Communism, Easter 1916, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Russia, Uncategorized

An Overflow of Violent Bacchanalia

Accounts of the storming of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on October 25th 1917 read more like those of a party being violently gate-crashed than the single most shocking event of the twentieth century: the emergence of the Bolsheviks as leaders of the first Communist regime in history, in the world’s largest country. The old European order would soon …


Book Review, Communism, Eastern Europe, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Politics, Russia, Uncategorized

The Evil That Men Do

Published in the Dublin Review of Books: (http://www.drb.ie/essays/the-evil-that-men-do) The unconscious of a whole continent and age has made of itself poetry in the nightmare of a single prophetic dreamer Herman Hesse Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov casts a shadow over European literature. Sigmund Freud described it as ‘The most magnificent novel ever written’; while Friedrich Nietzsche acknowledged his Russian contemporary …


Confronting the great men of history

(Published in Village Magazine, June 2016) That there was something altogether more disturbing about Hitler’s Germany than Stalin’s Russia is often assumed. Perhaps it comes from the idea of Germany, the most intellectually and industrially-advanced country of its time, being led by an individual whose core belief was the annihilation of a substantial ethno-religious minority. By comparison the aspirational ends …

Ukraine’s Fragile Identity

(Published in Village Magazine, December 2015) Ukrainians like to say their country is the largest fully European. That scale is enhanced by a transport infrastructure relying on unwieldy, Soviet-era rail and pot-holed roads beyond a few stretches of motorway as I discovered to my discomfort on a recent trip into eastern Ukraine. Moreover, with average salaries less than €200 per …

Confronting Putin

(Version published in Village Magazine, March, 2016) As we know well in Ireland filthy lucre is one of man’s greatest temptations. In the venal world of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot (1869), virtually all of the characters apart from the Prince and Nastassya Filippovna succumb to greed. Ganya is willing to do almost anything in his passion for money – even marry someone …