“. . . [My] conviction that killers are impervious to any kind of argument or persuasion: debate with them is pointless and nothing whatsoever has any effect on them. Words and ideas do not penetrate to their minds, but fill them with repulsion and fear—this indeed is our only weapon. Yet the killers are only strong when they are supported and admired for their exploits by ordinary people, as we have seen in the first half of our century. Ordinary people, whether the inert and conservative masses, or the rampaging mobs of a popular revolution—brought to a white heat of fury by the brutishness of former rulers intent on preserving the status quo—are won over only initially by new modes of explaining the world.”
Later in the same paragraph she writes:
“It was not a ‘cult of personality’ we had here, as the newspapers tell us, but a cult of force—even though, in the end, force itself is nothing but an absurdity, a farce, a ludicrous manifestation of impotence. Eventually we are left with only naked terror before the powers of evil. All that matters now is to overcome this terror, to fight for every human soul, to remind people what it means to be human, to show them that nobody has ever yet been saved by thirty pieces of silver.”
When Mandelstam died on Dec. 29, 1980 – forty-two years and two days after her husband died in a Siberian transit camp -- the KGB confiscated her body to prevent the Orthodox funeral she had requested. Only after protests by Russian artists was she permitted a decent burial.