Russia 2015: Who are we, and what do we want?

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June 15, 2015

Russia 2015: Who are we, and what do we want?

By Eduard Birov

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

According to FOM survey, the Russia Day of 12 June is not considered to be a day off but rather a national holiday by 45% of Russians, which is 16% more than last year, and 30% more than in 2013. Over the last decade, and especially in 2014, there occurred a realization that on June 12, 1991, we did not merely lose a large country (which is no cause for a holiday), but started the process of building a new Russia which is the continuation of the age-old Rus.

Russia is gradually and painfully inventing itself and is beginning to define the founding principles of its civilization. That process was especially visible in 2014, through the prism of the Maidan, Crimean, Donbass, and Western pressure. If we are to ignore the extreme points of view from the radical opposition which views the current Russia as a misunderstanding and even an enemy, the people of Russia in its overwhelming majority agrees on a number of issues. Even though there still remains a painful cacophony on a number of painful questions, the Russians nevertheless understood what in the country is most important and sacred, for the sake of what we are ready to unite in order to defend it.

Let us name the most important points.

Love of Motherland. The process of healing the Russian nation began from the return of patriotism into the mass consciousness. The purification of patriotism from liberal cliches and spit, the recognition of the simple and heart-felt love for one’s own land as something normal and natural cannot be overestimated, because even in the early 2000’s it was difficult to imagine the Russian youth taking mass pride in their country.

At the same time the state is not overdoing it with pathos and excessive propaganda. Memory of the Victory. This holiday, which is holy for most Russians, during the 2000s played the key role in restoring a sense of historical continuity and pride in one’s country, its feats and sons. To put it bluntly, the Victory Day scored a victory 60 years after the fact, this time on the symbolic and informational battlefield. The creative picture of the Victory overshadowed the destructive picture of the Gulag which is so relentlessly promoted by the West. Just as Vysotskiy prophetically sang, “our fallen are our sentries.” The memory of the fallen of the Great Patriotic War saved us from shame and disappearance.

State and authority. Contrary to the efforts of the Western special services and the “white ribbon” minority who are both trying to portray the “Kremlin regime” as criminal and not deserving of support, the Russian people is gradually overcoming the cruel trauma of the 1991 power vacuum, when the trust toward the state and respect of the government fell practically to zero. Putin’s trustworthiness rating of 88% is not an indication of some cult of personality, it’s a confirmation of the intrinsically Russian perception of the sovereign as a father figure who should be helped in every way. It doesn’t mean that the authorities as such are beyond criticism. We can argue among ourselves about the government until we grow hoarse. But it is absolutely unacceptable for the Russian authorities to be criticized by foreign politicians and those who are in their employ. We do it because we love our country, they because they want to subordinate it and destroy it. And this is a very widespread position within the Russian society.

The Russian World. Year 2014 reminded Russians that they are Russians, not merely a collection of different people within one set of borders but rather a nation and even a civilization. That’s hard to overestimate. For the first time in long years millions of Russians have felt their historical and spiritual kinship with one another. They have realized for the first time in the post-Soviet era that Crimea, Donbass, and other splinters are not abroad, but rather part of one whole. It’s earth sanctified by the sweat and blood of our ancestors which became abroad as a result of a defeat in a confrontation with the West.

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The Russian World only took one breath and it became apparent that it’s a tremendous force capable of dramatically changing the situation in Eurasia and the world. It’s not a destructive force, contrary to what the russophobes are saying, but a protective and creative one which offers the world an alternative to Western expansion and US colonial system. An alternative based on mutual respect and the unity of diversity. There are ongoing arguments on what the Russian World represents, with many underwater reefs. We are yet to clearly define that concept, remembering and creatively the thousand-year wisdom of our ancestors.

But it is already apparent to and understood by the majority that Russians are not a narrowly defined “pure-blooded” people or a community of identity-bereft cosmopolitans, but rather a separate world with a unique set of values and traditions which attract many nations for whom the Russians serve as a glue. Being Russian, membership in the Russian World has become fashionable, and the popularity of the St. George’s Ribbon demonstrates it conclusively.

