With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I’ve had a chance to take a longer look at Russia. What I am seeing is, for me, seriously unsettling.
Tzar Vlad set up a foundation, “The Russkiy Mir Foundation” in the early 2000’s, as an attempt at spreading Russian culture around the world. This is an innocuous idea, spreading culture to ensure the essential vitality of that culture is appreciated, enjoyed even. To expose people from other lands to Russian music, dance, theater, nothing wrong with that.
This was an exercise in building up expatriate confidence, give them something to be proud of, to promote amongst “compatriots”, It also grew heavily out of Russian Orthodoxy. The Church promoted the ideas of “what is true belief” and discussed the nature of “Russian identity in a modern world”.
Superficially, it is an ideology that promotes the idea of Russian culture, language, and craft, in the modern world, but underlying it, is something much darker. The interpretation of what is “a modern world” under Orthodox Church guidance is something very different than the reality of the modern world. Like all such organizations, the Orthodox Church is a seriously reactionary organization. It can’t be anything else. It cannot tolerate social development that it cannot control. The Modern World is something dangerous, to be feared with its “liberal” ideals precisely because it cannot be controlled.
The West developed out of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, civil wars, revolutions and, most importantly a continuous social development that began centuries ago, rose to become known as The Enlightenment. By and large, it was only the two world wars that heavily impacted on Russia.
Russia certainly felt these other events, they have had some influence on Russia, but the longer term impact has been, arguably, negligible. After all, Russia still had serfdom until the 1917 Revolution, a condition that the West had left behind centuries before.To the West, Russia has been just as enigmatic as Africa, but impossible to conquer. This is tainting relations between East and West because there is actually very little common ground between Russia and the West.
Russia grew and changed with the Orthodox Church, but the ROC is somewhat apart from Western Christianity in that it refuses to change with the times. The ROC has not undergone a Reformation, and is actively opposing an Enlightenment. It is this intransigence that underpins the concept of Russkiy Mir.
Russkiy Mir is essentially “linguocentric”, it’s all things Russian and when Putin started promoting it, he did what any good KGB officer would do, he weaponized it. The framework of Russkiy Mir was used as a tool to combat the encroachment of Western ideas, initially, by the ROC, but Putin took it a big step forward as a way to confront Western Democracies. The West is consistently painted as “the Enemy”, hostile on a deeply cultural level, trying to impose toxic Western cultural values on Russia.
Being linguocentric means that in terms of Russkiy Mir that anyone who speaks and thinks in Russian, is, by that fact, Russian, therefore part of Russkiy Mir. Putin has used this argument to manipulate language issues as an excuse for aggressive action, as he has done in Ukraine. Donetsk and Luhansk both have a large proportion of Russian speaking citizens, imported into Ukraine by Stalin after the Holodomor. (Attributed to the failure of collectivization of Ukraine farmlands leading to a huge famine it was really a deliberate act of genocide, killing millions, an intentional famine, refusal of outside aid, confiscation of household foodstuffs are all now history, but true nonetheless. What we’re seeing now is the same policy, just with more bloodshed.)
Putin’s tales of “genocide” of Russian in Ukraine prior to invasion are patently false, but are fully in keeping with Russkiy Mir. To add to the legitimacy of Russkiy Mir, Putin is able to rely upon a mystic, a supposed “political philosopher”, Aleksandr Dugin. Dugin’s “theories” are a mish mash of pre-Soviet Right winged political myths and insane beliefs. What makes him so dangerous is that those beliefs are getting an airing at Russia’s political science and military academies.
A large chunk of those beliefs lies in the term “Eurasianism”. Essentially, this means that a new power will arise, centered on Moscow, of course, a divine spiritual power, extending from Korea to Portugal, that transforms humanity to a divine existence. Make us all spirits. This guys is worse than Pol Pot, he doesn’t just want to kill the Internet, he wants to kill everyone. This is Heaven’s Gate on a massive scale.
The worse part, he’s got the ear of a maniac with a finger on the trigger of thousands of megatons of nuclear weapons.