, commentary of Iuliia Madora.
(119) Ibid., 348-50, here 350.
(120) Eidel'man and Astaf'ev, "Perepiska iz dvukh uglov," 84.
(121) Ibid., 81.
(122) Ibid., 82.
(123) Ibid., 85. The reference to Nashchokin can be found in Eidel'man, Pushkin: Istoriia i sovremennost'. Astaf'ev quoted 339; the actual quotation can be found in a footnote on 239. To my knowledge, the Nashchokin manuscript remains unpublished.
(124) Eidel'man and Astaf'ev, "Perepiska iz dvukh uglov," 86.
(125) Ibid., 87.
(126) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 350.
(127) The diary entry for 22 October 1986, entitled "plans for the year," did not mention the project. The general entry for August 1987 bore the note "end of the first variant of 'Revolution from Above'" (ibid., 354-55, 385).
(128) For example, he wrote after New Year's 1987, "Train ride to [Konstantin] Tarnovskii," the historian of late 19th- and early 20th-century Russia. "Question about what was new in 1905-17: Kost'ia is both profound and dogmatic. What's new is the political angle, the focus on Stolypin's rule, that [in the 1920s] there was no dictatorship of the proletariat but of the entire people; that there was a union with the entire peasantry, etc. For Kost'ia it is important that from 1921 to 1929 there was a socialist alternative [to Stalinism]. Arguments with his wife and daughter, They are 'pessimists' saying 'in the west it is no better.' I am in the role of the optimist" (ibid., 360). Entry of 4 January 1987.
(129) Ibid., 361-62. Entry for 12 January 1987, commentary by Iuliia Madora.
(130) on 31 January 1987, Eidel'man recorded an account of the plenum by the theater director and politician Mikhail Ul'ianov: "Sharp speech by the Krasnodar secretary of OK and by Gromyko, against the press. (Also the general procurator.) Ul'ianov spoke in favor [of the press], he senses the hall's coldness and mentions it; M[ikhail] S[ergeevich] [Gorbachev]: 'perestroika begins here'" (ibid., 366-67).
(131) Ibid., 37 . Entries for 22-2 March and 27 March 1987.
(132) Ibid., 378. Entry of March 1987.
(133) Ibid., 379. Entry of 8 March 1987. Eidel'man reported visiting Tat'iana Ermolinskaia and Aleksandr Borin. They talked "about everything, ... about the system of fear and intimidation, about the logic of forcing capable people out of the system + fear; about the illusion to which Oksman succumbed [in the mid-1930s], that changes [in the system] would occur."
(134) Ibid., 379. Iuliia Madora claimed this was the point at which Eidel'man developed the "germ of the new book."
(135) Eidel'man, "Revoliutsiia sverkhu" v Rossii (Moscow: Kniga, 1989), 26.
(136) Ibid., 25-26.
(137) Ibid., 23.
(138) Ibid., 23-24.
(139) Ibid., 32.
(140) Ibid., 35-36.
(141) Ibid., 38.
(142) Ibid., 58-66.
(143) Ibid., 72.
(144) Ibid., 133.
(145) Ibid., 131-33.
(146) Ibid., 142-48.
(147) Ibid., 171-72.
(148) Dnevniki Natana Eidel'mana, 394. Entry of 7 February 1988.
(149) Ibid., 410-15.
(150) Ibid., 446-53.
(151) Ibid., 347.
(152) Ibid., 368-69. Entry of 9-15 February 1987, comment by Iuliia Madora.
(153) Ibid., 377. Entry of 18 April 1987.
(154) Ibid., 378. Entry of 4 May 1987.
(155) Ibid., 400. Entry of 17-18 February 1988.
(156) Ibid., 466. Commentary by Iuliia Madora.
(157) Ibid., 389. Entry of 9 September 1987.
(158) V. O. Kliuchevskii, "Sergei Mikhailovich Solov'ev," in his Sochineniia, 9 vols., vol. 7: Spetsial'nye kursy (Moscow: Mysl', 1989), 319.
(159) The book existed in manuscript form under the title "Istoriia politicheskikh idei v Rossii v XVIII veke v sviazi s razvitiem ee kul'tury i khodom ee politiki." The first half of the manuscript was published over 70 years after Lappo-Danilevskii's death by A. I. Klibanov, as A. S. Lappo-Danilevskii, Istoriia russkoi obshchestvennoi mysli i kul'tury XVII-XVIII v. (Moscow: Nauka, 1990).
Dept. of History
Claremont McKenna College
850 Columbia Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711 USA
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|Title Annotation:||History and Historians|
|Author:||Hamburg, Garry M.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2006|
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