“Darkness, Despair, Death Grip Russian Educators” (Sorokin on Russian universities, post-Revolution)


See the comments posted below. They clear up some items (factual matters and questions) in my original post.


Sorokin, ‘Darkness, Despair, Death Grip Russian Educators’

Posted here as a Word document is my transcription of an article by Sorokin:

pg. A2




How this article got published in the USA, or who delivered it, is not known. When it was published, in December 1922, Sorokin was in Czechoslovakia. He emigrated to the USA in November 1923 (not October, as biographies of Sorokin incorrectly state).

— transcribed and posted by Roger W. Smith

     March 2019



A PDF file is below.

Sorokin, ‘Darkness, Despair, Death Grip Russian Educators’ – NY Tribune 12-10-1922

Author: Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; classical music; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Sites on WordPress hosted by Mr. Smith include: (1) rogersgleanings.com (a personal site comprised of essays on a wide range of topics) ; (2) rogers-rhetoric.com (covering principles and practices of writing); (3) roger-w-smiths-dreiser.site (devoted to the author Theodore Dreiser); and (4) pitirimsorokin.com (devoted to sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin).

4 thoughts on ““Darkness, Despair, Death Grip Russian Educators” (Sorokin on Russian universities, post-Revolution)”

  1. The description of the horrible situation at St Petersburg University, and in St Petersburg, is very strong. I see that the publication is from 1922, but when was it written; that is when exactly did this happen? Could it have been already 1918? — Denny Vågerö


    1. Denny,

      The article posted by me, “Darkness, Despair, Death Grip Russian Educators.” was published in the New York Tribune on December 10, 1922. Sorokin was not in the United States then, nor would he have known English. We are told that “The following article [was] brought here by an American who has just returned from Russia.”

      Sorokin did not actually come to the USA until November 1923. He left Prague in late October 1923

      He was not teaching at the University of Petrograd in December 1922. But he had not left Russia long before that — he left in September 1922.

      He could have written the article anytime during the period after he was freed and resumed his teaching duties in Russia — he was freed in mid-December 1918– -and September 1922, when he left Russia for good. Obviously, the article, a first-person eyewitness account, was written while Sorokin was still in Russia.

      I checked the following sources:

      “Commentary on Some of the Russian Writings of Pitirim A. Sorokin,” by Barry V. Johnston, Natalia Y. Mandelbaum, Nikita E. Pokrovsky, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Volume 30, January 1994

      A Guide to The P. A. Sorokin Manuscripts and Papers (University of Saskatchewan)

      Sergei P. Sorokin, “Life with Pitirim Sorokin: A Younger Son’s Perspective”

      There is no mention of such an article.


    2. Denny — This article may have been a translation from Sorokin’s (book? pamphlet?) “современное состояние России” (The Current State of Russia; Prague, 1922), which citation I got from “The unknown Sorokin.” This “pamphlet” (but is it the same or something different?) is referenced in a lengthy article by Henry Noble MacCracken, President of Vassar College, that appeared in The Literary Review (published by the New York Evening Post), Vol. 3, No. 35, May 5, 1923. The pamphlet, which MacCracken says Sorokin showed him an advance copy of when the former was in Prague, was referenced by MacCracken as “Contemporary Conditions of Russia” (Prague, 1923). However, there is a discrepancy in the year, 1922 vs. 1923, so I am not sure. MacCracken states in his Literary Review article:: “… a wholly exceptional opportunity which is presented in the recent pamphlet of Pitirim Sorokin. Exiled last autumn from his professorship of sociology at Petrograd University, Sorokin brought with him official data concerning conditions in Russia, and in the course of a few days [in Czechoslovakia] wrote at white heat his pamphlet, which was published in the first week of January of this year [1923] After extended conversations with him in Prague in December [1922], he gave me an advance copy of his work, with permission to use extracts from it in any way.”


    3. Denny —

      Sorokin biographer Yuri Doykov (a Russian independent scholar and journalist) has cleared up the mystery for me. My previous speculations were wrong.

      The article in The New York Herald Tribune seems to have been an excerpt from what would become Sorokin’s “Leaves from a Russian Diary.”

      I received the following email from Yuri this month:

      “Among the many other merits of the anti-Soviet sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, adversary of Lenin and Trotsky, professor at Petrograd University, the foundation of “samizdat-tamizdat” is also listed … Fragments of the manuscript of his memoir “Leaves of the Russian Diary” were first published as early as 1922 … The manuscript was delivered to New York by ARA [American Relief Administration] employee Spurgeon Keeny. The New York Tribune published a fragment entitled The Darkness, Despair, Death Grip Russian Educators.”

      Denny — note that the Tribune article begins with prefatory remarks: “How are the educators in Russia faring under the Soviet regime? The following article, brought here by an American who has just returned from Russia, is a graphic answer to this question.” The American was Spurgeon (Sam) Keeny, who was working for the American Relief Administration (ARA) in Russia.


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