Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prescience

Count Sergei Witte was an important figure in czarist Russia in the early 20th century. In October 1905, he wrote a memorandum to the Tsar summarising his view of the political unrest in the aftermath of the Japanese war. In it, he said:
The idea of civil freedom will triumph, if not by way of reform then by way of revolution. But in the latter event it will come to life on a thousand years of destroyed history. The Russian rebellion, mindless and pitiless, will sweep everything, turn everything to dust. What kind of Russia will emerge from this unprecedented trial exceeds human imagination: the horrors of the Russian rebellion may surpass everything known to history. A possible foreign intervention will tear the country apart. Attempts to put into practice the ideals of theoretical socialism -- they will fail but they will be made, no doubt about that -- will destroy the family, the display of religious faith, property, all the foundations of law.
How many other paragraphs can you think of, where someone peers into the unknowable, and largely sees the next 100 years right?

I saw this in Nicholas 2 Signs the October Manifesto by Richard Pipes, in I wish I'd been there, edited by Byron Hollinshead and Theodore K. Rabb, Pan Books, 2008.

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