Saturday, September 22, 2018

In struggle over Ukrainian Orthodox communion, a political hornet’s nest

Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor

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Image from article: Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (r.) and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople hold a liturgy in the southern Serbian city of  Nis in 2013 

MOSCOW For decades, Orthodox leaders have been at odds over where the loyalties of clergy in Ukraine should lie: in Moscow, or within Ukraine’s own borders. While deeply meaningful to religious authorities, it is the sort of complicated detail that ordinarily would be of interest to few outside Orthodox circles.

But now, the long-simmering jurisdictional dispute is coming to a head – and could add a new layer to Ukraine’s internal tensions amid its ongoing geopolitical strife with Russia.

Encouraged by the government in Kiev, Orthodox leaders in Ukraine are attempting to create a national church by severing the ties of many Ukrainian Orthodox churches to their traditional spiritual headquarters in Moscow. And with the foremost patriarch of the overall Orthodox Church apparently set to throw his weight behind Kiev’s cause, a new Ukrainian patriarchate seems likely sooner rather than later.

With a new national patriarchate, however, would come a hostile takeover of the country’s traditional Orthodox body by a newer breakaway church. And while the change would have no practical impact on parishioners – weddings and baptisms would go on the same way as before – it would likely result in a political schism, as churches that once spiritually allied to Moscow were legally forced to orient toward Kiev. The Orthodox debate would be subsumed by political concerns that should not touch it, critics say.

“We have separation of church and state in Ukraine, and any attempt by the state to meddle in our affairs would be reminiscent of totalitarian days,” says Vasily Anisimov, official spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate. “Why our church doesn’t please the Ukrainian authorities is a mystery to us.”

Ukrainian Orthodoxy

The Orthodox world has 14 autocephalous – functionally independent but spiritually connected – units, mostly nation-based, each with its own local head, or patriarch. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church has no pope-like figure to definitively settle issues. But the Patriarch of Constantinople (now Istanbul, where the church was born) is considered “first among equals” and enjoys a few privileges as such.

About two-thirds of Ukraine’s 43 million people identify as Orthodox believers, although they are divided among three separate churches that do not vary in their beliefs or practices but which attract very different political passions.

The vast majority of parishes – about 7,000 out of a total 12,000 – are affiliated to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). The church is legally and financially autonomous, but has no patriarch of its own. Rather, it is part of the world’s largest Orthodox congregation, the Russian one, headed by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. In recent years the UOC has steadily been losing followers, but is still supported by at least 20 percent of Orthodox believers, mainly in the east and south of Ukraine.

Though it has fewer parishes, the breakaway Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) is in fact a larger congregation than the UOC: about a third of Ukrainian Orthodox believers. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UOC-KP was formed under the leadership of the Soviet-era Metropolitan (Archbishop) of Kiev, Mykhailo Denysenko, who had failed in a bid to become Moscow Patriarch. He took the name Patriarch Filaret, the designated spiritual head of the new church. It is Filaret who is the primary spiritual figure behind the drive for a Ukrainian national church, which began in its modern form when Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.

There is also a Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which was formed after the Bolshevik Revolution, and has the support of about 3 percent of believers. To confuse matters further, in the west of Ukraine (which was under Polish domination for centuries) there is also the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is basically Orthodox but owes allegiance to the pope in Rome, and commands the support of just under 10 percent of Ukrainians.

‘A united, equal Ukrainian Church’

The effort to create a unified, independent Ukrainian church has intensified greatly since the Maidan Revolution four years ago, and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea, triggered violent geopolitical conflict between Moscow and Kiev.

Earlier this month Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople prompted what will certainly be a heavily contested process aimed at eventually granting autocephaly to Orthodox Ukrainians. He sent two leading Orthodox officials from North America, which is under Constantinople’s jurisdiction, to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and others to discuss the move. The Russian Orthodox Church, which accuses Bartholomew of having “pope-like ambitions,” heatedly disputed his right to initiate such a procedure, and dramatically broke off some contacts with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It’s probably not as bad as it sounds, since the Kremlin has vowed to stay out of the quarrel, and there is little evidence that most Ukrainian believers care very much whether their local priest owes spiritual allegiance to a patriarch in Moscow or in Kiev. But with presidential and parliamentary elections on Ukraine’s 2019 horizon, it seems certain to be a fixture on the political agenda for some time to come.

