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September 21, 2003 by AK

John Derbyshire recalls this somewhere deep down in the Corner (not really, but in an August, 2003, roundup of his own diary):

At dinner with some NR staffers the other night, Ed Capano, our publisher, told the following story. Some years ago he went on a trip to Moscow with some colleagues. Ed and one colleague joined the line to view Lenin’s embalmed corpse in its mausoleum on Red Square. After shuffling along for an hour or so, they eventually passed by the crystal sarcophagus in its dim-lit chamber, then emerged out of the mausoleum into daylight. Ed saw with alarm that his colleague was sweating profusely and trembling. Fearing the man might be having a heart attack, he took him by the elbow and asked if he was all right. Gasped the colleague: “Yes, all right, I’m all right. It’s only that… I realized, when we were inside there…I was face to face with the Antichrist.”

“This seems to me a perfectly reasonable reaction,” says Derbyshire. Nothing new here. Already in the late 17th century, it was a common “meme” among Russian old believers, more often called schismatics (raskol’niki, hence Raskol’nikov of Crime and Punishment), that the Antichrist was nigh — or already there. They differed as to whether the coming Anticrist was spiritual or carnal: his presence could be embodied in the deadly spirit of the time and the universal corruption of souls, or he had been indeed incarnated as a man in flesh. The right candidate was there – czar Peter, Meester Pieter, the Carpenter of Zaandam. The great Russian visionary Daniil Andreyev explained this eschatological panic by an “infraphysical terror”. Later, after the initial excesses had subsided, after two and half centuries of persecution, some old believers (and “catacomb Christians”) would consider Lenin, Stalin and Hitler incarnations of the Antichrist. Andreyev had a different explanation: Stalin and Hitler were only rehearsals for the ultimate, apocalyptical appearance of the Anti-Christ, who would incarnate centuries later to head an originally benevolent world government.


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