Thus Day of the Oprichnik depicts a timeless Russia, but that Russia is victim to a political regime that seems to combine the worst elements of both authoritarianism and lawlessness. On the one hand, the country's political life clearly revolves around a central figure, the tsar or his modern day successors. Ordinarily, extreme centralization has at least some benefits: if men and women suffer from oppression, or live in fear, the state does at least offer a degree of political stability and order. However, in Russia, the autocratic system of government coexists with, or perhaps depends upon, a certain form of political anarchy. The paradox is this: the state appears all-powerful, but in reality it is founded upon profound uncertainty and insecurity. To prop itself up, the government fosters a climate of radical and seemingly random terror at almost all levels of society. Why did Ivan the Terrible carve out an empire within an empire and put the two at odds with one another? What was the purpose of Stalin's unprecedented purges of even his closest confidants? Why does Putin imprison a few of Russia's most powerful subjects from time to time? This seemingly arbitrary violence is in fact a symptom of Russia's longstanding tradition of wedding bureaucratic centralization with state-sanctioned brigandage, as Sorokin's novel of the future suggests.
If Sorokin's Russia has any saving grace, it is only the Russian literary tradition. For even in a country with longstanding traditions of corruption, political violence, censorship, anti-semitism, xenophobia, and autocracy, the country hasn't completely forgotten about Russia's great humanistic tradition. Even the narrator has some familiarity with authors such as Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. This ineradicable memory of literary tradition seems to be a common theme of many Russian science fiction authors. In Tatyana Tolstaya book, The Slynx, for instance, a degraded, post-apocalyptic humanity forgets almost every basic element of civilization but can't, apparently, ever forget the names of Russia's most famous authors. Whether authors such as Sorokin or Tolstaya believe the Russian classics will ultimately redeem Russian barbarism is an open question. For both authors, the names of Russia's great authors survive, but as a form of gibberish. On the other hand, Sorokin's characters go out of their way to blaspheme the classics, by burning them for example. But why burn the classics if not out of a fear that these classics do in fact contain some forgotten recipe for humanism in an age of totalitarianism and "perverted science."
Some favorite quotes from the book:
"The Russian people aren't easy to work with. But God hasn't given us any other people."
"The Russian classics are helpful to the state."
"I look at the fire. And see The Idiot and Anna Karenina in flames. I look at the fire. And see The Idiot and Anna Karenina in flames. I
"This is our lane. The government's. As long as I live and serve the state, I will drive in it."
"Can a foreign oven really bake savory pies like a Russian oven?"
"Just understand, you idiot, we're gaurds. We have to keep our minds cold and our hearts pure."
"His majesty can't stand cusswords."
"...opponents began to crawl out of the cracks like noxious centipedes. A truly great idea breeds great resistance. Our state has always had enemies inside and out, but the battle was never so intense as during the period of Holy Russia's Revival."
"Without you, Your Majesty, nothing works."
"His Majesty awakened in us not simply pride in our country, but compassion for her painful past. Three Russian children stand streching theird hands out to us from the past of an insulted and injured country. And we cannot help them at all."
"I blame my brain: I didn't catch on to an obvious thing! But then, my education was in the humanities..."
"I tune in to the West. It's a real stronghold of anti-Russian subversion. Like slimy reputles in a cesspool, enemy voices team..."
"His Majesty's father, the late Nikolai Platonovich, had a good idea: liquidate all the foreign supermarkets and replace them with Russian kiosks. And put two types of each thing in every kiosk, so the people have a choice. A wise decision, profound. Because our God-bearing people should choose from two things, not from three or thirty-three."
"Well, this sort of thing isn't for us to decide, but for His Majesty. From the Kremlin His Majesty sees the people better, they're more visible...His Majest sees everything, hears everything. He knows who needs what."
"The Kremlin is glorious in clear weather! It glows. The Palace of the Russian Government blinds the eyes, it takes your breath away."
"I know all these authors well. They're famous, distinquished. Carressed by the love of the people and His Majesty."
""Full and complete transparency,"" as His Majesty says. And thank God: We're in our own homeland, nothing to be shy about."