Dr Zhivago and the war in Ukraine

Dr Zhivago and the war in Ukraine

By Rohiman Haroon

“WE are victims of consequences. It’s cause and effect,” Hj Kamil told the three of us during breakfast at our usual place in Section 3, Shah Alam, the other day.

“I know that. Don’t preach elementary science to us,” said Hj Zainal, who seemed to love interjecting whenever Hj Kamil spoke.

“Why do you always do that?” Hj Kamil responded. “Do what?” Hj Zainal retorted.

“Interjecting when I’m talking. Now, I forget what I want to say,” Hj Kamil told Hj Zainal, a retired librarian who collects books. But Hj Kamil is an “alpha male” who likes to dominate conversations.

Hj Zainal countered: “You know, you’ve an inflated sense of importance in order to feel good about yourself.”

Dr Latiff, the quiet and sensible one, who thoroughly enjoyed the banter between his two friends, said: “Do go on, Hj Kamil. Cause and effect theory.”

“A simple example. When it rains heavily in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor these days, it causes flash floods. The rain is the cause and the flash flood is the effect.

“Another deduction. When President Vladimir Putin thinks Ukraine is militarised to the hilt with Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) countries behind it and poses a threat to his country’s sovereignty, Russia invades Ukraine. Threat is the cause and the invasion is the effect,” explained Hj Kamil.

“There are more effects of war than just one. How about the casualties and displaced citizens of Ukraine, destruction of homes, schools and hospitals? And what about the effects on the world economy like crude oil prices skyrocketing and food crises?” Hj Zainal argued.

“That is another set of cause and effect. War causes collateral damage to human lives. People are the numero uno of collateral damage and war causes a chain reaction in other facets of our civilisation, the global economy and political instability,” Hj Kamil elucidated.

Dr Latiff said: “I watched the film, Dr Zhivago, the other day, and it got me to read the novel by Boris Pasternak.

“Pasternak saw the collateral damage to Russians during World War 1 and the Russian Revolution. I couldn’t imagine the effects of the wars on innocent people.”

The film was more about the thrills and frills of romance with the war as a background.

The 1917 revolution was an explosive political event of the 20th century. It marked the end of the Romanov dynasty and centuries of Russian Imperial rule.

During the revolution, the Bolsheviks, led by leftist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, seized power and destroyed the tradition of czarist rule. The Bolsheviks would later become the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Pasternak was a Russian poet, novelist and literary translator. He began writing the novel in the 1910s, but Doctor Zhivago was completed only in 1955. The publishers rejected the novel due to its objection to socialist realism.

The author, like Zhivago, showed more concern for the welfare of individuals than for the welfare of society and the state. Soviet censors construed some passages as anti-Soviet and objected to Pasternak’s subtle criticisms of Lenin and Joseph Stalin’s policies.

Dr Latiff said Pasternak saw how the Bolsheviks started the revolution and how the subsequent civil war between the Red and White armies destroyed Russia, followed by Stalin’s Great Purge and gulag (labour camps).

“Pasternak must have hated Lenin for the casualties and destruction as much as the world hates Putin now,” said Dr Latiff.

“So, what if Russia loses this war?” asked Hj Zainal. A month into the invasion of Ukraine, western media have reported that the war is not going according to Putin’s plans.

Thousands of Russian soldiers were killed, although not as many as the civilians and soldiers of Ukraine. Some say Russia suffered horrendous losses. The Ukrainians made it apparent that Russia would never be welcomed into the former Soviet republic.

“That will be another cause and effect if and when the time comes,” said Hj Kamil, summing up the discourse. Nst

Dr Zhivago and the war in Ukraine

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