Who Speaks the Truth? Writers vs . Lawyers

In the study of Russian civil society before the Revolution, what a researcher discovers depends on whose viewpoint is accepted as most authoritative. For example, the judicial reforms implemented in the 1860s and the tsarist-era Dumas are historical facts, but their civic legacy has been evaluated in fundamentally different ways. If you look through the eyes of eloquent lawyers active in the courts, zemstvos, and the parliament, you see an incredible burst of energy for the public good and a passionate search for truth and justice during trials and at public meetings. If, however, you look through the lens of Russia’s most revered writers – a more common path for readers both inside Russia and abroad – what you see are study circles that accomplished nothing, salons that were a ‘vanity fair’, courtrooms where legal careerism triumphed over the common good, and a parliament whose ultimate accomplishment was the destruction of a thousand-year old civilization. Who speaks the truth?

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