"At that time relatively few people had experienced at first hand the peculiarities of our legal system."
"Did they really think that posterity, going through these records, would believe them just as blindly as their crazed contemporaries?"
"We never asked, on hearing about the latest arrest, what was he arrested for?"
"Osip, I envy you," Gumilev used to say to M., "you will die in a garret."
"What a great thing is a police station! The place where I have my rendez-vous with the State." Khlebnikov.
Nadezhda Mandelstam’s Hope Against Hope begins with a description and analysis of the nighttime arrest of her husband, Osip Mandelstam, one of Russia’s greatest poets. Years after the terrifying intrusion of state security agents into her small apartment, Nadezhda’s understandably remembers the search and legal kidnapping bitterly. To whom does she assign blame? She identifies a large assortment of culprits. If success has many parents, villainy has as many bastards. When evil triumphs, we can almost always assume that it was aided and abetted by dozens of actors, although the guilty go to extraordinary lengths to deny paternity. With Osip’s arrest, we can blame the agents who accepted the vile mission of going to war with intellectuals and poets. We can blame the stool pigeons who bore false witness against Russia’s best and brightest. We can point angry fingers at the apartment building spies who stood ready to certify the legality of the state’s brutal nighttime thuggery. We can blame the dictator who gave the secret police its orders. We can even blame, as Nadezhda does, the people who, years later, covered up the matter, justified it, de-emphasized its importance, or even ignored it.