Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Condoleezza Rice, Doestoevsky Fan

This paragraph jumped out of a very interesting profile by Jay Nordlinger on Condoleezza Rice on National Review Online, first published in 1999, that discussed the new Secretary of State's training as classical pianist--she has performed Brahms with Yo Yo Ma--and Sovietologist:

As to those "roots," what was it, indeed, that drew her to the Soviet Union, to Russia? "I was attracted to the Byzantine nature of Soviet politics," she says, "and by power: how it operates, how it's used." She read everything she could get her hands on about World War II "and about war generally." She particularly remembers John Erickson's "great books" — The Road to Stalingrad, The Road to Berlin. She read Dostoevsky "rather than Tolstoy." And she encountered Solzhenitsyn: "He understood the dark side of Russia better than anyone else. Like most Russian novels, it was tragedy without redemption."

Of course, Tolstoy offers redemption, and he's pretty darn Russian, too. Solzhenitsyn is seen by some as a little extreme. Yet, one doesn't have to completeley concur with Rice's taste to to agree that it will be interesting to see what changes Rice might makes to the style and substance of American diplomacy.

Clearly she takes ideas seriously, takes culture seriously, and takes Russia seriously--all good signs, especially when viewing America from Moscow...Which may mean a change in American policy vis-a-vis Chechnya, if Rice is reading her Russian history as I think she might, perhaps in exchange for the release of Khodorhovsky and better business relations with the US. Let's see what happens at the Bush-Putin summit in Slovakia. (Curiously, Rice's dissertation advisor at the University of Denver, Josef Korbel--Madeleine Albright's father--was a former diplomat from Czechoslovakia).