“Ukrainian authorities regard Russia as an enemy, and the task of separating all Ukrainian churches from any ties with Moscow has become an important political goal,” says Vadim Karasyov, director of the independent Institute of Global Strategies in Kiev. “They want the Ukrainian Church to be a national one, which is loyal to the national authorities. The Russian Orthodox Church would then cease to be a trans-national one, and become just another national one itself.”

The Kiev Patriarchate, which Filaret heads, has not yet been recognized as canonical (i.e. a legal jurisdiction) within the Orthodox community. The outcome that Mr. Poroshenko and Filaret are hoping for in this situation is that the entire Ukrainian Orthodox community will be declared by Constantinople as one united and independent Orthodox jurisdiction, with Filaret as its patriarch.

Four years ago in Kiev, as the current geopolitical crisis was breaking, Filaret sat down with the Monitor to explain his goals.

“This task of unifying has become urgent, particularly now that there is tension between Russia and Ukraine, and Russia committed aggression by annexing Crimea,” he explained. “We want a united, equal Ukrainian Church, which is independent of the Moscow Patriarchy. It will happen [amid these political events] because God creates such conditions that, even if [Moscow] doesn’t want it, they will come to it.”

Church and state

Yevgen Kharkovshchenko, chair of religion studies at Kiev National University, says the drive for an autocephalous Ukrainian church is a natural front in the ongoing struggle for Ukrainian independence. “This idea has a lot of supporters in Ukraine,” he says. “An independent state on its own independent territory has to have an independent church.”

He adds that it seemed unlikely to happen until the Patriarch of Constantinople stepped in and Moscow reacted with harsh countermeasures. “Now, for the first time, I am beginning to think that Ukraine will get its autocephalous church, after a thousand years of aspiration.”

Ukraine’s individual Orthodox churches have been battlegrounds for three decades already, as the Kiev and Moscow Patriarchates struggle to win the allegiance of each parish, which owns its own brick-and-mortar house of worship under Ukrainian law. But the creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian church would likely intensify that battle. And it would also likely spur President Poroshenko or the Ukrainian parliament to change the laws to make Kiev allegiance mandatory for all.

“Will politicians get involved? Of course they will,” says Mr. Kharkovshchenko.

The Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, former official spokesman of the Moscow Patriarch, argues that the ambitions of Bartholomew and Filaret are driving the present situation, and that it will only create more disunity in already troubled Ukraine. He says that most clergy and believers will probably accept whatever Ukrainian authorities demand, since it won’t affect church doctrine or religious practice. But it is estimated that about one-third of UOC clergy will refuse to switch allegiances, he says.

“So, even if this comes to pass, it will only create one more church jurisdiction, and that is not a step to unity,” Father Vsevolod says. “And if there is state involvement, with legal measures or pressures by local authorities upon parishes to promote Kiev affiliation, how is that a good thing?”

It is likely to take a long time, he adds, since there will be push-back, and it doesn’t suit most players – including Bartholomew in Constantinople – to see any of this quickly settled.

Mr. Anisimov, the UOC spokesman, sounds quite defiant. He says the church is already autonomous from Russia and has no connections with the Moscow Patriarch other than spiritual ones.

“I personally think this campaign for autocephaly has a lot to do with the upcoming election campaign,” he says. “Our Ukrainian authorities don’t have much to offer the people in their material realm, so Poroshenko wants to pose as the founder of a new church. Our authorities conceive of a church as a political organization, marching shoulder to shoulder with the state. But that road leads back to totalitarianism.”

“The authorities should concentrate on their tasks, which is things like ending the war and improving peoples’ lives,” he adds. “Our mission is to save souls. We don’t interfere with the state, and they shouldn’t interfere with us.”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Weird News -- the "Fake"/"Real" News on the USA Internet? (updated)

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Gotta to give it in French to In-America-We-Speak-English-Only our MAGA President Trump: He's made fake news mots du jour. (And for more than one day!)

By fake news [see] The Don is constantly referring to news he disapproves of.

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Image from, with caption: Donald Trump - The DON

However many conscientious American journalists, those who seek to inform the public what's truly happening, would characterize that the important contribution of their profession is providing real news -- the result of serious, objective, fact-based reporting meant to enlighten the citizens of a democracy.

