A remarkable event happened in Moscow on, May 13, 2012. Twelve Russian writers organized a walk to protest President Vladimir Putin’s recent attacks on dissidents, and 10,000 Russian citizens turned out to join them, defying police and the recent mass arrests and physical attacks on demonstrators in Moscow and elsewhere. I salute all those brave human rights protestors.
That amazing event in 2012 was an attempt to reverse the Russian government’s brazen crackdown on dissent, including the military’s statement that they would conscript any young men protesting Vladimir Putin’s third inauguration as president, and the arrest of more than 650 who were demonstrating against the swearing-in.
The turnout for the May 13, 2012 walk by the Russian writers, from the statue of poet and playwright Aleksander Pushkin to the statue of playwright Aleksandr Griboyedov, was testimony to two important facts. First, a great many Russians revere their writers and love literature. Not a small thing, in the age of reality TV and gladiator-style entertainment. Second, Russian writers have often stood side by side with the people of Russia. From novelist Leo Tolstoy freeing his serfs, to poet Vladimir Mayakovsky’s revolutionary politics, to Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelshtam circulating secret poems to protest Stalin’s purges, to Solzhenitsyn’s documentation of Soviet prison camps, Russian writers have taken a strong stand in support of human rights.
The bond between Russian writers and the Russian people is closely connected to the moral vein in that country’s writing. When I say “moral,” I don’t mean “moralistic.” I mean bravely speaking out in the face of dictatorship, or dictatorial actions by the current government.
North American authors have much to learn from the example of the dozen Russian writers who called the 2012 protest walk. Where are the writers of the United States protesting the enormous weight of debt that burdens so many households in our country, when annual interest rates on credit cards soar above 20%? Where are the writers calling for demonstrations against the U.S. dependence on fossil fuels? When are writers going to announce a protest of our military budget, now $700 billion annually, while our people lack health care and quality schools, and the number of homeless is in the hundreds of thousands?
Yes, writers are marginalized in the U.S., but part of that we have inflicted on ourselves, by avoiding the issues that are most pressing for our people.
Other recent posts about writing topics:
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How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry?
Poetic Forms: Introduction; The Sonnet, The Sestina, The Ghazal, The Tanka
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer