What Russian conservatism means

Mark J. (a different Mark J.) writes:

In the context of a couple of articles about Russia on your site, I have also noticed also that some of the most interesting, unexpected political and social viewpoints seem to be coming from Russia today—many of which are very difficult to pigeonhole.

Here’s an interesting website set up by one Michael Kuznetsov.

* the site is extremely pro-Christian (Russian orthodoxy)

* explicitly defines Russians as a ‘nordic white Christian people’

* defines ‘russianess’ as racially exclusive: “Thus, it should be noted that when I use the term ‘Russians’ here I mean the Russians as an ethnos, to the contrary of the Western understanding of the same word as “all people living in, belonging to, or coming from, Russia.”

* excoriates Western political correctness for promoting “Separation of church and state, pornography, easy divorce, open borders, extreme sex education, abortion, gay pride, same-sex marriage, androgyny, political correctness, speech codes, the wreckage of the traditional family, and hate crime laws”

But the site also:

* completely adulates Joseph Stalin and denies his crimes.

* is pro-Soviet (at least from Stalin onwards—strangely little mention is made of Lenin)

* holds that that the neo-Marxism infesting the West is a pre-Stalinist flavor of Marxism (Trotskyism?) and implicitly holds that Stalin reclaimed Russia from internationalist Bolshevists. “Thus, the Fifth Column of the traitors in the U.S.S.R. was liquidated shortly before the War. Soon afterwards, in 1943, Stalin disbanded also the notorious Comintern (the Communist International also known as the Third International), an aggressive revolutionary organisation that was established in 1919 to foment revolution in other countries all over the world.”

It’s is absolutely fascinating.

This kind of gibes with some conversations I have had with mainland Chinese students in Australia—who have no interest in Marxism as an economic, social, or political theory, but revere Mao as a nation builder.

Perhaps in the long run, it is here in the West where the true Marxist agenda will finally be realized, as it attacks our societies in a far more pernicious, creeping, and insidious way that it did perhaps Russia and China—nations which are racially homogeneous, nationalistic, and decidedly illiberal on most social issues.

LA replies:

Yes. On a fundamental level modern Western liberalism is more radical and thoroughgoing than Marxism. Marxism didn’t seek to break down all distinctions, for example, the distinctions between men and women, or between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Modern liberalism does.

Joe Catechissimo writes:

Don’t get me wrong, I sort of like Russians. They are good, simple, solid folks. But as Churchill says, they remain an enigma, partly because they lack consistency. For example, there is a strange paradox among Russians who revere Stalin, but hate the Revolution. Why? Because Stalin wrestled “Russian” Communism away from Jewish control (“internationalists”), which, according to Russian historians, was instrumental in building the Communist state from 1918 to 1928.

Boris S. writes:

In Russian, there are two words, “Russkiy” and “Rossiyanin,” both of which become “Russian” when translated into English. But the former actually means “ethnic Russian” while the latter means “citizen of the Russian state.”

The kind of “conservatism” or fascism that Mark J. writes about is rather common in Russia today. These Russian ultranationalists hold many positions that would typically be categorized as “hard right” or “far right” but also adulate Stalin for having transformed Russia into a powerful, fearsome empire, and for getting rid of pesky Jews. In fact, the majority of Russians today do not see Stalin as a mass murderer or a Bolshevik, but a complex leader who has done much good as well as evil.

This may be surprising, since it is well-known that Stalin was (a) not Russian (in the ethnic sense), and (b) a fanatical Bolshevik. But he also encouraged and exploited Russian nationalism and the allegiance to Orthodox Christian faith during World War II. *(He even attempted, unsuccessfully, to normalize relations with Catholics as part of a propaganda effort to entice Poles to fight for the Soviet Union.) It can be said that Stalin transformed Communism from a universalist utopian ideology into a vehicle of Russian imperialism—much as Islam is sometimes described as a vehicle for Arab imperialism.