But, like it or not, real news is increasingly being replaced in the USA (and elsewhere) by weird news, with fake news its close cousin -- and real news' sometimes, sadly (?) not-so-distant cousin.



Masthead from The Huffington Post

Because in the USA much of reality, politics, and media has gone weird?

In all fairness to dedicated journalists: May I ask -- In the "real world" of the dog-eat-dog American "communications" business/industry with its $ bottom line, the media information exploited proletariat (writers, editors, proofreaders, even thinkers, etc.) has little choice on occasion but to "file a story," even if weird, in order to make sure that, with an upsurge of "clicks" on the 'Net, a bigger check will come from "the top-floor management" -- so that the journalistic prols can hope they'll be able support the family, pay the mortgage, and feed the household pet.

Indeed, if you see real news media articles on the web, many (but not all) of these "serious" items from "respected" media outlets will be followed, on the same link (at the bottom of the page), with weird news that quickly become, in their omnipresent, ever-growing weirdness, in fact less and less weird and "normal" over time -- which means they have to be weirder and weirder by the second to stay really weird and eagerly consumed by the masses?

Guess who'll scroll down to see what's the latest weird? Too many of us Americans? (I plead guilty).

Weird news about, like, out-of-control sports stars, foreign-born drugged-out billionaires, sexually challenged people of all genders, the universe's strange composition, odd weight-losing food choices, a North Korean dictator ...

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One of the main reasons for the popularity of weird news in America includes ILLITERATE, CAPITALIZED TWEETS WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS! revelations on what he likes/doesn't like by Donald J. [for Jenius  -- (see below footnote 1)] Trump.

The media can't stop blabbing/"reporting"/involuntarily (?) propagandizing? the Chief Executive's often weird electronic messages. Example:

Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are.....

...very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,......

Also consider, as a sample of Trump as an indirect inspiration for weird news, this item regarding The Don's Male Organ (what would the Trump "Tower" mean without it?) from a quite respected men's magazine (citing the British daily The Guardian):
She [Stormy Daniels, a porn star -- off-the-street prostitute? -- who had a fling with Trump years ago and just written a book about her professional activities] describes Trump's penis as "smaller than average" but "not freakishly small."

"He knows he has an unusual penis," Daniels writes. "It has a huge mushroom head. Like a toadstool..."

"I lay there, annoyed that I was getting fucked by a guy with Yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart...

"It may have been the least impressive sex I'd ever had, but clearly, he didn't share that opinion."
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image from Facebook on the internet

These passages can be found in Stormy's soon to be published book, about which a reviewer who read an advanced copy notes:
Reading Daniels’s book, I found myself alternately appreciating her crass and self-aware humor, and cringing at her shameless self-aggrandizement. It struck me, repeatedly, that she’s a bit like the female flipside of Trump: fixated on her greatness, unabashedly bragging about her achievements and a touch vain.
No wonder our dear leader Dealmaker, before serving the Republic, starred in the Tee-Vee show "The Apprentice" -- a true expression of weird news: the essence/secret of which is posing as real (or too "real" to be true).

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In the opinion of many, including well-intentioned increasingly American weird people, our weird leader is reflecting what the internet weird media is reflecting about us, the US -- our very own weird homeland?

So, can't it be said that in the Internet Homeland Today that weird news are:

The "News"! 

(Forget about the "fake"/"real" dichotomy.)

Stay weirdly uninformed about weirdless important issues, so you can keep the president/media moguls/advertisers rich and happy.

Have a weird day!


(1) From Roger Cohen, New York Times, "Democracy Will Still Surprise Us":
Which brings me to President Trump, the flamethrower who makes headlines even by falling silent. A joke is making the rounds. When Putin and Trump met in Helsinki, Finland, they shook hands. “I’m Vladimir Putin, president of Russia,” Putin said. “I’m Donald J. Trump, president of the United States,” Trump said.

“Oh,” said Putin, “what does the J stand for?”

“Jenius!” said Trump.

This is the Age of the Genius.

Posted by John Brown at 12:11 PM; updated 9/25

Empowering Polarizing US Polarization ... a Note on the Important NYT article, 'The Plot to Subvert an Election Unraveling the Russia Story So Far"

From Facebook (slightly edited)

In my modest opinion, this well-researched article [too long for technical reasons to post on this blog] illustrates how the Kremlin "figured" (not so naively) that it would be easy -- and "cost effective/cheap," with the use of computers -- to further polarize its already polarized favorite enemy-du-jour: the USA.

