Belinsky: I’m losing my youth and my health and making enemies all over the shop when I could be surrounded by admirers who want nothing from me except to take away my independence—because I believe literature alone can, even now, redeem our honour, even now, in words alone, that have ducked and dodged their way past the censor, literature can be… become… can…
Chaadaev: You mean literature with a social purpose…?
Belinsky: No! Let social purpose hang itself unhindered! No—I mean, literature can replace, can actually become… Russia! The moment an artist has a social purpose he is merely a huckster, maybe talented but that’s not it, it won’t help us when every time we say “Russia” we have to grin and twitch like half-wits from the embarrassment—“Russia! Yes, I’m afraid so—you’ve got it—the backwoods—no history but barbarism, no law but autocracy, no glory but brute force, and all those contented serfs!”—we’re nothing to the world except an object lesson in what to avoid. But a great artist can change all that. I mean Pushkin up to, say, Boris Godunov, he’s finished now, and there’s others to come, I know they’re coming, and soon, here things are growing not by the year but by the hour. You see what I’m saying? When the word “Russia” makes you think of great writers first and foremost, the job will be done—you’ll be able to walk down the street in London or Paris and when someone asks you where you’re from, you can say, “Russia! I’m from Russia, you poor bastard, so what do you think of that?!”
—The Coast of Utopia: Voyage, Tom Stoppard