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Dostoevsky Knew: It Can Happen Here

Gary Saul Morson
WSJ, Oct. 18, 2023

“Believe me,” Dostoevsky addresses his readers, “the most complete aberration of human hearts and minds is always possible.”
As I read about Harvard students demonstrating in favor of Hamas and educated people proclaiming that “decolonization” should be pursued “by any means necessary,” I thought of Dostoevsky’s reaction, a century and a half ago, to atrocities committed by the Ottomans as they suppressed uprisings among their Slavic subjects. This was a case, apparently unknown to today’s “decolonizers,” in which a Muslim empire persecuted colonized Christians.

The European press was then filled with reports that now seem familiar. Whole families were wiped out; women raped and tortured; living people humiliated and corpses abused; children slowly murdered before their parents’ eyes; and, in one case that particularly shocked Dostoevsky, a young child forced to watch her father being flayed alive “completely.” The child, Dostoevsky reported, was being cared for in Russia, where she repeatedly fainted as she recalled what she witnessed.

If it seems that only uncivilized people could be such sadists, Dostoevsky cautions, know that the same thing could happen among civilized Europeans as well. “For the moment it is still against the law,” he writes, “but were it to depend on us, perhaps, nothing would stop us despite all our civilization.”
… [To read the full article, click here]

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