About this website
For two years, Americans have tried to absorb the details of the 2016 attack: spies, leaked emails, social media fraud — and President Trump’s claims that it’s all a hoax. The Times explores what we know and what it means.

Latest News! WH Peacenik Comes out of the Closet!

John Solomon and Buck Sexton, "Trump slams Bush for ‘worst single mistake’ in U.S. history,"; original article contains a video; see also (1) (2).

In all fairness to Trump, pls. note the rather ambiguous sentence in the below: "Different estimates exist on the costs of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Trump has frequently criticized." Q: Was the president as stated in the article referring to the wars themselves, or to their cost/different estimates of their cost?

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image (not from article) from

President Trump took a little time during a policy-rich interview in the Oval Office to give his take on the biggest mistake in American history.

Was it the Civil War? Nah. The failure to stop Sept. 11? Nope. How about Pearl Harbor? Not even close.

“The worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country: going into the Middle East, by President Bush,” the president said during an exclusive interview with Hill.TV. “Obama may have gotten (U.S. soldiers) out wrong, but going in is,to me, the biggest single mistake made in the history of our country.”

So why was it so catastrophic?

“Because we spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Now if you wanna fix a window some place they say, 'oh gee, let’s not do it.' Seven trillion, and millions of lives — you know, ‘cause I like to count both sides. Millions of lives,” the president explained.

“To me, it's the worst single mistake made in the history of our country. Civil war you can understand. Civil war, civil war. That’s different. For us to have gone into the Middle East, and that was just, that was a bad day for this country, I will tell you.”

Different estimates exist on the costs of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Trump has frequently criticized.

A recent estimate by Brown University put the cost, as of September 2017, and $5.6 trillion, a total that includes costs associated with the two U.S. wars, military action related to Pakistan and Syria, homeland security expenses and health-care costs for veterans of the wars.

The Pentagon estimates total expenditures related to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria between 2001 and 2018 are $1.52 trillion.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How Connected Is Your Community to Everywhere Else in America? Note for a Discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

By Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui, The New York Times, Sept. 19, 2018; regrettably the informative charts in this article cannot be reproduced on this blog

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America is often described as a place of great divides [JB emphasis] — between red and blue, big cities and rural towns, the coasts and the heartland. But our social lives are shaped by a much stronger force that ignores many of these lines: distance.

In the millions of ties on Facebook that connect relatives, co-workers, classmates and friends, Americans are far more likely to know people nearby than in distant communities that share their politics or mirror their demographics. The dominant picture in data analyzed by economists at Facebook, Harvard, Princeton and New York University is not that like-minded places are linked; rather, people in counties close to one another are.

Even in the age of the internet, distance matters immensely in determining whom — and, and as a result, what — we know.

Coastal cities like New York, Washington, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles do exhibit close ties to one another, showing that people in counties with similar incomes, education levels and voting patterns are more likely to be linked. But nationwide, the effect of such similarity is small. And the pull of regionalism is strong even for major cities. Brooklynites are still more likely to know someone on Facebook near Albany or Binghamton than in the Bay Area. ...

Counties with more dispersed networks — where a smaller share of Facebook friends are located nearby, or among the nearest 50 million people — are on average richer, more educated and have longer life expectancies. Places that are more closely connected to one another also have more migration, trade and patent citations between them.

Counties that are more geographically isolated in the index are more likely to have lower labor force participation and economic mobility, and they have higher rates of teenage births. Some of the most economically distressed parts of the country appear to be the most disconnected: Among the 10 U.S. counties with the highest share of friends within 50 miles, six are in Kentucky. ... changed how it determines ethnicity and people are upset - Note for a Discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

