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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Don't Think So Hard, Have A Little Faith Less You Know

R ussia cannot be understood with the mind," wrote the poet Fyodor Tyutchev over 100 years ago. Amen. With the prescience of practitioners of his craft, Tyutchev hit the nail squarely on the head.


We old-timers have always known that any logical analysis of this country is doomed to failure. Those who persist often end up in padded cells. Or worse, they flock to think tanks, where they learn to couch their extreme puzzlement in cleverly abstruse and ambivalent terms.


In the old days, of course, there was the option of "Kremlinology" -- that pseudo-discipline in which scholars pored over the arcana of the Soviet Union with the fascination, and, it seemed, the accuracy, of ancient soothsayers divining on the basis of chicken entrails.


In the New Russia there is data aplenty: We have economic indicators, public opinion polls, a free and frank press -- all the tools necessary to develop a complete picture. Why is it I sometimes have the feeling that we are as far off base as we ever were?


I think Tyutchev's version is as good as any. We are thinking too hard.


I have my own preferred method of taking the nation's spiritual temperature. It's called "Out of the Mouths of Babes," a TV game show in which hapless adults try to guess a word from a child's often misguided attempt to explain it.


A few days ago I watched an especially revealing segment, during which several post-perestroika tadpoles expounded on "million."


Five-year-old Sveta, shrugging her diminutive shoulders and wrinkling her tiny nose, came up with an analysis of the current economic situation:


"With it you can buy lots of stock shares, or clothes, or maybe a house. " She shook her bantiki, the wide white hair-bows that small girls wear, and added sadly, "It's not enough for a car, though."


Her friend Masha reflected the darker side of the new lifestyle:


"You shouldn't keep it at home, because it could get stolen, and then you won't have it any more."


All of the pint-sized respondents took for granted that the word referred to money. Only one brave soul -- a boy -- took a broader view:


"It's a lot. Like money. Or maybe worms."


On more abstract topics the results were a bit alarming for those of us who are pinning our hopes for this country on the emerging generation.


When asked to explain the concept "frankness," all of these post-Soviet babes sounded the same note. Little six-year-old Kolya, nodding sagely, looked directly into the camera, and said,


"It is probably a good thing, but they can put you in jail for it."


Old ways die hard, I guess.


While much is changing in Russia with incredible rapidity, it would be naive to expect that seven decades of Soviet rule would just disappear without a trace.


This is, after all, a nation that is still blaming many of its troubles on the Tatar yoke. If 500 years is insufficient to cleanse the collective memory, a bare five is unlikely to make a dent.


To get back to poetry -- the proper medium in which to discuss Russia, I've found -- Tyutchev ended his famous verse with a few words of advice. While Russia cannot be understood by the intellect, or measured by the common yardstick, he tells us, there is a solution:


"You have to just believe in Russia."