What this shows is that the real problem Russian ultra-nationalists have with the old Bolsheviks is not the fact that they were thieves and mass-murderers on an unprecedented scale, but that many of them were Jewish.

May 20

Dimitri K. writes:

Contradictions like that are very typical for Russian “conservatism” since Communist times. For example, the Communist Party was great, but all its founders except Lenin (Trotski, Bukharin, Kamenev etc) appeared to be “traitors.” The Red Army is the best in the World, but its founder Trotski was the enemy of the people. The Empire (USSR) was great but Russians were mistreated in it. Now, the recent idea is that the Revolution was great, but it was funded from abroad by imperialists.

These contradictions reveal the split schizophrenic mind of Russian patriots after Communism. They want to keep the greatness of the USSR, but want to attribute it all to ethnic Russians. To the contrary, all the sins of Communism are attributed to Jews, who massively participated in the early phase of the Communist revolution. But it does not work fine, contradictions are too obvious.

Some more coherent attempts to revive Russian nationalism try to derive current Russian statehood from Russian Empire. But that does not work well either, because Russia now inherits much more from the USSR than from the Empire. Most of all, it is the superpower status, which is so dear to the hearts of Russian patriots and which they don’t want to abandon. But then they have to live with the fact, that the USSR was not an ethnic Russian state. Even more of that, a great deal of the Soviet success was due to the Jewish revolutionaries, Jewish scientists, writers etc.

Only recently I visited one Russian patriotic site to recall the words of one popular song of the WWII time. Strangely, the names of the authors were not mentioned, but the song was called “Russian folk song.” Of course, I readily found the names at another, less patriotic site. They were Isaakovski and Blanter. For any Russian it is immediately clear that both were Jews. It is only one example, but the same is everywhere.

To my opinion, this split personality originates even earlier. The official start of Russian history was when the Scandinav Vikings (the Russ) captured and started to rule Russia. But all official historians try to avoid mentioning what was there before the Vikings. To the best of my knowledge, before that for centuries it used to be the Khazar Empire. Khazars were a Turkish tribe of the Judean faith. Even Kiev, “the Mother of Russian Cities,” seems to have been founded by Khazars. That’s why, the Russian and Soviet history is so vague—some parts of it are painful for Russian nationalists.

As for Stalin, many historians noticed his ordinarity, lack of any talent except beurocratic one. Surprisingly, this ordinarity appears to be necessary for becoming the “great leader.” This seems to be a common feature among great leaders, but Russians were the first to discover it. Now attempts are made to present Stalin as a Russian patriot, who saved USSR from Jewish control. But again, that all is too far from reality to work well. Salin was too clearly a devoted communist and internationalist to become a Russian messiah. And so the search for Russian nationalism goes on, with not much of a success.

Dimitri K. continues:

I sort of underlined the role of Jews, but of course the superpower success of the USSR was not solely because of Jews. All nations of the USSR contributed to it. Stalin was a Georgian himself. For example, a popular brand of Soviet jet-fighters MiG is composed of the names of two constructors, Mikoyan and Gurevich, first one was by name Armenian and the second Jewish. As for revolutionaries, most of them had originally non-Russian names, from defense minister Trotski (Bronshtein-Jewish) to security minister and creator of KGB Dzerzhinki (Polish), Stalin (Dzhugashvili—Georgian), Mikoyan (Armenan) etc. Also, much help to revolution was from Latvian riflemen (Latvian ethnic military units) who served as Lenin’s guards and later became the top of Soviet military (and later all killed by Stalin), from Ukrainian Anarchists, Georgian and Armenian socialists who later joined the Communist party, etc. If your go further in history to Tsarist times, you will find that among the names of great Rusians half were of German origin. And so on. All that really presents a great problem for Russian ethnic nationalism.