USA TODAY NETWORK, Marc Daalder, Detroit Free Press; original article contains a video, the website better known for helping users create family trees, find distant family members and capture suspected serial killers, made a lot of customers angry last week.
Ancestry, which also is in the business of DNA testing, allows users to send a vial of saliva to the company and receive in return a detailed genetic portfolio, including risk for some diseases and estimates of their ethnic ancestry.
Neither the medical nor the heritage information are guaranteed to be 100 percent accurate, but as the science improves, so does the quality of the results. At least, that's what Ancestry insists.
After Ancestry rolled out a new update to its ethnicity estimate system last week, users noticed dramatic changes in their ethnic profiles – some of which is inaccurate, customers say.
The science is simple: Ancestry compares sections of your DNA with a "reference panel" of DNA samples that it knows correspond to a certain place (say, Italy or southern Africa) to try to identify a match. The new update expands the reference panel by a factor of five, so it should be more accurate.
Still, many users remain angry with Ancestry as their original results have, in some cases, drastically changed.
Other users said they were happy with the results or found that the new results better matched what they knew of their family history.
In April it was revealed DNA from a decades-old crime scene was plugged into a genealogy website. Investigators followed family trees to try to narrow down a suspect. That search led to Joseph James DeAngelo. 
DeAngelo is suspected of being the Golden State Killer serial killer. DeAngelo, who lived in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights when he was arrested in April, is accused in 12 killings, more than 50 rapes and the ransacking of more than 100 homes across California in the 1970s and 1980s. 
A spokesperson for, which also has a search for the general public, said the company was not in contact with authorities in the DeAngelo case and will not share member information with law enforcement "unless compelled to by valid legal process."
At the time, said it was unaware of the investigation.
Contributing: Christal Hayes and Ashley May, USA TODAY. Follow Marc Daalder on Twitter: @marcdaalder

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Three Blockbuster Novels From the 1950s, and Their Remarkable Afterlife

By Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Times, Sept. 12, 2018; original article contains additional illustrations

Pasternak image from article

Why are Russians so good at vexing American minds? Vladimir Putin’s bewitchment of President Trump continues to frustrate intelligence officials and at times hard-liners in his own administration, while pro- and anti-Russia journalists trade insults as enthusiastically as they did during the 1950s Rosenberg spy trial.

Beneath this lurks the uneasy feeling that our longtime superpower adversary remains our secret twin, matching us in audacity and ambition, just as it did all those years ago. “Listen now,” an NBC radio announcer declared in October 1957, “for the sound which forever more separates the old from the new.” The sound was the beep-beep of the radio signal emitted by Sputnik, the first satellite sent into space, as it streaked on its elliptical path at a surreal velocity of 18,000 miles per hour. The Russians’ early conquest of space came as a shock — “perhaps the darkest hour of the Cold War,” one historian has written — but it was also an exciting communal moment: Americans stumbled out of bed to watch “the sunlit speck sweep across the predawn sky,” Time reported, “as steady in its orbit as the made-by-nature moon.”

The “space race” was a competition, but with only two rivals — “us” and “them.” And this odd partnership, or dance, spilled over into realms of the imagination, particularly the novel. In the aftermath of Sputnik three towering and best-selling works of fiction by dissident Russians — “Atlas Shrugged,” “Lolita” and “Doctor Zhivago” — were published in quick succession, crowded into an 11-month span, from October 1957 to September 1958. Today, all three still live on, each a universe in itself, read and discussed — and fought over — as if written not in prose but in hieroglyphics or code.

Published less than a week after the Sputnik launch, “Atlas Shrugged” was the crowning work of Ayn Rand, a Jewish émigré from St. Petersburg (born Alissa Rosenbaum) who had gone to Hollywood in the 1920s, taking with her scenarios even Cecil B. DeMille’s story department deemed far-fetched. It was there that she developed an almost militant faith in capitalism. Her novel “The Fountainhead,” published in 1943, though panned by reviewers, became a word-of-mouth sales triumph and then a film starring Gary Cooper as a visionary architect modeled on Frank Lloyd Wright.

Since then Rand had carefully tended her own growing legend. The immense “Atlas Shrugged” (1,168 pages) was famous even before it was published — the fruit of 13 years of intense work — with amphetamine-driven live readings for her entranced circle, or cult, of young acolytes, who gathered at her apartment in Manhattan.

