Monday, September 6, 2021

A History of Totalitarian Surrealism

 From American Greatness:

Satter is unlike any other journalist. Along with delivering the facts about Russia and Communism, Satter’s work is imbued by philosophical and existential analysis of the events. He eschews a simplistic take on Communism that usually involves an “us versus them” mode of thought, and reports the daily reality of people who lived under the totalitarian regime for more than 70 years. 

This is not to say that Satter is a distant observer for whom morality doesn’t exist. On the contrary, in all of his work he clearly defines ideology and its inherent evil. By looking at personal stories of real people who were going through the horrors of Communism, Satter illuminates not only the history of the Soviet Union, but also the meaning and impact of ideology on people’s humanity.

It is precisely this emphasis on specific, human stories that is the focus of Satter’s documentary film, “Age of Delirium” (2011). Based on his 2001 book, Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union, Satter weaves together many stories of those who survived Communism’s brutal treatment and dehumanization. Tracing his steps through his many trips around the Soviet Union in search for the truth, Satter revisits places he wrote about as a correspondent. 

David Satter’s vision is different, partly because he is American. He is an outsider with an intent to show the truth of the Soviet regime, yet his immersion in Russian language and culture has made him, paradoxically, one of the dissidents and truth seekers. When you live in something, it is difficult to have sufficient intellectual distance to evaluate the issues. The events are unfolding before your eyes, and the only thing that matters is survival. In addition, if you grow up in a culture that is strengthened on a daily basis by fear, anxiety, suspicion, and poverty, you are unable to see reality clearly at the time. Satter is joined by Andrei Nekrasov, a Russian film director, who is attempting to understand and define what exactly happened during the years of this totalitarian regime. 

Singling out a few aspects of totalitarianism, Satter and Nekrasov encounter survivors of the regime as well as those who remember the perished victims. A woman describes what it was like to smuggle adventure novels and recycle books by Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Even just three pages of Marx will choke you, she says, as she laughs at the secrecy of her acts. (Read more.)


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