Happy Birthday, Orlando Figes, born 20 November 1959
- The link between literacy and revolutions is a well-known historical phenomenon. The three great revolutions of modern European history — the English, the French and the Russian — all took place in societies where the rate of literacy was approaching 50 per cent.
- Nowhere [more than Russia] has the artist been more burdened with the task of moral leadership and national prophecy, nor more feared and persecuted by the state.
- Literacy had a profound effect on the peasant mind and community. It promotes abstract thought and enables the peasant to master new skills and technologies, Which in turn helps him to accept the concept of progress that fuels change in the modern world.
- For all too many of these high-born revolutionaries, the main attraction of ‘the cause’ lay not so much in the satisfaction which they might derive from seeing the people’s daily lives improved, as in their own romantic search for sense of ‘wholeness’ which might give higher meaning to their lives and to end alienation from the world.
- We think of the revolution as an isolated event, a violent struggle for power. But as the Bolsheviks understood, the real struggle is the mental one, played out in schoolrooms, apartments and back yards.
Figes is an award-winning British historian and writer. He is known for his works on Russian history, including A People's Tragedy, Natasha’s Dance, The Whisperers, and Just Send Me Word.
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