Devotees of “Atlas Shrugged,” then and now, thrill to its über-size heroes — the inventor-genius Hank Rearden, the svelte, steely Dagny Taggart, who talk at exhausting length about the holiness of the profit-motive — “money demands of you the highest virtues” — and then clang together in steamy sex scenes (“He held the length of her body pressed to his, as if their bodies were two currents rising upward together, each to a single point, each carrying the whole of their consciousness to the meeting of their lips”). Rand’s libertarian followers exulted in her rogues’ gallery of evil statists, who are dragging America into a condition of primitive decline: greedy labor bosses, “modern college-infected parasites who assumed a sickening air of moral self-righteousness,” conformist “watchdogs” at the “Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources,” “State Science Institute” and “Consumers’ Protection,” who have created a permanent proletariat of “moochers and looters,” “loafers” and “bums.”

To many in the late 1950s this sounded crazily off-key. These were peak years of the “affluent society” and a golden age for entrepreneurs. President Eisenhower had stocked his cabinet with captains of industry like Charles Wilson, brought in from General Motors to run the Defense Department. The Cold War battle for the heavens soon yielded a billion-dollar-a-year “space industry,” with lucrative government contracts showered on businesses large and small — from giant aircraft companies like Lockheed to Waste King, a maker of garbage disposals.

But Rand sensed something else. America’s great industrialists were becoming clients of the state. The advance guard of Cold War planners, space and weapons theorists like J. Robert Oppenheimer, John von Neumann and James R. Killian, the president of M.I.T., chosen by Eisenhower to oversee the creation of NASA, were administrators rather than doers, unlike the executives at New York Central Railroad and Kaiser Steel whom Rand had interviewed while writing “Atlas Shrugged.” The Promethean Hank Rearden is a throwback, a metal engineer who helps develop “a motor that would draw static electricity from the atmosphere, convert it and create its own power,” making possible a “brand-new locomotive half the size of a single Diesel unit, and with 10 times the power.” In the emerging era of the R-7 missile and the multistage rocket, this motor (actually the invention of John Galt, the novel’s mysterious hero) seemed archaic — a “Swiftian device,” The New Yorker’s critic wrote. “I am speaking, of course, of Tom Swift,” the young inventor in the series of books for boys.

But that was exactly what Rand meant to do, to reawaken respect for what one character calls “the highest type of human being — the self-made man — the American industrialist.” And Rand’s readers were intensely grateful. “For 25 years I’ve been yelling my head off about the little realized fact that eggheads, socialists, Communists, professors and so-called liberals do not understand how goods are produced,” wrote one, the owner of the Standard Slag Company in Youngstown, Ohio.

And if those useful goods weren’t produced, hard times would come. Rand’s dystopian picture feels prescient — “the slovenly dilapidation of slum hovels,” the “command” economy that overwhelms ordinary citizens “who never looked beyond the span of one week,” and were pacified by the “large new television set in the lighted room of a house with a sagging roof and cracking walls.” Rand’s prevision of American carnage drew on memories of her Russian girlhood, first of the Bolshevik Revolution and then of the “transition period under Lenin from a primitive capitalism to a brutal Communism,” Anne C. Heller writes in “Ayn Rand and the World She Made.”

Americans, Rand suggested, were listening for the wrong signals — seduced by the metal orb speeding across the sky, and the organized miracle of the Soviet “Virgin Lands” program and its otherworldly grain yields. Rand’s novel called attention to very different facts of life in the Soviet empire: chronic meat shortages, inadequate housing, oppressed populations in revolt (including the recent Hungarian uprising, quashed by Soviet tanks). “Atlas Shrugged” is a nightmare picture not of America as it was in 1957, but of the ersatz Soviet Union it might become.

But to many, Rand’s philosophy of “rational selfishness” seemed as harsh and limited as the Russians’ materialism. It reinforced the suspicion that the two superpowers, locked in their global and now interplanetary competition, had both misplaced their souls. Redemption came in another of the post-Sputnik Russian epics, Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago,” which tells the story of the Russian Revolution as Tolstoy might have done it — not as an ideological tract or political commentary, but as a multilayered narrative. Zhivago and his lover, Lara — together with five dozen other characters sprawling over three generations — struggle and suffer through the critical period in Russian history, from the 1905 revolution into the Bolshevik Revolution and World War I, and the subsequent civil war, at first inspired but ultimately disillusioned by the new Soviet regime.

