Russian civilization at stake in Novorossia

After the army of Novorossia launched a major offensive and began rapidly expanding the area under its control, it became clear to even the most skeptical observers that it was only a matter of time until the militia would inflict a decisive military victory over Kiev. But after Novorossia’s military victory in Ukraine, we will very quickly see the next (and this time, the definitive) Russian geopolitical victory in its confrontation with the combined forces of the West (the United States and the EU’s pro-American lobby).

America’s inability to defend Mikhail Saakashvili’s regime in 2008 raised some eyebrows among its allies, but in general the affair was viewed as nothing more than an unfortunate setback (which could happen to anyone). But when the stakes were twice as high, the US failure in Syria, where Russia has been able to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, undermined Washington’s credibility in the Middle East and stripped the “Arab Spring” of its significance. Nevertheless, the EU remains a dependable US ally, and once there is a victory in Ukraine, after the stakes are doubled yet again, all lost ground should be recovered and Russia will be removed from the concert of the great powers. But an extremely risky operation, which will be disastrous should it end in defeat, will be required for any significant victory.

Each time the US has lost as much as it has wanted to win from Russia. The current defeat will result in a sharp curtailment of the role of Washington (and with it, the role of the combined forces of the West) in global politics. The US, NATO, and the EU are being transformed into large, important, and yet regional organizations, which can influence the fate of the world only by coordinating their positions and finding a compromise with the Rest.

Both China and the West offer the world a universalist, imperial ideology. In China this consists of the traditional Han culture, and in the West – the American “melting pot” that turns Germans, Irish, English, Italians, Hispanics, African Americans, and former Russians into red-blooded Americans. The difference is that Chinese culture is more static, while Western culture is more malleable. In the US, the traditional Anglo-Saxon, Protestant culture has been almost entirely replaced by an African-American/Hispanic, pagan/Christian/Muslim symbiosis that is making dogged inroads even in the Old World (classical Europe). But despite this shift, the culture and ideology of the West have lost neither their universalist character, nor their aggressive messianism.

Thus, Russia is faced with the challenge of providing the world with a universalist ideology rooted in an analogous cultural foundation. And such an ideology exists. It is the ideology of the Russian World.

A historical joint creation

pic01Some opponents of the Russian World argue that such an ideology does not exist as a formalized system of beliefs. Others see it as the ideology of aggressive Russian nationalism, which is attempting to rebuild its empire within the old Soviet borders and to ensure stability through a coerced Russification of its perimeter.

Neither side has any idea what it is talking about.

First of all, an imperialist, universalist ideology cannot be nationalistic. An empire cannot use bloodlines as a criterion, but must be based on the principle of citizenship and of legal equality.

Second, cultural unity in an empire is not achieved by suppressing other cultures, but through cultural convergence – when different cultures make contact, mingle, and ultimately complement one another. An empire is always multicultural. Even China, which is officially mono-national, has absorbed the cultures of all the peoples that have been assimilated and diffused into that Han sea. Borrowings from the cultures of the Tibetans, Mongolians, Manchus, Uyghurs, and Miao and Yao tribes so shape the image of Han culture today that China would be unrecognizable without them.

Third, one cannot fight for an abstraction. And a war is underway in Novorossia for the Russian World. Shall we try to analyze the basis of the cultural and ideological system of the Russian World and why mankind is attracted by what it has to offer, so that the decline of American hegemony, followed by the inevitable economic and military/political costs (and in some cases – such as in Ukraine – disasters) have not been perceived as the apocalypse?

Not only does the Russian World not fit within the boundaries of a national state consisting of Russians, it even precludes the very construction of such a state. Today, it is not only Russians who are battling for the Russian World in Novorossia, but also Serbs, French, Ossetians, Chechens, and representatives of other nations, many of whom are indifferent to Russian-ness, Slavdom, Orthodoxy, and even Christianity. But all these people not only represent the Russian World, they are dying for it. And we should not be surprised that, despite their dissimilarities, they feel at ease within the Russian World. After all, it originally arose as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious community.

From its inception to the present day, Russia as a political state has been the fruit of the creative efforts of many ethnic groups, not only Russians. Of course, their role in forming that state can neither be denied nor minimized, but without the freely given, creative input of other nations and tribes, the Russian people could have created nothing. First of all, the Russian nation itself (which encompasses far more than merely its Eastern Slavic roots) would never have been established, and if the Russians had been as nationally and religiously insular as the Jews, for example, then (assuming they had survived) they would ultimately have inhabited a territory not much larger than Israel.

The Russian World is also unique in that the Russians within it can consist of people without a drop of Russian blood. The Russian World is a cultural, ideological, and political choice – one does not make one’s way there via citizenship or right of birth.

