Saturday, January 14, 2017

Paul Robinson — The Russian soul and the toxic West


Fyodor Dostoevsky and Vladimir Putin.

It's ironic how the West criticized Communist Russia as being atheistic, and now that Russians have returned to religion and are criticizing the liberal secular West as godless, the West is criticizing Russia for being nationalistic.

Irrussianality
The Russian soul and the toxic West
Paul Robinson | Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa

12 comments:

Matt Franko said...

The west is more Old Testament oriented...

Tom Hickey said...

The issue is secular liberalism, especially social liberalism in which anything goes. They regard it as moral depravity and they are not alone in the world. The is huge problem for selling American liberal values. Of course, there is a lot pushback in the US over this, too.

Matt Franko said...

You mean the LGBT stuff?

Matt Franko said...

I would say the Dems are more into the LGBT stuff and they are all anti Russia at the same time... might be a factor...

GOP Old Testament thumpers not so much ... so maybe more in common with Russia on this thus less adversarial...

Matt Franko said...

In the OT if the Israelites found two gays they were supposed to kill them... glad we're not under any of that shit today I'm tellin ya...

Tom Hickey said...

You mean the LGBT stuff?

That's only part of it.

Look at what fundamentalists of all religions and sects are saying.

Everyone has a bottom line. The issues revolve around where to draw the lines. Traditionalists argue for "traditional values" and "family values," meaning contemporary social liberalism is a bridge too far for them.

Penguin pop said...

Yeah some people were talking about what Russia did back in 2013 with one of their LGBT laws. I don't know the full specifics of it, but it was liberals bringing it up as part of the reason they are so anti-Russia.

Marian Ruccius said...

None of this is understandable except 1) in the context of the calamitous economic misfortunes of Russia under Yeltsin, and 2) in the moral and ethical vacuum left by the end of communism.

Putin, like Gorbachev, most feared a kind of inter-ethnic strife and collapse such as that which beset the Yugoslavia and the Balkans. The millions of dead during Yeltsin's putative "liberal" period (in which liberal values were trumpeted without being actually extended) injured any incipient broad popular support for liberal democracy that we in the West might have hoped to see. Putin deliberately refences Dostoyevski, because of the latter's ability to bridge the "slavophile" and "westernizer" camps. (And the Russians are darn lucky to have had such a figure to refer to.) The moral bearings this provides, including popular and state-sponsored opposition to putatively "disruptive" belief systems (such as LGBTQ rights and outspoken opposition to the more hypocritical aspects of the modern Russian Orthodox church), are a way of providing economic and identitarian refuge to a people which was beset with economic and "existential" insecurity for two decades. Whether or not Putin believes any of his rhetoric -- he probably does to an extent -- is less important than his use of slavophile tropes in explaining the world and his actions to his people.

Given a decade or so of "stability", one can expect the rise of new, more "liberal", tendencies as the Russian people overcomes its traumas. In the longer term, there is nothing in the slavophile tendencies which cannot be translated into greater liberty for all, provided that there remains a collective character to social and political structures put in place. One could see a working social democracy emerge in Russia in 15 years or so. So, while there is a not wholly illegitimate tendency in the West to compare Putin's appeals to Russian cultural exceptionalism to the same claims made by terrible dictators like Abacha in Nigeia in the 1980s and 1990s, Putin's use of slavophile discourse is actually intended for internal harmonization, whereas Abacha's strategy was merely to use such language to undermine UN and western calls for improvements in human rights. Putin's main focus is INTERNAL, so, while the attacks on the sometimes repressive nature of his government are not without foundation, he cannot fairly be compared to Abacha, who relied entirely for his internal position on oppression and intimidation of all internal dissent and opposition. Putin, by contrast, is NOT so afraid of being overthrown, being strongly supported by most Russians. He may be tyrannical, but he is no dictator.

Tom Hickey said...

Thanks for the enlightening analysis.

It seems from polling of Russian public opinion that Russians prefer an authoritarian leader at this time under these circumstances — someone that the people are convinced has the people's interests at heart and will protect them from external and domestic forces that do not. Their chief concerns are the encroachment of US/NATO toward Russia's borders and belligerence toward and the economic challenges of oil price and sanctions along with corruption and the rapacity of oligarchs. Historically, I believe this is the ordinary Russian's conception of a "good" Tsar. So far, Putin is meeting expectations in this regard. This period will likely last for some time.

Matt Franko said...

Here's the breakdown from Ralph:

https://twitter.com/ralphmus/status/820593422943813632

Matthew Franko said...

Looks like its a Trump priority to put this brush fire out pronto:

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/314374-trumps-first-foreign-trip-as-president-will-be-to-meet-putin

Calgacus said...

The article notes, somewhat inconspicuously, that Trump spokesman Sean Spicer says the report of the planned meeting is completely untrue. Not clear if one doesn't go to the url, rather than just read it.