What a script! What a collection of actors and actresses—Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Tom Courtenay and Rod Steiger. Brilliant cinematography, sets, costumes and sound track. Five Oscars and numerous other awards.
Pasternak, Russia's greatest living poet, became a symbol of artistic courage in conflict with the Communist Party's control over art and expression.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union defined art, literature and truth as that which served the interest of the Party, as interpreted by the Party. Rather than cooperate with the subjugation of the artist, Pasternak went silent. His protest inspired others, and the dissident movement was born.
Banned in the Soviet Union, Doctor Zhivago was first published in Italy in 1957. An English translation followed in 1958. The first Russian-language edition was published in the United States in 1959 after Pasternak was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize in literature.
Pasternak accepted the prize but was immediately forced to retract his acceptance by Soviet authorities, who threatened him with persecution of his intimate friend and collaborator, Olga Ivinskaya.
Pasternak died in 1960, the year before I went to the Soviet Union as a member of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Student Exchange Program. I took a copy or two of Doctor Zhivago with me. By then, there was a cottage industry run by dissidents, who copied prohibited books by hand or mimeograph machine. As this was only the second year of the exchange program, Americans were a novelty, and dissidents found ways to break through the controlled environments in which Soviet authorities attempted to keep us.
We quickly learned that the view held by progressive American liberals that the Soviet government had the support of the Soviet people was incorrect—and doubly so with regard to the intellectual class.
We experienced the same estrangement among the peoples of the non-Russian republics and the Eastern European satellites. When we left the Soviet Union in August of 1961, the Berlin Wall was under construction. We encountered many Poles and East Germans who were convinced that the wall meant war, which would liberate them from the Soviet yoke.
But back to Doctor Zhivago. Seeing the film again after 37 years, I was struck by how much more powerful its impact is today. In 1965, the Soviet Union stood astride the world as a colossus that challenged the United States and put unrelenting pressure on the free world. Although the existence of the Soviet Union in no way justified the barbarity that had destroyed art, life and Russian culture, at least a superpower stood on the ruins and the graves.
Now, more than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union from its own irrationality and injustice, it hits with full force that the genocide of an entire class of people, the destruction of a culture, and the suppression of the best human instincts, was all for nothing.
Generations of Westerners are likely to grow up uninstructed by this greatest of tragedies. How does one get one's mind around the politically-correct murder by communists of tens of millions of people for the crime of being members of the wrong class?
To comprehend such vast evil requires study and the aid of great artists and writers. But where will Pasternak be encountered except for an occasional course in Russian literature? At 3 hours and 17 minutes, the film is long to appear very often on television.
Today in our finest universities, feminist professor prattle on about "gender genocide." By genocide, they mean such things as women living comfortable lives as mothers and homemakers or female executives earning only 95 percent of male executives' pay.
The professors are ignorant of real genocides, such as the tens of thousands of elegant and artistic young women who died in the Akmola camp for the Wives of Traitors of the Motherland in the frozen Siberian steppes. Bewildered and with no idea of the fate of their husbands and children, they found themselves without warm clothes in a "White Tomb" with no prospect of living.
There is no museum to remind us of the holocaust of class genocide - or to inform us of the danger of class warfare, still a staple of the Democratic Party, the British Labour Party and European Social Democrats.
Paul Craig Roberts is the author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.
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