Sunday, September 7, 2014

Lucia Is Russia Cold War Communist or Imperialist Tsarist

Last week it was asked on this blog whether or not Russia is Cold War Communist or Imperalist Tsarist.  It wasn't really something that could be answered without a bit of research, hence the delay. In summary, I now think the Putin and the elites of Russia are trying to be both Soviet and Tsarist to a certain extent, yet are also neither.  I've linked to articles exploring this and related ideas, with the more relevant and interesting parts quoted below:

Putin Accepts Only ‘Imperial-Militarist’ Component of Soviet Inheritance

Vladimir Putin is often accused of wanting to restore the Soviet system or at least its core values, but in fact, the Kremlin leader is interested in promoting the its “imperial-militarist” element and not its “revolutionary” component, a pattern that has the effect of limiting Russia’s ability to deal with the rest of the world, according to Vadim Shtepa.

In a new commentary, the Petrozavodsk-based federalist thinker notes that as a result of this, Putin is even more interested in promoting “the cult of ‘the Great Victory’” in World War II than Brezhnev, even though “it would seem” that that event is “ever further receding into history.”

Putin’s use of this “cult,” the commentator says, reflects the Kremlin’s understanding that it is “an extraordinarily useful technology for political repressions and territorial expansions” because “any opponent can with ease be designated ‘a fascist’” and thus deserving of destruction.

“And so,” he continues, “the post-Soviet evolution [of Russia] has led to a strange ideological remake from the Soviet inheritance and the pre-Soviet imperial tradition,” a combination that despite its obvious logical problems as “a post-modern mix” has nonetheless “proven quite popular.”

This next section talks about no real break from the Communist past of the USSR and today:

Because “no historical border between the USSR and the Russian Federation” was drawn, the two “began to be considered one and the same country,” even though it was Russia’s Boris Yeltsin who precipitated the demise of the Soviet Union by his actions at Beloveshchaya rather than any actions by non-Russian leaders or nations.

Many Russians today believe just the reverse and that shift in understanding “has led to a situation in which ‘the near abroad’ in contemporary Russia is conceived not as consisting of independent states but ever more as some kind of ‘separatist provinces.’” And that has been particularly true with regard to Ukraine.

According to Shtepa, ”the worldview sources of this conflict are rooted in the reborth imperial myth of ‘a triune people’ (the Great Russians, the Little Russians, and the Belorussians),” a myth that Shtepa argues is “incompatible with contemporary state-legal principles.”

On Putin's tsar-like power in Russia:

In Shtepa’s telling, “the first major political event of independent Russia was the signing in March 1992 of the Federal Treaty.” But even this document contained within itself “fatal imperial aspects:” It was not concluded by equal subjects but between “’the center’ and ‘the provinces.’”

And 18 months later, this document was superceded by a new Constitution which “gave the president almost tsar-like authority and significantly reduced the importance of the parliament.” And that bow to the past in turn in “a logical way” restarted “the endless Caucasian colonial wars.”

From Putin is ‘Last Soldier’ of a Dying Empire
... Like many in the Moscow elite, [Putin] has a dual national identity: he feels himself at one and the same time Imperial and Soviet, “not noting the anti-natural nature and even historical absurdity of this combination.”

As the Kremlin leader appears to have forgotten or not understood, “Soviet civilization destroyed Imperial Russia and was by definition deeply hostile to it.” At the same time, “Soviet identity was built on the denial of Russian identity and its suppression.” But what is most curious is something else, Pastukhov says.

Imperial values were “directed toward a real Russian past, which it canonized,” and Soviet ones were directed toward “a Russian future which had never existed but which it idealized.” Putin in contrast seeks to restore a Russia which never existed and which no one lost.”

“Such a philosophy of Russia, while deeply Russophobic toward existing any existing Russian, raises to the heavens a mythical Russian in the name of which power is realized.” This approach is in fact a form of bolshevism but one “directed not toward the future but toward the past.”

Putin has thus “transformed himself into yet another Russian utopian, who lives by a mythological consciousness within his own person oikumen which is separated as if by a Chinese wall from the external and real world.” All Russian leaders, of course, have been guided by myths, but they have been constructive because they were directed toward the future.

“The Putin myth,” in contrast, Pastukhov argues, “is destructive because it is redirected toward the past and brought down to earth.” It doesn’t inspire anything creative “except bureaucratic” things. It is, in short, “an unconstructive myth of an era of collapse.”
Interesting.  It's always difficult to really understand a society that works off myths to such an extent.

22 comment(s):

William Stout said...

