Why do so many Russian writers need to make their protagonist a victim or pain-bearer? Why this fixation with self-flagellation? With guilt?— from Terry Gilliam's introduction to Black Snow, by Mikhail Bulgakov.
My theory — based on absolutely no research whatsoever — starts with mud. Thick, sucking, up-to-your-knees mud. Centuries of it. Add millions of serfs all labouring away, mired deep in the relentless, endless mud of Russia. Lives worn away by the yoke of oppressive landowners. Throw into the mix long, dark, dismally cold winter. Pile on the gloomy weight of the church. Voilà! The only hope of survival is to admit your guilt and accept punishment for the unknown sin that landed you in this miserable existence. A resigned acknowledgement of your own responsibility. A spiritual masochism.