Home > Uncategorized > Maxim Gorky: “That’s what war is for – to seize foreign land or depopulate one’s own”

Maxim Gorky: “That’s what war is for – to seize foreign land or depopulate one’s own”

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

Maxim Gorky: Selections on war

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Maxim Gorky
From Fragments From My Diary (1923)
Translated by Moura Budberg

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Excerpts from Some Views on the War:

In the garden in front of the Narodni Dom a heterogeneous group of people was listening to the bold words of a little soldier. He had a bandage around his head and his bright eyes shone with inspiration. He spoke in a high-pitched voice, and clutched at the people standing next to him, in his anxiety to impress his audience.

‘As a matter of fact,’ he said, ‘we are, of course the stronger, but in every other respect we can’t hold a candle to them. The German fights with calculation, he uses soldiers carefully, whereas we – slap bang! – all the gruel’s thrown into the pot at once…’

A huge, sturdy peasant in a torn overcoat here remarked in a weighty, business-like way: ‘We’ve got more people than we know what to do with. Thank God we go to work differently than the Germans. Our whole object is to reduce the number of people in this country, so that those who survive can have more room.’

He yawned luxuriously as he said this. I tried to detect some irony in his words, but his face may have been carved out of stone, and his eyes were calm and sleepy.

A grey, crumpled-up little man chime in. ‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘That’s what war is for – either to seize a foreign land or to diminish the number of people in our own.’

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On the whole I find that the man in the street speaks of this abominable, desecrating slaughter as though it were something to which he is a complete stranger, something that he is watching as a spectator; something he speaks of with a certain amount of ill-will, though I cannot make out against whom this ill-will is directed. Criticism of the authorities has not perceptibly increased, nor does opposition to them seem to be growing. What is noticeable is the rise of a disgusting, common anarchism…

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