The myth has always been useful in propaganda. It gives a starting point to weave new tales to fire the public's imagination. This is true for all political parties with a left leaning bent, across the globe. Why? Because the emotions must be stirred in order to gain the fealty of the public. This is why conservatism is different. The conservative does not rely upon the story to believe, instead he relies upon reason as it was formed in the Enlightenment. This is why the left views the conservative as dispassionate and cold and why when we look at the foundations upon which the leftist mind is set, we cannot believe what we see. The further we get from this truth, the more bogged down in hyperbole and semantics we become.

Focus instead upon Putin and what motivates him in order to understand the actions of Russia today. Putin was a KGB officer in Eastern Germany when the Soviet Union imploded. That left a vacuum which resulted in Putin having
to rely upon his own cunning to survive. Imagine, if you will, growing up in
the Soviet system and having roots in that system extending all the way back to Lenin. Imagine further that your entire ambition was to be a part of that
system and you work tirelessly to achieve that goal. Now imagine being left
alone and cast adrift because that system is gone. That is a lonely feeling
indeed, and Putin hated it. He will never allow Russia to experience that event again.

But in order to prevent such a thing from ever happening again, Russia must be strong and growing. This is why he needed the Crimea and why he will not allow the Ukraine to go unmolested. It will be a satellite of Russia or he will annex it. There can be no middle road in this matter. This is why the Baltic states fear the future. Having been victims of Russian aggression before, they know the signs and see them in Russia's actions today.

The weakness evinced by the West is nothing more than a green light to Putin. It means that his risks to his homeland are not so great as to preclude aggressive acts in his foreign policy. He can deal with economic sanctions later, but first he will have the Ukraine. If the West does not step up to the plate, the Baltic or perhaps Poland will be next. Like the Sudetenland, we ride the precipice of a much darker future.

Evil is never very far away from good. Ever must man be upon
his guard if he is to avoid it. But weakness is attracted to evil like a moth
to a flame. It is that weakness that draws man toward that which he knows will not be good for him. It may be more comfortable to cut a deal with the bear to be eaten last instead of fighting, but you will be eaten never the less.

Maria said...

Thank you for this question and some insight.
It is a hard one. I read what you wrote yesterday and have given it a lot of thought. I have to say I have no knowledge to add...I am at a loss to say anything except 'have an opinion'. I think world events require more sobriety of thought than I can offer.
I seem to have come to an impasse of some sort. Russia seems to stand at the edge of it in some way. The problem is I have lost any sense of confidence in Western leaders. I think they have been unmasked as not knowing what is going on, certainly I feel confident accusing them of facilitating Islamist powers and making things worse...and it seems to me they are reading Russia in the only way they can a re-emerging communist cold war foe. They might be right but I am not convinced.
What tweeked me into thinking that Russia was not quite so easy 'to nail' is the comment of a priest I met who is an academic and who grew up under Communism in Poland. In a nutshell he said, "We always knew we weren't really communists". I think I agree the little I know about Poland. The point is I don't know where the Russians sit 'in their heart' with communism. I therefore started to think I was looking at a Russia finding its feet again as a re-emerging imperialist orthodox Christian state. In which case I am equally confused as Russia in that mode has always been and enigma and too far East for the West to take a lot of notice at its internal impulse.
So I have no opinion but am 'watching the space'. I found it interesting that persecuted Christians in the Middle East expressed more confidence in Russia helping them than the West (if one can believe what one reads).
I think the West will or is falling. I think Russia senses this.

Maria said...

William, overall I share your sentiment.
The one part of the analysis I would not go with, is that there seems to be an idea that western conservatism (as you say relies on 'reason' borne from the Enlightenment) has a better grasp of 'foundations' that form the left....and I suppose because of 'reason' discounts them as reasonable.
I am certainly more 'conservative' and don't have a 'leftist' bone in my body. But I am conservative only as it is the best of what philosophically is a bad bunch.
The Enlightenment for me was actually an Endarkenment because it left man alone in the world with his reason. On the one hand some sit well with it and on the other hand it sends others into utopian overdrive because their religious sense can't abide the present moment.
For that reason the West has lost its orientation to truth, goodness and beauty.
Alasdair MacIntyre says that the West has lost all context. It is living of the fragments of Christianity. It has wandering fragmented Christian virtues and vices....and I think GK Chesterton would have said ...the virtues do more harm than the vices.
The West is inept 'do-goodist'.
MacIntyre says that we need to submit ourselves like apprentices to a trusted master. In the same way Pope Benedict said we needed another St reform from the monastic foundation upwards. This is true I think. We are completely lost in our own 'reason' and can't see a thing. Our view of history is too short and our foresight is blighted.
For me then Russia is an enigma because it hasn't quite gone through the Enlightenment in the same way....Marx lived in London! It was exported 'intact' as a Revolution. (Now this IS an opinion and am open to correction on this). So are they really communists in their heart? Has their heart been eviscerated of their Christian heritage like the West? That is another question for me. If they like the Poles are simply pealing back the worst effects of the Enlightenment which blighted them....what will emerge? The next question is...will our Nietzschean moral emptiness and the post modern diagnosis of 'death of the subject' blight them?
I agree that Russia should not have by war support politically divided Ukraine. But at the same time I am not sure that the Ukraine would benefit from getting into bed with the West. Some things like truth, goodness and beauty are more important than EU cash and NATO membership.
I remember a priest in Poland also saying to me, as I waxed lyrical about 'how much better it must be now'...he said 'Now we are getting trouble with pornography and all the bad things coming in from the West'. I wonder how Putin feels about Russian girls ending up being trafficked into the West as they search for 'jobs'.