And of course, the role of Turkish people in creating Russian Empire was always underestimated. First, it was Khazars, then Mongols and Tatars. Among the names of Russian nobility since Ivan IV the Terrible, there are many Tatar names.

The bottom line is that the Russian Empire never ever was the creature of Russians only. And Russian nation is inseparable from the Empire.

Joseph A. writes:

I do not agree with Boris’s assessment of the Russian acceptance of Stalin as rooted in Russian anti-Semitism. Rather, I think that the following three factors explain the contradiction of conservative support of Stalin.

1) Stalin represents the “Great War” in Russia, where the Russian people suffered invasion but overcame the obstacles to win a decisive victory against the Nazis. Russians, like Americans, harbor strong feelings about the “Greatest Generation.” Given the casualties in Russia, I think that their remembrance of the war—of its costs and of its victory—is stronger than in the States. The consequent pride, relief, and gratitude after the war colors people’s perception of Stalin.

2) It must also be remembered that the theomachist Stalin stopped persecuting the Church at the beginning of the war to gain Orthodox support for the defense of Russia. After the war, in gratitude, he allowed the Moscow Patriarchate to open up several parishes and monasteries. After Stalin died, anti-Christian persecution started again. We must remember that many Russians see this as an act of repentance by Stalin for the atrocities of the 1920s and 1930s.

3) In the popular consciousness, Stalin represents a strong Russia. Due to seventy years of anti-imperial propaganda, Russians could not look back in pride at the strength of the empire, though the desire for a strong and glorious “Holy Russia” never died. Thus, these religio-nationalistic forces were channeled into support for the Soviet state. Given that postbellum Stalin represented the least anti-religious, anti-traditional period of the Soviet regime, now that the Soviet Union has fallen and Russians are trying to weave together an identity of continuity that unifies the empire, the Soviet period, and the current situation, people have come to see Stalin in continuity with the past and the present. Therefore, they minimize his atrocities and magnify his positive aspects to make him fit his place in their historical memory. Something has to fill the vacuum of seventy years.

We must remember that civic memory lies, and that might be necessary for the good of a populace. I think of Nietzsche’s On the Advantages and Disadvantages of History for Life. For purposes of national unity, societies often develop a fictional heroic account of their founding and of the decisive moments in the life of their nation. Consider how traditionalist Americans think of their founding. It is all Patrick Henry and no Thomas Paine—all natural rights and traditional English liberties and little to no radical new experiment based on Enlightenment principles. People take from history what they can use, and Russians today are trying to make sense of the Communist horror.

The Russian Orthodox in the diaspora suffer no illusions about Stalin, but we should note that the will to truth in history pales in comparison to the will for a useful history. Thus, future Russians will probably look back sympathetically at Stalin.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Re Stalin’s place in the contemporary Russian mind, the thing a lot of people in the West simply don’t know or understand is the affect the Second World War had on Russia’s understanding of itself. It’s a complicated issue and I’m not an expert in it, but the Great Patriotic War (as it has been called in Russia) permanently placed Stalin in the canon of Russian national heroes. He was their Churchill, so to speak, and during the war Moscow’s principal appeal to the Russian people was one of soil, blood, and patriotism—not Soviet missionary ideology, at least not until the war began to turn. The number of Russians killed in the war, on their own land, was simply staggering by any historical standard, and it was impossible to be a Russian in those dark days and not know someone, or rather many someones, who died fighting for the motherland. Stalin led them through that devastation to an unimaginably great victory, although it became known later how close he was to simply breaking down during the first stages of Operation Barbarossa (it appeared that his purge of the officer corps during the 1930s was going to be the death of the Russian people).

Anyway, in some very real and important ways Stalin did build the Russian state, and he did make it the world-historical force it was to be in the latter half of the 20th century. Many young Russians today look back on that period of unmatched national might with a sense of longing, and nostalgia for Soviet greatness runs high among Russians who never lived under its yoke.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 19, 2009 06:57 PM | Send

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