Never was so conventional a novel so rapturously received, at least in the West, especially after the Russians refused to publish it, and then, when smuggled translations began selling in vast numbers abroad, heaped abuse on Pasternak and made him turn down the 1958 Nobel Prize. The “traitor Boris Pasternak” was officially urged to “become a real emigrant” — instead of an internal one — “and go to his capitalist paradise.” In a country where nearly 1,500 writers had either been killed or had died in labor camps, this was not a subtle hint. But Pasternak, a revered poet and a courageous one, didn’t give in. He stubbornly stayed in Russia, in a bungalow outside Moscow, though he would have been welcome as a hero anywhere in the West. At an anti-Communist rally in Vienna sponsored by Roman Catholic student and youth organizations, a montage of photos “made him appear to be standing behind barbed wire,” The Times reported. “From a distance he seemed to be wearing a crown of thorns.” By this time sales of his novel in the United States alone had reached 850,000 copies.

It wasn’t just Cold War politics that excited readers. On the contrary, Pasternak’s subjects were faith and redemption, death and resurrection. He discussed Communism as Western ex-Communists did, as the romantic “god that failed.” Zhivago laments how the original Marxist ideal — “young men dying on the barricades, writers racking their brains in an effort to curb the brute insolence of money, to save the human dignity of the poor” — is betrayed by the rigid dogma of the Soviet state and so was flawed all along, as any dream of salvation through politics must be. The only answer, Zhivago realizes, is to escape politics altogether and seek a “new way of living and new form of society, which is born of the heart, and which is called the Kingdom of Heaven,” and rests in the truth of Christ’s timeless parables. “The idea that underlies this,” Zhivago explains, “is that communion between mortals is immortal, and that the whole of life is symbolic because it is meaningful.”

Zhivago and Lara’s “conversations, however casual, were as full of meaning as the dialogues of Plato,” Pasternak writes. Perhaps. But his own homilies read less like Tolstoy than like the mock-Russian hilarities in Woody Allen’s “Love and Death.” At the time, however, astute and august critics were mesmerized. One of them, Edmund Wilson, argued that Pasternak presented a “radical criticism of all our supposedly democratic but more and more centralized societies.” William F. Buckley Jr., praising “Doctor Zhivago” from the right, wrote, “The elaborate edifice of Marxism-Leninism crumbles before the poet’s eye of Boris Pasternak.” The secret genius of “Doctor Zhivago” was that it gave comfort to everyone, even the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev when he finally got around to reading it. “We shouldn’t have banned it,” he conceded. “There’s nothing anti-Soviet in it.”

This was also the opinion of the author of the third post-Sputnik classic, the ferociously anti-Communist Vladimir Nabokov, though he had a personal reason for disliking “Doctor Zhivago.” It had bumped his novel “Lolita” off the top rung on the Times best-seller list. He had a second reason too. An important incident early in Pasternak’s novel — Lara’s sexual ravishment, at age 16, by a much older man — pre-empted Nabokov’s explicit story of the rape of a 12-year-old by the narrator, Humbert Humbert, who is three times her age. Like the other post-Sputnik novels, “Lolita” had its own pre-publication tumult, in this case an obscenity scandal. American publishers were afraid to release it, so it had come out in Paris, and it was banned there too, becoming prize contraband. But after a large portion of it was serialized in The Anchor Review, it was at last deemed acceptable for American readers.

They were surprised by what they found. Sexual sin was a familiar subject in the late 1950s. The period’s best sellers included “Peyton Place,” “By Love Possessed” and “Anatomy of a Murder.” But these were all conventional middlebrow novels. Nabokov was a highbrow genre-changer, an originator of postmodern techniques: wordplay, stories constructed like puzzles, layers of allusion, tricks of misdirection.

If Rand and Pasternak were fabulists dabbling in realism, Nabokov was the opposite, a literary magician, with a dandy’s lush prose style, whose story was based on a shockingly thorough knowledge of facts on the ground. In her new book, “The Real Lolita,” Sarah Weinman maps the parallels between Humbert’s case and one true-crime episode mentioned in “Lolita,” the abduction of a fifth grader by a 50-year-old pedophile in Camden, N.J., who fled with her on a cross-country spree. But that was just one story among many in what later came to be called the “postwar sex crime panic.” Ordinary readers were well-versed in such stories. They were staples of the so-called family magazines. A cover story in The American Magazine in 1947 — when much of “Lolita” takes place — was “How Safe Is Your Daughter?” Not safe at all, according to the author, the F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover. “The most rapidly increasing type of crime is that perpetrated by degenerate sex offenders,” he wrote, going on to offer a selection, complete with lurid details, of a nationwide binge of rape and pedophilia, a “criminal assault every 43 minutes, day and night, across the United States.” There was, for instance, the case of the 17-year-old jailed on a sex charge who “three weeks after his release lured an 11-year-old girl to an open field, where his brutal attacks ended in the murder of the child.” Another family magazine, Collier’s, published a series, “Terror in Our Cities.” And there was more in the daily press — tales of grown men who plied underage girls with “sodas and sundaes,” teenage sex rings involving girls as young as 13 (all “said to be from good families”).

