RUSSIA, the Russian Revolution, Siberia, the Peter and Paul Fortress, were magic words to us young revolutionists in Zurich in 1912. We saw the Russian exiles who came to that city in the light of Russian literature. The fact that this most recent generation of refugees from the Tsar was completely different from the heroes of the famous novels did not affect us. What reality can be stronger than a preconceived ideal?
Our Russians were absolutely unsentimental. They used sentiment now and then, as politicians often do. All of them had flight, deportation and a court trial behind them. But it never occurred to them to speak about their past. They would have regarded such talk as childish or as an offense against good taste. They were attractive not only because of their readiness to discuss everything, their willingness to teach without pedantry or didacticism, but, above all, because of their ardent interest in every problem. They were all eternal -- and eternally young -- students whose thirst for knowledge would never be quenched. In contrast, a French or German Socialist lost his curiosity about mankind as soon as his prudent leaders presented him with a job in the political or administrative machine, or sent him to Parliament.
The Russians we knew in Zurich also displayed the dross in human nature, and sometimes it was as apparent to the beholder as the stains on their clothes. The energy they wasted intriguing against each other would have sufficed to rule a gigantic empire. Yet this must be granted: they were not self-satisfied. Every one of them was in a state of permanent revolution against himself, against his closest party comrades, and against God. These exiles felt the war and the postwar problems directly, concretely, in their own flesh. Politics never left them for a moment. It was like a chronic illness. They dreamed of it, and if they talked in their sleep, surely it was only of things political. Their hope was to
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