rivoniaboy said...

Stephen Cohen is one of America’s top experts on Russia. Cohen is professor
emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton
University, and the author of a number of books on Russia and the Soviet

Cohen says that the West is mainly to blame for the crisis in Ukraine:

"This is a horrific, tragic, completely unnecessary war in eastern Ukraine. In
my own judgment, we have contributed mightily to this tragedy. I would say that
historians one day will look back and say that America has blood on its hands.
Three thousand people have died, most of them civilians who couldn’t move
quickly. That’s women with small children, older women. A million refugees."
.George Washington @ Zero Hedge

Maria said...

It is good to get the names of those who might have insight. Hopefully Stephen Cohen is one.
I saw a small 'light' this article from 'First Things' in fact there were two! But one said that Chinese academics have spent time trying to understand the West....what was it that led to such achievements (which seemed to fall into the true, the good and the beautiful). Refreshingly they were able to conclude that the West had come to these things because of Christianity. At the same time in the West there is an absolute denial of that. Interesting. Again I am not sure that Russia discards its own cultural roots in the same way.
It also seems to me that we, no matter how enlightened we think, can escape the visceral attitudes which form our minds in our time. These see today diametrically arranged world views. Russian nationalism, Western 'salvation by democracy' and Islamic salvation by Allah's will....hopefully the Chinese will steer their ship to the right port...
Everything available to us in the Western media and think tanks seem to be pushing 'salvation by democracy' in either a conservative or liberal mode.
But Plato said that democracy led to another red flag.

Maria said...

That's my lot....great work Lucia.

Lucia Maria said...


Stephen Cohen is a Putin-apologist. To blame the West for Ukraine is to either be fundamentally blind to everything that has been happening there over the last number of years (and historically), or is a blatant sign that the person spouting such rubbish is a Russian agent of misinformation.

Also, Zero Hedge is a propaganda site. Please don't post anything else from it here.

Lucia Maria said...

No, no, Stephen Cohen is not a light - he is a false tunnel into the abyss. Read this :
Stephen Cohen was once considered a top Russia historian. Now he publishes odd defenses of Vladimir Putin. The Nation just published his most outrageous one yet.

Lucia Maria said...

This comment of yours is a tough one to answer quickly. I'll get back to you.

Andrei said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rivoniaboy said...

Oh I get it, anyone who disagrees with you is a Putin-apologist!

William Stout said...

Maria, thank you for your thoughtful commentary on my comment. Allow me to respond:

The Enlightenment did not set out to destroy either morality
or spirituality. That came later. Reason itself does not demand a human centric focus, only humanism does that. What we see today as the current state of "reason" was formed late in the Enlightenment. If one examines America's founders and their philosophy, which draws heavily upon the Enlightenment, they will see that it exists concomitantly with faith. Humanists who are uncomfortable with faith say that men like Jefferson, Washington, and Madison are all actually Deists, but that could not be further from the
truth. Their faith was first and foremost a belief in the Almighty and in Christ, and it was that faith that buoyed them during the Revolution. Reason allows us to explore the world and to understand it, but faith provides us with our moral compass and our answers to questions that reason alone cannot answer.

Indeed, without faith reason leaves no other path, but a
human centric one. I have argued on this very blog about two distinct realities: that which can only be perceived through the senses and that which cannot. We know that from an epistemological perspective that the realm which
cannot be perceived through the senses can give us knowledge. Therefore, it exists because it contains something that does not exist in physical reality. Hence Plato suggested his forms as the ultimate reality as a consequent of Socrates' reasoning. It is only when we arrive at Aristotle that we begin to drift away from that world into a purely existential (humanist) perspective. Why? Because we must rely solely upon the senses for our answers. This is an inherently faulty approach.

