The focus of Olga's memoirs is the virtues of the Russian intelligentsia. The book depicts Olga's interactions over the years with Akhmatova, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, Sinyavsky, Askoldov, Lydia Chukovsky, Nadezdha Mandelstam,Vasilyn Aksyonov, and Joseph Brodsky. In fact, Olga has family ties to authors and poets as well as socialist revolutionaries such as the famous Victor Chernov, one of Lenin's fiercest critics on the left. Her book testifies to the continuing power of the idea or myth of the intelligentsia. Although Olga's hopes in the 1960s were dashed after the Soviet Thaw came to an end, she was intimately involved with Russian intellectual resistance to totalitarianism, both at home and in the diaspora. This book is an attempt to document the survival of liberalism in Russia against all odds. On the other hand, Olga's second homecoming at the end of the Soviet period, her "reunion" with Russia, is clouded by the resurgence of virulent anti-Semitism. At the time, many Russian Jews had real reason to fear the advent of Russian "democracy." Resurgent Russian nationalists were blaming Jews for the entire Soviet experiment, and using only thinly veiled threats to drive many Russian Jews into exile.
This reminds me of my attempts to follow one popular Russian news service. Reading the RT news is an unnerving if profitable experience on many levels. For the RT press seems to exist only to retaliate against American and West European attacks against Russia. If Russia is criticized for human rights violations, Russia's news organs make counterclaims about American human rights violations. In a sense, reading the Russian news is salubrious. Russia's unique, non-European, vantage point can unveil hypocrisy and highlight American foreign policy errors and abuses. But of course the news is often disingenuous. Russia really does make outrageous mistakes in its treatment of minorities, for example, with the recent anti-gay laws being only the most egregiously hurtful of these laws. But worse still is to read the website feedback sections, filled as they with endless and flagrant anti-Semittic, racist, and homophobic rants. Reading these neo-Nazi diatribes of hate, one is reminded of the paradox which has confounded Olga and all other members of Russia's intelligentsia. If Russia is the land of Tolstoys and Gorkys and Bunins, it's also the land of the Zhirinovskys and Black Hundreds.