Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in Washington, D.C., April 2001
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Russian folk culture cherishes the figure of the holy fool. Derived from Orthodox Christianity, the holy fool is out of sync with conventional society. The holy fool speaks the truth, though to others it may sound like nonsense. The holy fool stumbles through life, experiencing successes that are failures and failures that are successes. Holy fools can be prophets. Although everyone else is preoccupied with the world as it is, the holy fool can intuit the world as it might be, and perhaps the world as it will be. Wisdom can initially look like folly, and folly can appear at

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