From the East to the West, philosophers and thinkers have
recognized a duality to existence. Nothing can be imagined that does not immediately conjure it's opposite. If one only relies upon the senses, then one cuts himself off from half of reality by default. This is the great mistake of the atheist. In so doing he cuts himself off from God out of arrogance and a
pride in his false knowledge. As such, he can perceive nothing greater than himself and his perceptions become myopic. This is why the Enlightenment faltered as it reached maturity. But that does not mean that reason is to blame
because it is just a tool. Useful when used correctly, but faulty when used as the only source of truth.

Man was created to exist in both realities. We exist in the physical sense until we transition via death to that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. But even from that place, we will still be able to detect the world from which we came, even if we were to have no memory of it. Just as we can detect the other side from this world. Each reality is, but an opposite side of the same coin.

Therefore, we must use both reason and faith in order to
exist as we were intended.

Lucia Maria said...

No. But Cohen most definitely is. His spinning for Putin is dizzying.

If you look through this blog, you'll find a number of pro-Putin posts (not by me) that I was happy to have posted at the time, given that I'm an optimist and don't generally think the worst of people. Until they go far enough to prove me wrong, as Putin has done.

Lucia Maria said...

Hi William,

Sorry for delay in replying, for as usual your comment is interesting and insightful. I may differ in my opinions to Putin's motivations (which I can't fathom, I can only guess at), however I still enjoy reading your perspective.

After reading your comment, was reminded of this article : ‘Optimists’ Continue to Deceive Themselves and Others about Putin and Thus Facilitate His Aggression, Portnikov Says. This was me, as I said to R'boy in an earlier comment. I'm no longer an optimist, as the evidence is piled too high to ignore.

Maria said...

Point taken...there is so much to read...I prefer a clear green light because the world is full of chatter isn't it....(here I am adding to it....dum de dum).

Maria said...

He may well be. I have found it worth reading widely and doing much ground work yourself in your particular interest. Going to the sources (the actual ones) as much as possible. There is a tendency and a feature in western society to turn to the experts. Knowledge is not an elitist enterprise but the locus of every person's inherent being.
As a theological the Hebrew scriptures...God wants too things from Israel...true knowledge and true worship. In fact those are the two points of orientation which interest me the most and it is the task of each human life to appropriate themselves within these trajectories.

Maria said...

There is so much in your reply I am in tune with. I liked your opening statements which are true I think. There is a lot from within the Enlightenment which is asks questions that need asking. There is a problem within its nominalism....I think phenomenologist have tried to correct this. Many have including Pope John Paul II have made use of it to incorporate the human person within Christocentrism.
The problem of the duality of existence - I don't think that needs to be and is an incorrect reading of as the philosophers say 'the one and the many'. The Christian doctrine of 'creatio ex nihilo' fully appropriated takes care of this ( I think - and would require references and an might enjoy Adrian Pabst "Metaphysics".
As you say Christ is the locus - faith and reason together.
I think the Enlightenment faltered because it was borne on a dualism which came about because the abyss between man and God was forged (again). Another long argument.
Enjoy Pabst.
I also sense you would enjoy Radical Orthodoxy....Millbank and Pickstock.

Maria said...

Thanks. I value your thoughts. I think a revisit of the timeline and relevant history leading up to the war between the rebels and the Ukraine government would certainly help me.
I think there was a referendum? Or was this just Crimea? I remember the West calling 'foul' but is that the old mistrust I don't know.

William Stout said...

Thank you for your recommendations. I shall be certain to familiarize myself with them.

Lucia Maria said...

Hi Maria, getting a timeline is very difficult. I've found a few, but they are inadequate, as their summaries of what occurred don't really give the full story. I'm going through trying to find key articles from earlier this year and putting them together into something cohesive, but even that is difficult because there is so much information, and I keep getting sidetracked because there's new information coming out every day, with the situation changing.

I think it will be a useful project, not only for you, but for anyone wanting to understand what happened, but it's going to take time.

There was a referendum in Crimea (most likely fudged), there was a vote in Ukraine for a new President and he's on the job right now.

There's little things, like evidence for protestors being bussed in from Russia, to make it seem like Ukrainians wanted separation, before the separatist battles started in the East.

The big issue seems to have been that Ukraine wanted to be part of the EU and Russia wanted Ukraine to be part of their customs union. The protests started because of that, and they were widespread protests. Russia called the protestors facists, but then they label anyone that doesn't agree with them facists. I just need to find all these articles that back up everything I've said! Argh.

Maria said...

I just read a reasonable one in the Telegraph UK, I think the writer was a past UK ambassador to Russia. So perhaps some insight here?

Lucia Maria said...

I think we must have different criteria for what is reasonable when it comes to Russia. I couldn't finish that article - but it did inspire my next post on this subject!

Post a Comment

Please be respectful. Foul language and personal attacks may get your comment deleted without warning. Contact us if your comment doesn't appear - the spam filter may have grabbed it.