And in the Russian world the Russian Orthodox Church holds the same position as do the Russian people: each is accorded a place of honor but does not hold sway. Even during the centuries when Orthodoxy was the state religion of the Russian Empire, its subjects who held other faiths (not only Muslims, but also Catholics, Protestants, and even Jews) were permitted the unrestricted right to their own beliefs. Conversion to Orthodoxy facilitated a career in public service, but overall the state remained low-key, not only in regard to other religions, but even toward heresies within the state church itself. In particular, the maltreatment of the Old Believers never reached the scale or brutality of the persecution of heretics in Europe. Orthodoxy peacefully coexists with other religions, carrying out its mission of sharing the teachings of Christ, not by fire and sword, but by example and admonition.

In general, the Russian World is Russian and Orthodox only to the extent that the nations within its purview recognize the central role of the Russian Orthodox people and of Russian culture in the formation of such a comfortable communal setting, in which even the smallest ethnic groups and most primitive cultures have a chance to survive and develop, enriched by the achievements of their neighbors and sharing their own achievements.

An ideological, supranational structure

Moscow City brand new business centre in the heart of the Russian capital.
Moscow City brand new business centre in the heart of the Russian capital.

In essence, the Russian World is grounded in the long-established precept of uniting nations, cultures, and religions in accordance with rules that are consistent, understandable, and acceptable to all. It differs from the American “melting pot” and the Chinese “heavenly mandate” in that the Russian World does not assimilate the surrounding cultures, turning everyone into Han Chinese, for example (yet borrowing from many of the achievements of the peoples being assimilated). And the Russian World does not impose a “single democratic standard,” as does the American model. The Russian World creates a setting in which all can flourish. The watchword of the Russian World is “non-interference.” Freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of speech – all these freedoms are fully exercised, but only to the extent that one freedom does not conflict with another. But for all its diversity, this world is unified by common interests (security, economics, and culture), as well as a common understanding of the crucial, cementing role played by the Russian Orthodox people in the provision of the very existence of not only the Russian World, but also its member nations.

As such, the Russian world is really a universal ideology that is well suited to either Russians, Americans, the French, or the Japanese, because it does not infringe upon anyone’s cultural distinctions, proclaiming not a competition, but a convergence of cultures.

Within this context, the Russian World can exist only because its scope today encompasses much more than merely the Russian state. As previously mentioned, Novorossia is fighting for the Russian World, and it is not yet clear whether Novorossia will ultimately become part of Russia or retain its political independence. Serbia envisions itself within the Russian World, and similar sentiments are growing in Bulgaria. But not all who envision themselves in the Russian World also envision themselves in the Russian state. This should not necessarily be seen as a weakness. Herein lies the strength of the Russian world as an ideology that is capable of transcending borders. It is important to remember that the United States can be found not only in those places where it has transgressed its own borders, or even where it has military bases, but also everywhere there is a McDonald’s. The Russian World, however, unites people around a premise that is more trustworthy, more elevated, and more acceptable to all nations than the vapid American urge to consume. The Russian World ensures a respect for tradition as well as the promise that any necessary changes will be carried out in the most conservative manner possible, in order to avoid the revolutionary turmoil that can sever the ties between generations.

The Russian World will never create a Russian Russia. That would be the death of the Russian World, as well as of Russia and of Russians. The concept of a Russian Russia is no different from the concept of a Ukrainian Ukraine and, if pursued, would lead to the same catastrophic and immutable consequences. The Russian World is not a state consisting of one nation, but states (in the plural) of an idea – a sort of confederation of justice that provides equal rights and opportunities for all its member nations. This ideological, supranational structure ensures that all its members accept the same moral and ethical standards. And the question of political integration is a matter for a future time, should the acknowledged necessity arise over the course of this experiment in coexistence.

Rostislav Ischenko is the President of Centre for System Analysis and Forecasting (Kiev).

Source in Russian: Expert

Original text adapted and translated by ORIENTAL REVIEW.

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2 Comments

  1. While I agree with your statement, “Both China and the West offer the world a universalist, imperial ideology,” I consider it completely inappropriate to say, “In the US, the traditional Anglo-Saxon, Protestant culture has been almost entirely replaced by an African-American/Hispanic, pagan/Christian/Muslim symbiosis”. Possibly this is wishful thinking for some, but as an American living in Arizona, I assure you the “traditional Anglo-Saxon, Protestant culture” is still by far the dominant element we encounter in this society. To convince yourself of this, look at photos of our politicians. Obama is unique among them. It is true Hispanics, African-Americans and Muslims play a greater role than ever before, but it remains a minority role.

  2. Pingback: Russian civilization is at stake in Novorossia | Free Ukraine Now

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