Libmonster ID: MD-1040

From the editorial staff: We are reprinting the speech of Andrey Anatolyevich Zaliznyak, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, winner of the 2007 Solzhenitsyn Literary Prize. This decision is dictated by our conviction that readers of the magazine "Vostok (Oriens)" are close to and understand the thoughts of the laureate concerning the current (and not only) "pain points" of relations between the humanities and society in our country.

I thank Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the entire jury for the great honor that I have been awarded.

At the same time, I must admit that this award causes me not only pleasant feelings, but also great embarrassment.

* * *

In my life, my strongest and longest-lasting friendship was formed at school - and since then, those who are still alive have been friendly friends several times a year for more than half a century. And now it is clear to me how much we were united in our inner conviction (so obvious to us that we did not formulate or discuss it ourselves) that high ranks and honors are something incompatible with our youthful ideals, our self-respect and respect for each other.

Of course, the era was to blame for the clear perception that those who rose to official glory - all or most of them - received it in crooked ways and did not deserve it. We understood it this way: if the winner of the Stalin Prize, then almost certainly obsequious mediocrity; if an academician, then some absolutely exceptional evidence is needed to believe that he is not a hypocrite and not a crook. It was firmly embedded in us and, in fact, still is. Therefore, no titles and honors can bring us the unalloyed happiness that the current mass media chirp about in such cases. If they do give them to us for some reason, it's awkward for us to wear them.

"Outdated! "they tell us. - Now everything is different, now there is an opportunity to reward the worthy." I'd like to believe it. And there are already, of course, quite a few cases where this is undoubtedly the case. But for the fundamental principle itself to have already outlived and disappeared, there is still not enough evidence...

* Literary newspaper. June 6-12, 2007 N 24 (6124), p. 6. Spelling and punctuation of the original are preserved.

page 147

Meanwhile, our perception of the Russian world was not pessimistic. We felt this way: along with the thoroughly fake official hierarchy, there is an underground Hamburg account. There are persecuted artists who, of course, are better than the official ones. There is - in samizdat - real literature, which, of course, is higher than the published one. There are great scientists who do not receive any official recognition, and in order to earn something on the Hamburg bill, you only need true talent, you do not need obsequiousness and sneaking.

Of course, material success was determined by the official hierarchy, not the underground one. But we, in accordance with the spirit of the era, looked down on the material side of life. Western Formula: "If you're smart, why are you poor?" - for us, it was an obvious evidence of the wretchedness of this type of thinking.

Now we have to part with this Soviet idealism. For the younger generation, there is no big problem here. The Western formula no longer seems shabby to them. But our generation will never be completely rebuilt.

* * *

I would also like to say a few words about my book mentioned here about "The Tale of Igor's Regiment". I am sometimes told that it is a patriotic essay. In the mouth of some it is praise, in the mouth of others-ridicule. Both of them often call me a "supporter (or even defender) of the authenticity of SPI".

I strongly deny this.

I suppose I have some patriotism in me, but it's probably the kind of thing that those who talk particularly much about patriotism wouldn't like very much.

My experience has led me to believe that if a book on such a "hot" issue as the origin of the "Lay of Igor's Regiment" is written out of patriotic motives, then its conclusions on real scales for this reason alone weigh less than we would like.

After all, we do not have mathematics - all arguments are not absolute. So if the researcher has a strong deep incentive to "pull" in a certain direction, then the specifics of the case, alas, easily allow this craving to be realized - namely, it allows you to find more and more new arguments in the right favor, imperceptibly inflate the significance of your own arguments and minimize the significance of the opposite arguments.

In the case of The Lay of Igor's Regiment, unfortunately, the lion's share of the argument is permeated with precisely such aspirations : those who have patriotism on their banner need the work to be authentic; those who are convinced of the absolute and ever-present backwardness of Russia need it to be fake. And that's what makes a deaf person talk, to a large extent, is determined by this.

I will say something that my opponents (as well as some of those who agree) will most likely not believe. But this is still not a reason not to say it at all.

Indeed, my motive for getting involved in this difficult and complicated case was not patriotism. I don't have the feeling that I would be particularly pleased that "The Tale of Igor's Regiment" was written in the twelfth century, or upset that it was written in the eighteenth. If there was one thing I was dissatisfied with and upset about, it was something else entirely - a sense of weakness and second-handness of our linguistic science, if it cannot make a reasonable diagnosis of the text before us in so much time.

Linguists, it seemed to me, have much more opportunities than other humanitarians to rely on objective facts - on strictly measured and classified characteristics of the text. Does the text have absolutely no objective properties that would allow us to distinguish antiquity from its imitation?

page 148

The attempt to unearth the truth from under the pile of conflicting opinions about the "Lay of Igor's Regiment" was also largely connected with more general reflections on the relationship between truth and assumptions in the humanities-reflections generated by my participation in a critical discussion of the so-called new Fomenko chronology, which proclaims the spurious nature of almost most of the sources based on which are based on our knowledge of world history.

