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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Breaking free from historic cyclicism

24 March, 2014 - 17:30
A COMMUNAL MEMBER AND AN AGGRESSIVELY OBEDIENT MAJORITY: AFTER 23 YEARS OF NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE THE PICTURE REMAINS THE SAME / Photo from the website ECHO.MSK.RU

While I am not interfering with the internal political situation in Ukraine, I must point out that the sensible part of the Russian nation agrees with Yulia Tymoshenko’s words in her German interview. The following was said about Putin’s speech in front of the Federal Assembly: “Disdainful attitude towards another country, declaring war on the whole world, unhealthy faith in his own infallibility along with outrageous lies: all this is fascist propaganda.” She also said that were film director Mikhail Romm (author of Ordinary Fascism) alive, “after hearing Putin’s speech, he would have been able to complete his film with new scenes.”

This film (albeit by no means unobjectionable) should be shown to young viewers. From my own experience I know it to foster strong esthetic immunity to totalitarianism, no matter what slogans the latter resorts to, racial supremacy or the building of communism. The more so that Russian Nazism (yes, Nazism, nothing else) did perfectly well without any intellectual games.

The race theory of Russian Nazism is ready. It meets the demands at the level of mass culture and thus needs no substantiation on the part of egg-headed ideologists. It knows no subhumans. And why should it? Russia has enemies, and they are fascists. And any nation that allows itself national self-awareness and its display is a fascist nation. Any nation, not only a cognate one. Any national otherness with regard to the Russians is fascism.

Been there, seen that. There are no parallels in Russia’s cyclic history, but there is identity. Here are a few quotations:

“My sons! Remember this. When I am gone, from a better world I will see if you are such Russians as you should be. – Do not get contaminated with the West’s senselessness: it is a disgusting cesspit which emanates nothing but stench. Do not believe the Western philosophizing; it will do you (or anyone else, for that matter) no good.”

“Is Russia’s beautiful youth not better than Western Europe’s decrepit, rotten senility? It has been looking for perfection for 50 years, but has it found it? Whereas we are placid and happy, under the rule of our good Sovereigns, who could sometimes err, and who do err, but who always wish us good.”

“In our Russia scientists should do as druggists, who are in charge of both beneficial, wholesome remedies and poisons: they must administrate science only on the government’s prescription.”

“Foreigners are serpents which bask in Russia’s sun: as soon as they get warm enough, they crawl out and sting.”

These are the notes by Leontii Dubelt, chief of the Third Section of the secret police under Nicholas I. He is also known for his famous phrase: “Enough of this crap, works of this Mr. Pushkin of yours, was printed in his lifetime; who needs to look for his unpublished opera and publish them posthumously!”

Dubelt’s attitude to all things foreign reflects the sentiments prevailing among Russia’s ruling elite before the start of the Crimean War: opposition to the entire world. It might seem that Putin has not invented anything with his weapons. But, on the other hand, each cycle of Russia’s history is enriched with borrowed and own experience. Today we see the synthesis of the Russian archetype with the recent experiences and present-day technology. The result is as follows:

Crimea is stolen by Russia the rat                

that looms over the world like a gray cloud

romantics thought they saw a dragon

but she came

and laid down its gray law

in three or four days

living in the rat world is simple and easy

it is not hell but a wondrous dream 

Judging from zero sanctions, the civilized world is still asleep. No one wants to call things their true names. Besides, Putin’s most powerful propagandist system is at work all over the world. It is based on paying off politicians, scholars, journalists, businessmen, and on the involvement of the Russian diaspora. But we are living not in Dubelt’s time, and what threatens us is no Crimean War.

However, we should not get carried off. Even back in the Soviet time I was repulsed by endless intellectual talk-shops and verbose publications, aimed at revealing Soviet lies and the pettiness of agitprop. Complacent narcissists indulged in these activities for years, gradually sliding into degradation.

Here are two most vivid examples. Of course, Sakharov’s texts look odd today, but he never sunk to cheap self-assertion and developed together with his time. Even during the First Congress it became clear that Sakharov walked ahead of time, stood head and shoulders above those who stood next to him and swore by his name.

Solzhenitsyn’s denunciatory pathos degenerated in Two Hundred Years Together. I was offered to write a review, but refused it. Reviewing an absolutely empty text would mean introducing it into a cultural context, which it absolutely did not deserve. This is a non-existent and non-reviewable book.

And an example for all times: “I have no denunciatory charisma.” These are the words said by archpriest Aleksander Men, who presented particular danger to the system which never made mistakes in the choice of victims. He was slaughtered with an axe, and the assassins were never found. In the process of its renewal and consolidation, the system treated Solzhenitsyn quite differently.

Today many think that agitprop, led personally by Putin (this hybrid of tsar and fuehrer will tolerate no one at his side, neither Rohm nor Goebbels and Rosenberg), has reached a point of ultimate degradation and is worth nothing but ridicule. This is wrong. Agitprop has won a new victory and has truly mastered the masses. So now the most sensible thing to do is create agitprop-free spaces and analyze without engaging in disputes. And as far as analyzing goes, it should be done in moderation: everything is clear as it is.

That is why I keep repeating the old and, unfortunately, constantly updated and augmented list of measures which I believe necessary to pull Russia out of its historic cyclicism and put an end to its perpetual rotation between superficial modernization and paranoid isolation. It might seem a utopia, but a conception of ideal is necessary in order not to lose touch with reality or sink into empty accusations. Or to collaboration with the view to improving the existing system, disguised as its criticism. And no “small deeds.” We must begin not with trifles, but with the key matters.

The key matters are these:

• reform of the political system: repealing the laws on referendum, on political parties, on appointing governors, on cancellation elections in constituencies, plus alteration of the entire election system so that it guarantees fair political competition;

• restoration of the civilized party system, putting an end to the neo-totalitarian destruction of state and privatization of power by the incumbent group, and overcoming the consequences of the current policy of cronyism;

• revision of criminal legislation in what concerns political persecutions, introduction of clear, restrictive, and concrete definition of political extremism;

• review of criminal cases on state raider attacks and political persecutions of entrepreneurs, civil activists, scholars; broad amnesty and creating favorable conditions for the return of political emigrants to Russia;

• real guarantees of citizens’ rights and freedoms, consent to international monitoring in this sphere;

• administrative, military, and judicial reforms, creation of the new armed forces and power structures;

• restoration of single legal space on the entire territory of the country;

• independent investigation, with participation of international experts and observers, of terror attacks, starting with the bombing of residential blocks in 1999, assassinations, and mysterious deaths;

• independent investigation of all aspects of the incumbent government’s activity, rejection of both mass lustration (“by the list”) and individual guarantees of immunity from jurisdiction;

• start of a broad public discussion of the country’s economic development;

• development of the new concept of Russian foreign policy, its active and effective implementation: renunciation of the superpower status for the sake of civilizational solidarity with leading world powers, withdrawal from the arms race, and internationalization of Russia’s natural resources;

• unconditional and unreserved renunciation of the acknowledgment of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, renewal of neighborly relations with Georgia and other neighbors;

• renunciation of annexation of Crimea and its restitution to Ukraine;

• renunciation of the concept of post-Soviet space as a sphere of Russia’s dominance.

By Dmitry SHUSHARIN, historian, political journalist, Moscow, special to The Day
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