The Rejection of Westernness and Liberalism. By 2015, the anti-Western (and especially anti-US) sentiments and the rejection of the liberalism that was being imposed by the West reached their maximums. This has nothing to do with state propaganda, which in actuality at first was openly anti-US, but with the fact that the Russians have already experienced bitter disappointment (though many were never in a position to be disappointed in the first place) in the Western myth a long time ago. The Wild West capitalism, the violations of traditional values and moral foundations, the scuttling of Russian ideals and spitting on Russian history, the rivers of lies and double standards–these and other factors brought Russians to consider the Western way unacceptable.

Even those admirers of the West who have fallen in love with its civic freedoms and daily comforts while trying not to notice US crimes around the world, stood on Russia’s side after Crimea, when the West exceeded all bounds of decency in its attempt to force Russia to return to the state of degradation of the 1990s. Only the traitors remained on the West’s side.

Both liberalism and Western democracy have become indecent expressions many years ago. The criticism of the liberal approaches of a segment of Russia’s elite is strongly pronounced within the society. This happens one of the main complaints against the current government which is still operating using the dominant liberal model. Even though the consumer lifestyle took hold in Russia, it did not become dominant in the Russian souls.

On the contrary, the events of 2014-2015 show that despite the financial problems and the loss of consumer demand, the support of the national leadership has only grown. It means that the Russian people are ready to face objective difficulties and a certain degree of societal mobilization. Even though people value personal well-being (those who have it), they also understand that it is a mirage in the absence of state power, and they themselves are calling on the state to establish an independent economic model. At the same time, they would hardly be supportive of the excessive mobilization on the 1930s model.

The Pursuit of Justice. The foundation of the Russian world view is justice, and it remains exceptionally important even today. We are talking about social, general justice as a natural component of the world order. Even though the perception of social injustice is not as sharp as it was 15 years ago due to the increased salaries, pensions, the growth of incomes of millions of people, it remains sharp enough. The debate revolves only around the question how the state of social justice is to be achieved, through revolution or evolution. In spite of the revolutionaries’ activity in the information sphere, the prevailing opinion is that the question of resource distribution would be more justly decided without sharp turns such as the reconsideration of the privatization of 1990s.

Nevertheless, the excessive income gap between the rich and the poor, the ostentatious behavior of some of the elites, its aggressive hedonism and violation of norms of decency, actually strengthens the revolutionaries’ hand. Positive changes are not as visible as the exploits of Vasilyeva or Polonskiy. The people are highly irritated not so much by wealth as such, but that many have gained wealth undeservedly and moreover behave like sociopaths. The authorities are obligated to fix the stae of affairs. At a minimum, they should restrain the big capitalists, and at a maximum nationalize the elites and redistribute capital to the benefit of the majority.

Morality and Spirituality. In response to the aggressive Western imposition of the “new Free World norms,” where sodomy is considered natural and the traditional family a form of atavism, Russia experienced a growth of traditionalism. Contrary to the multi-year Russian media propaganda of permissiveness, people unexpectedly took a turn in the direction of morality. The more the West promotes the examples of new morality such as Pussy Riot or Conchita, the faster the Russians remember of their roots, of Orthodoxy, faith in God, and traditional moral values. We are trying to once formulate anew our values as defensive mechanisms through the rejection of public sin which is being imposed upon us.

It’s too soon to say that Russia has become a country of believers. The Church is still perceived by many with indifference or even with fear. But more and more people in Russia are returning to faith thanks to their understanding of widespread immorality of the modern world and the perceived need for morality. The majority of Russians are part of the Orthodox culture, and their behavior in critical moments is determined by that culture. In spite of the active media presence of militant atheists, the Russian people is realizing that without the Church, without the traditional religion and high ideals it will be impossible to survive intact and undamaged the coming cataclysm.

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