We all understand that a great moral ferment is taking place in the country. Near us on the Volokolamsk Highway, where giant slogans such as "Glory to the CPSU!" and "Victory of Communism is inevitable" have been hanging over people for years, you could recently see on a billboard in equally huge letters: "Everything can be bought!" I have never seen such a well-aimed salvo on traditional Russian moral values, even in the most cynical advertisements.

Here are Scylla and Charybdis, between which the current Russian person has to find a moral path for himself.

There is a whole tangle of moral, ethical and intellectual problems here.

In the nature of my studies, the aspect that is closest to me - although not the most dramatic, but still very significant - that concerns the attitude to knowledge.

Together with the aggressive hedonistic idea of "Take everything from life!"inspired by the current advertising. There has also been a marked shift in attitudes towards knowledge and truth among many people, especially young people.

* * *

I do not wish, however, to generalize hastily and excessively. All my life, starting from the age of 25 (with one not very long break), I have dealt with students in one way or another. And this communication has always been tinged with great satisfaction. As I watch the work of quite a large number of linguists whom I have seen in front of me at various times on the student bench, I feel that I like their attitude to science and the way they act in science. And the students with whom I deal now, in my opinion, treat their work with no less dedication and enthusiasm than the former ones.

But outside of this sphere, which is close to me, I unfortunately feel the spread of views and reactions that mean a decline in the public consciousness of the value of science in general and the humanities in particular.

Of course, with regard to the humanities, the Soviet government's policy of putting these sciences directly at the service of political propaganda played a disastrous role. The result: disbelief and ridicule of official philosophers, official historians, official literary critics. Now it is really very difficult to convince the public that there are conclusions in these sciences that are not dictated by the authorities or not adjusted to their interests.

On the contrary, sensational statements that appear here and there all the time, claiming that one or another statement of a certain humanitarian science, most often history, which was considered generally accepted, has been completely overthrown, are picked up very willingly and with great alacrity. The psychological basis here is vindictive satisfaction with all the liars and opportunists who have been forcing their custom-made theories on us for so long.

And needless to say, how little in this situation people are inclined to check these sensations with logic and common sense.

I would like to speak out in defense of two simple ideas that were previously considered obvious and even just banal, but now they sound very unfashionable:

1) Truth exists, and the goal of science is to find it.

page 149

2) In any issue under discussion, a professional (if he is really a professional, and not just a bearer of state titles) is usually more correct than an amateur.

They are opposed by provisions that are now much more fashionable:

1) The truth does not exist, there are only a lot of opinions (or, in the language of postmodernism, a lot of texts).

2) On any issue, no one's opinion weighs more than the opinion of someone else. A fifth-grader girl has an opinion that Darwin is wrong, and it is good form to present this fact as a serious challenge to biological science.

This plague is typical not only for Russia, but also for the Western world. But in Russia, it is noticeably reinforced by the situation of the post-Soviet ideological vacuum.

The sources of these now fashionable propositions are clear:

indeed, there are aspects of the world order where the truth is hidden and, perhaps, unattainable;

indeed, there are cases when the layman is right, and all professionals are mistaken.

A major shift is that these situations are perceived not as rare and exceptional, as they really are, but as universal and common.

And a huge incentive to accept them and believe in them is their psychological benefits. If all opinions are equal, then I can sit down and immediately send my opinion to the Internet, without bothering myself with many years of teaching and laborious acquaintance with what those who have devoted many years of research to this subject already know.

The psychological advantage here is not only for the writer, but also for a significant part of readers: this frees them from the feeling of their own lack of education, and in one move puts them above those who have long pored over the foundation of traditional wisdom, which, as they now learn, is worthless.

From the recognition that there is no truth in some deep philosophical question, the transition is made to the fact that there is no truth in anything, for example, in the fact that the First World War began in 1914. And now we already read, for example, that there was never Ivan the Terrible or that Batu is Ivan Kalita. And what is much worse, a deplorably large number of people accept such news willingly.

And today's mass media, alas, are the first allies in spreading such amateurish nonsense, because they say and write first of all what should impress and impress the mass audience and listeners-therefore, the most catchy and sensational, and by no means the most serious and reliable.

* * *

I am not particularly optimistic that the vector of this movement will somehow change and the situation will improve by itself. Apparently, those who recognize the value of truth and the corrupting power of amateurism and quackery and try to resist this power will continue to find themselves in the difficult position of swimming against the current. But the hope is that there will always be those who will still do it.


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ANDREY ZALIZNYAK, THE TRUTH EXISTS // Chisinau: Library of Moldova (LIBRARY.MD). Updated: 07.07.2024. URL: https://library.md/m/articles/view/THE-TRUTH-EXISTS (date of access: 17.07.2024).

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