We had about three hundred and fifty miles to walk. To travel that distance without stopping at villages for food was impossible. In every village we ran great risk of arrest. To pass from one place to another it was necessary to get permission from the “Communistic Committee of Poor Peasants.” Red soldiers were patrolling the forests and special pickets watched all principal vistas. We thought of retreating into the deepest depths of the forest, building a hut and remaining there all winter. We considered also hiding in a house in a village, never appearing out of doors, and never speaking except to the master of the house. It sounds fantastic, but life is more fantastic than any fiction. Two of my friends saved their lives by that first plan and another by the second. This man lived for two years in a small house, never showing himself to anyone except his landlady, and in the end he escaped alive.
We continued to wander over the bosom of Nature, occasionally wishing we might see a little of civilization. In free moments we talked much about the Revolution, and doubts which had been born in my mind at the beginning of the upheaval grew to full size. In this wild forest the utter futility of all revolution, the vanity of all Socialism and Communism became clear to me. The catastrophe of the Revolution, the deep historic roots of Bolshevism, loathed by the majority, it is true, but having as its basis and its force the passive spirit of the Russian nation, overwhelmed me with its truth. Only when the people have suffered the fullest horrors of Bolshevism, only when they have passed completely through the tragic, perhaps the fatal experience of the Communist experiment, can their dreadful sickness be cured once and forever. Only then the poisons in which Bolshevism flourished would be purged from the organism of the Russian people. Only then would this damned passivity disappear and they be transformed from a people accustomed to tyranny to a self-governing nation.
Out of these meditations I wrote an address to my electors, sending it to my friends to be made public. I am no longer a revolutionist because revolution is catastrophe. I am no longer a Socialist, because Socialism is wrong. I released myself from responsibility as a member of the Constitutional Assembly, since the people would not support their own representative body. If they hope to have a ” Government of the people, tor the people, and by the people,” they themselves must be active and must cease to lean on leaders who, without their support, are powerless. Such was the essence of my message.
Many dazzling illusions, beautiful dreams in whose reality I had once believed, I lost during my meditations in the forest. They fled, I believe, forever. But I did not grieve over my lost illusions. Life and the world are so beautiful, so wonderful in their reality that illusions are necessary only to the blind and deaf and lame, for mental, moral, and physical cripples. Healthy persons have no need of illusions.
— Pitirim A. Sorokin, Leaves from a Russian Diary — and Thirty Years After; Part II: 1918; Chapter XII, “In the Bosom of Nature” (Boston: Beacon Press, 1950), pp 171-173
— posted by Roger W. Smith