What was surprising, in 1958 no less than today, was the indifference of the nation’s most sophisticated readers, its literary critics, to the connection between Humbert’s ensnared “lover” and “the real Lolitas who exist in darkness throughout their lives,” as The New Republic pointed out in an editorial. It was the familiar story of clueless elites, and it rested on intellectual complicity. Advanced midcentury thinking had all but discarded the categories of “normal” and “abnormal” sexual conduct. In his book “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” the sexologist and data-accumulator Alfred C. Kinsey wrote that “adult contacts are a source of pleasure to some children, and sometimes may arouse the child erotically (5 percent) and bring it to orgasm (1 percent).” And of the “80 percent of the children who had been emotionally upset or frightened by their contact with adults,” Kinsey, a trained entomologist, concluded, “in most instances the reported fright was nearer the level that children will show when they see insects, spiders or other objects against which they have been adversely conditioned.”

Nabokov was an accomplished butterfly collector, well versed in scientific jargon, real and fake. In a mock foreword to “Lolita,” Humbert’s story is described, in pitch-perfect Kinsey-ese, as the “confession of a White Widowed Male.” His story, the author adds, “should make all of us — parents, social workers, educators — apply ourselves with still greater vigilance and vision to the task of bringing up a better generation in a safer world.” It was easy to feel in on the joke, just as it was easy to share in the snobbery when Nabokov wrote, “Nothing is more exhilarating than philistine vulgarity.” But you could also miss what he was really saying, that America had mass-produced its own version of Old World decadence. The same consumer culture that infantilized adults — with “cute paper napkins and cottage-cheese crested salads” and “‘raid-the-icebox’ midnight snacks” — was also sexualizing their children and making them prey to pedophiles. Grown-ups and “bobby-soxers” alike were in thrall to the “luminous globules of gonadal glow that travel up the opalescent sides of jukeboxes,” and also huddled together in the “dim, impossibly garnet-red light that in Europe years ago went with low haunts, but here meant a bit of atmosphere in a family hotel.” Humbert, posing as Lolita’s father, is a sinister parody of the overprotective “helicopter” parent, rebuked by Lolita’s teachers for being an “old-fashioned Continental father” who forbids his “daughter” to mix with boys her own age. Viktor Komarovsky, the sexual predator in “Doctor Zhivago,” would have had an easy time of it in Nabokov’s America.

Each of these three novels has had a remarkable afterlife. “Lolita” is a virtual guidebook to the abuses exposed by the #MeToo movement — the secret predations of the mentor and teacher who operates in a free zone of “enlightened” complicity. “Doctor Zhivago” endures less as a novel than as a peak episode in the cultural Cold War. Publishers in America and Britain recently paid large advances to a young novelist who has told the story again, drawing on declassified documents on the secret C.I.A. operation that smuggled the manuscript back into Russia. And “Atlas Shrugged” remains a free market Bible on the right. What one of its most scathing early critics, the ex-Communist journalist Whittaker Chambers, identified as Rand’s appetite for “smashing up the house” has become the stated cause of several generations of Republicans and libertarians. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, with his mission to undo the Affordable Care Act and its coddling of “takers,” while slashing taxes on high-income “makers, ” is a devout Randian, as are members of the Trump cabinet. Silicon Valley abounds with Randians, too.

Meanwhile Russian cyberhackers have reportedly begun to disrupt the 2018 midterm elections. More than a quarter-century after the Soviet Union dissolved, Russia remains in many respects our doppelgänger, and the cry is heard, in ever more plaintive tones, “where is the collusion?” The answer — as all three of the great post-Sputnik prophets of the novel tried to tell us — is everywhere.

Sam Tanenhaus, a former editor of the Book Review, is writing a biography of William F. Buckley Jr.