“The battle between private life and the state”

Peter Hitchens writes in The Mail on Sunday on the evolution of his ideas of how Britain should handle the Russian question, concluding that, in view of the Labor government’s near-totalitarian curbing of civil liberties, Britain is in no position to lecture Russia on freedom and such. While I won’t applaud this conclusion — the last thing the West should do is let Putin do what he wishes — Hitchens the elder makes some good points [re-reading this in 2014… there was a time he was not fully bonkers yet], such as:

What I learned from my time in Russia was this – that law, liberty and conscience were priceless possessions, and that the real central combat in modern societies was not class struggle or left versus right, but the battle between private life and the state, family and government. We can certainly learn from other nations, but the main thing we in Britain should learn from them is to preserve what is valuable and unique about our country. When we have successfully done that, perhaps we can offer instruction courses to others.

As I’ve said, I’d hate to see Western countries wash its hands off “Russia’s internal affairs” but pompous lecturing is, indeed, counterproductive even when it is not hypocritical. “To preserve what is valuable and unique about our country” makes sense in Britain, but Russia is a case of extreme historical discontinuity, so much so that within the educated class, there is no consensus on the idea of our country. Some refuse to acknowledge the present Russian Federation as “their country,” choosing, depending on their outlook and likings, the Russian empire, the USSR, the Novgorod republic or some imaginary Russia as their true homeland.


  1. Thank you for this post. I know from first-hand experience that blogging can be tiring. But you added some perspective that I didn’t have before.

    I hope you continue to blog, even if it is irregularly.

  2. This is something I had not previously thought about when looking at the relations between Britain and Russia, but it makes perfect sense. Thank you for making a post about it here. I’m new to your blog but will be reading regularly now.

    – Ben from Michigan (US)

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